An Australian-made CubeSat has been launched into space to test radio communications technologies to help shape future space capabilities in Australia.
The M2 Pathfinder, developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra in partnership with the RAF, is a significant next step in developing Defence space systems. ). It is the second of four CubeSats to be flown in the program, and follows the launch of M1 in late 2018.
The launch took place on Rocket Lab’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” 12th mission from New Zealand’s M?hia Peninsula on June 13. Successful communication with the satellite has been established via UNSW Canberra Space’s satellite ground station hosted by Cingulan Space, near Yass in NSW. UNSW Canberra Space’s senior space systems engineer and M2 Pathfinder Mission Lead Andrin Tomaschett said the CubeSat was designed, assembled and tested in just 10 months by Australia’s largest and most experienced space mission team.
CubeSats such as M2 Pathfinder, around the size of a loaf of bread, allow high-tech capabilities to be tested in space at a lower cost than larger satellites.
Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds, said the satellite will help inform future capability designs for the Australian Defence Force.
“The collaboration between UNSW Canberra and Air Force allows small satellites to be used for evaluating technologies on more complex space systems, such as communications or earth observation satellites. The experience gained in the development and operation of these spacecraft also offers educational benefits for Defence personnel studying space programs at UNSW Canberra. This further enhances the future Defence space workforce.”
Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, said multiple Australian suppliers and industry partners have contributed, including the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre, operated by the Australian National University.
Staff at UNSW Canberra will conduct a series of communications tests with the M2 Pathfinder satellite over the coming months. Results of these tests will improve the design of future satellites, and will provide valuable experience to the engineering and flight operations teams.