INSPIRE-2 CubeSat Accepted by the QB50 Project

1 December 2016

Professor Iver Cairns and Jiro Funamoto at the CubeSat testing facilities in the Netherlands with the AU03 INSPIRE-2 CubeSat. Credit: Iver Cairns.
Professor Iver Cairns and Jiro Funamoto at the CubeSat testing facilities in the Netherlands with the AU03 INSPIRE-2 CubeSat. Credit: Iver Cairns.

Following on from the successful tests at the Australian National University, two out of three Australian CubeSats, which are 20cm in length and weighing only 2kgs, were sent off from Australia in August and delivered to The Netherlands for instrument upgrades, charging and post-travel checks.

The AU03 INSPIRE-2 CubeSat, a joint collaboration from the University of Sydney, Australian National University and the University of New South Wales, subsequently was the first CubeSat of the European Union's QB50 project to finish these steps and be ready for the 'fit test' into a CubeSat deployer; becoming the third CubeSat to be fully accepted for launch.

Professor Iver Cairns, leader of the INSPIRE-2 collaboration, said he is "amazed that our team has managed to design, build, test and deliver the payloads and CubeSat in only 10 months. This has only been possible due to a real team effort, which we intend to build on in the future".

INSPIRE-2, along with the other successful CubeSats, will now be delivered to the USA, loaded into a Cygnus CRS OA-7 resupply spacecraft and launched into space by an Atlas V rocket. The planned launch date is between 1 and 15th of March 2017 from Cape Canaveral, the east coast of the USA.

The CubeSats will be delivered to the International Space Station, where a robotic arm will extract the CubeSats, and begin the deployment of the CubeSats from early April at an altitude of around 400km.

INSPIRE-2, along with the AU01 and AU02 CubeSats, will become the first Australian satellites to be launched into space in 15 years, and be the first to be built as part of an international collaboration.

Professor Cairns said "if all goes well, this trio of CubeSats will also become only the 4th, 5th and 6th Australian built satellites to be launched into space. Together, with CubeSats being built by colleagues at UNSW, Canberra and the Defence Science Technology Group, there should be four Australian built satellites in space by the end of 2018, three of these in 2017."

"This represents a huge step forward for Australia. Hopefully this will spur the development of an internationally competitive, government supported Australian space research, industry and services community."

INSPIRE-2 contains five unique payloads, including a nanophotonic spectrograph which will become the first photonic lantern to be launched into space, a radiation counter, and a microdosimeter which were all developed at Sydney University. The other payloads are a GPS receiver developed at the University of NSW and a multi-needle Langmuir probe supplied by the QB50 project.

The total cost of the INSPIRE-2 CubeSat was approximately $250k over a period of 10 months, utilising commercial off-the-shelf parts. The three Australian 2B50 CubeSats represent a milestone for space research in Australia.

Future CubeSats could monitor the climate and environment over the Southern hemisphere, undertaking remote sensing of vegetation through spectral responses for Australian conditions.

The INSPIRE-2 CubeSat project team was led by Professor Iver Cairns (USYD), supported by Professors Christine Charles (ANU), Andrew Dempster (UNSW) and a large team.

Professor Cairns said "a project like this requires huge contributions from many people including undergraduates and PHD students, plus many University and corporate staff members. We are also very grateful to Australia's Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Honourable Greg Hunt, and his staff for awarding us an Overseas Launch Certificate. We are looking forward to INSPIRE-2's launch into space and to receiving its data."

Edited with assistance from Angelique King and Catherine Ogborne.

Contact: Gabriel Nguyen

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