Launch imminent for first major foray into cubesats

By on 2 November, 2016


A state-of-the-art miniature satellite that will play an important role in developing Australian Defence space capability is ready for launch after passing tests that simulate the harsh environment of space.

The ‘Buccaneer’ Risk Mitigation Mission (BRMM) is a partnership between Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which aims to conduct calibration activities for the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) as well as undertake outer atmosphere characterisation experiments.

Australia’s Minister for Defence, Senator Marise Payne, announced that Defence will be actively supporting the project, as a team of space engineers from UNSW Canberra and Defence Science and Technology Group successfully tested the cubesat at a facility in Canberra.

Being able to avoid collisions in space is essential if we are to safeguard the space-based technologies upon which the world depends.”

The team, aided by spacecraft test engineers the Australian National University (ANU), put the cubesat through its paces in 24/7 thermal cycling at ANU’s Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre on Mt Stromlo. The satellite was one of two of this type that will be used in the mission.


Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne announcing the new satellite research program in Canberra.

This is not Australia’s first foray into cubesats, but marks a milestone in establishing local capabilities. Earlier this year as part of the European Union QB50 program, cubesats were also tested in the ANU facility ahead of overseas deployment in December of this year.

Additionally, Australia will also be partaking in in multi-national space mission ‘Biarri’, aimed to support GPS and space situational awareness experiments.

However, the Buccaneer mission stands out as Australia’s first major foray into cubesats. Professor Russell Boyce, Director of UNSW Canberra Space said Buccaneer is a crucial stepping-stone towards a sophisticated home grown Australian space capability that can take advantage this boom in the Asia-Pacific space sector.

“Satellites and space debris move around erratically due to space weather and atmospheric drag, even at high altitudes. These movements are not well understood and so are very hard to predict, and are a major reason why collisions in space are a serious risk,” says Boyce.

“Being able to avoid collisions in space is essential if we are to safeguard the space-based technologies upon which the world depends.”

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Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper highlights the importance of space-based systems for information gathering, communications, navigation, and surveillance for all ADF and coalition operations.

Acting/Chief Defence Scientist, Janis Cocking, also commented on the significance of the occasion: “These satellite programs are the first step towards reaching this aim and they’re also a first step in enabling the growth of niche expertise in space research.”

The research program is being conducted by the DST and will take place over 2016 and 2018. The launches will be facilitated by Australia’s partners.


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