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INSPIRE-2: Cubesat

Reaching new heights in a global and collaborative space mission
The ‘INSPIRE-2’ satellite is a product of a research partnership between the University of Sydney, UNSW and ANU, and is a participant in QB50; a global small satellite research program.
Artist's impression of AU03 INSPIRE-2 deployed in orbit with INSPIRE-2 logo

The project

The ‘INSPIRE-2’ satellite is a product of a research and capability-building partnership between three Australian universities (University of Sydney, UNSW, ANU), and is a participant in a global small satellite research program (‘QB50’) managed by the Von Karman Institute in Belgium.

The QB50 Mission involves a constellation of 28 CubeSats (including INSPIRE-2) at an altitude of 415 km as well as 8 CubeSats at an altitude of 500 km in sun synchronous orbit.

The CubeSats are now conducting multi-point, in-situ, long duration measurements of different gaseous molecules and electrical properties of the poorly studied and previously inaccessible thermosphere. Over a period of 1 to 2 years, the project will monitor the thermosphere to better understand space weather and its long-term trends. The QB50 CubeSats carry either a multi-Needle Langmuir Probe (m-NLP), Ion-Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) or Flux-Φ-Probe Experiment (FIPEX), as well as their own additional payloads.

INSPIRE-2 was launched into Space as part of a NASA-contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on an Atlas V Rocket from the commercial space services provider OrbitalATK, under contract with the NanoRacks LLC service provider. Nanoracks released INSPIRE-2 into orbit on 26th May 2017:

The QB50 launch was the first launch of Australian built and operated CubeSat spacecraft. Given international recognition that this form of spacecraft will increasingly be used for future Earth observation, navigation and communication roles, this activity offers a significant national capability-building benefit in the sector, as well as the opportunity to demonstrate utility and space qualification of proprietary instrumentation for several research applications. It is also closely aligned with a University of Sydney-led multi-party bid to establish an ARC Industrial Transformation Research Program Training Centre, which was succesfully funded in June 2017. 

Project information

Mission attribute Details
Reference number AU03 ‘INSPIRE-2’
Size 20cm x 10cm x 10cm; 2 Unit CubeSat format
Mass 2000 gm (2 kg)
Equipment Commercial ‘off-the-shelf’ control and operating systems; 5 research instruments
Mission purpose Scientific research and national capacity building
Altitude at launch 415km
Mission duration 1-2 years
Mission conclusion Complete burn-up in upper atmosphere at >80km altitude

The INSPIRE-2 craft is a two-unit (2U) cubesat. The craft uses commercial ‘off-the-shelf’ componentry for basic structural purposes and control functions, and carries a payload of five research instruments. One of the instruments (the Langmuir Probe) is supplied by the VKI for integrated program research purposes; the other four instruments are proprietary devices developed by the University of Sydney (USyd) and UNSW. The craft does not carry any substances/ materials of a flammable, corrosive or otherwise hazardous nature.

The craft was assembled in the Faculty of Science (USyd) and Faculty of Electrical Engineering (UNSW), and validated for space capability at the Mount Stromlo facilities of the Australian National University (ANU). INSPIRE-2 was then consigned to the VKI, from where it was packed by NanoRacks into the CubeSat Deployer apparatus, NanoRacks’ proprietary system “that mechanically and electrically isolates cubesats from the ISS, cargo resupply vehicles, and ISS crew” (NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) Interface Control Document. NanoRacks LLC).

After launch into circular low Earth orbit the payload instruments commence operation and data capture and storage, with data downloads being made to groundstations in Sydney, ANU ('Blue Wren' Groudstation) and Strasbourg, France. Communication access through these locations will occur an estimated 4 and 6 times per day, respectively, with total daily access durations of 21.6 and 28.6 minutes.

At an estimated 1 - 2 years post-launch, orbital decay due to friction with air molecules will pull INPSIRE-2 into the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. This friction will slow, melt, fragment and degrade the craft to a non-operational state. Detailed modelling (Fritsche, B. 2015. Uncertainty quantification for re-rentry survivability prediction. From ‘Space Safety is No Accident’. Sgobba, T & Rongier, I., Eds. Springer, 640pp.) shows that the craft will completely burn up in the atmosphere at an altitude above 80km, and that no debris will reach the surface of the Earth. This assessment is consistent with empirical observations of the outcomes of international CubeSat missions to date.

The 'Blue Wren' ground station at the Australian National University has been set up for INSPIRE-2. There are also ground stations at The University of New South Wales and in Strasbourg, France which will communicate with the satellite in orbit.

Blue Wren 1

Blue Wren 2

Blue Wren 3

The University of Sydney

  • Overall leadership
  • Three of the five payloads (Nanospec, radiation counter, microdosimeter)
  • Collaboration on scientific and engineering data

The University of New South Wales

  • Designing, building and integrating the spacecraft
  • 'Kea' GPS Receiver payload
  • Collaboration on engineering data

The Australian National University

The team

INSPIRE2 team photo

Members of the INSPIRE-2 collaboration and colleagues at the Delta-V stand at CEBIT in 2014. From back left: Iver Cairns, Xiaofeng Wu, Tim Parsons (Delta-V), Jason Held (Saber Astronautics), Barnaby Osborne. From front left: Andrew Dempster, Brian Lim (Hypercubes) and Cheryl Brown (ACSER).

Name

Responsibility

Location

Professor Iver Cairns

Iver is the Lead for the AU03 INSPIRE-2 QB50 team

School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Professor Christine Charles

Christine is collaborating on mNLP integration and design of AU03 INSPIRE-2

Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion laboratory, Australian National University

Professor Andrew Dempster

Andrew is the Leader of AU02 UNSW ECO CubeSat for QB50 and is collaborating with the design and build of AU03 INSPIRE-2

School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, University of New South Wales

Dr Barnaby Osborne

Barnaby is working on the design and build of AU03 INSPIRE-2

School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, University of New South Wales

Dr Joon Wayn Cheong

Joon is working on the design and build of AU03 INSPIRE-2

School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, University of New South Wales

 Wayne Peacock

 Wayne worked on the design and build of AU03 INSPIRE-2

 

 Tom Croston

Tom is working on the design and build of AU03 INSPIRE-2

 

 John Lam

 John is developing software for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, University of New South Wales

Ben Southwell

 Ben is working on the attitude determination and control system of AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, University of New South Wales

Professor Roderick Boswell

 

Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion laboratory, Australian National University

 Jiro Funamoto

 Jiro is designing several of the payload boards, developing the software and working on the mNLP integration for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Associate Professor Joseph Khachan

 Joe is developing the radiation counter for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Dr Sergio Leon Saval

 Sergio and Chris Betters are developing the Nanospec for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Chris Betters

 Chris and Sergio Leon-Saval are developing the Nanospec for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Dr Xiaofeng Wu

 Xiaofeng is developing the microdosimeter for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Aerospace, Mechanical, and Mechatronic Engineering (AMME), The University of Sydney

Dr Tony Monger

Tony is working on AU03 INSPIRE-2's communications system

 

 Dimitrios Tsifakis

 Dimitrios is working on AU03 INSPIRE-2's communications system

 

Dr David Dall

 David has provided legal counsel and research management advice for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Helen Brown

Helen is providing legal counsel for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 Office of General Counsel, University of Sydney

Stefan Manidis

Stefan is providing project coordination and communications support for AU03 INSPIRE-2

 School of Physics, The University of Sydney

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