Around-the-clock detective work, expanding the search to an increasingly international group of volunteers and decoding at our ground station has confirmed Australia's successful return to the space race.
Our cubesat last seen launching from the International Space Station on 26 May 2017.
Just over two weeks since the INSPIRE-2 satellite was launched into space from the International Space Station, a radio signal has finally been detected – marking Australia’s first successful foray into space in 15 years.
The small spacecraft, known as a CubeSat, was first detected about 12.30am on 12 June. Listen to the report on ABC radio's PM program.
Project leader, University of Sydney Professor of Space Physics Iver Cairns said detective work to locate and communicate with the pioneering spacecraft was a result of around-the-clock collaborative work with project partners the University of New South Wales and Australian National University and an increasingly international group of radio enthusiasts.
“INSPIRE-2 is alive in space and in good health! Dr Joon Wayn Cheong and our UNSW team members think the initial lack of contact may have been caused by a low battery after the launch sending the computer into a shutdown-reboot loop,” Professor Cairns said.
“New commands sent into space seem to have solved the problem and our team decoded the Morse code from the spacecraft telling us the signal was indeed from AU03 – INSPIRE-2!”
UNSW Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research Professor Andrew Dempster said two weeks of sleepless nights, detailed analysis, and strong international engagement had finally paid off.
"This success was down to the excellence of the engineers involved in contacting the satellite, and the wonderful interactions with the international radio community who offered their assistance," Professor Dempster said.
ANU Head of Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion Laboratory, Professor Christine Charles, said detection of INSPIRE-2 was relayed by ‘radio hams’ and confirmed at the cubesat groundstation at ANU by Mr Dimitrios Tsifakis.
“It is wonderful to see such a display of interdisciplinary national and international collaboration,” Professor Charles said.
The cubesat is part of the international constellation project QB50, which celebrated its lift-off from Cape Canaveral, Florida in April 2017 and its deployment into space in late May 2017.
The news comes a week after the Australian Research Council awarded $4.6 million for a Training Centre for Cubesats, UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] and Their Applications, to a consortium led by the University of Sydney and Professor Cairns that includes the University of New South Wales, nine domestic companies and government entities, and two US universities.