The University of South Australia (UniSA) with two Adelaide-based SMEs, VPG Innovation and SMR Australia,…
The Australian SpIRIT research nanosatellite is set to blast off with SpaceX’s Transporter-9 mission in November. The SpIRIT, or Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal, nanosatellite has arrived in California for Australia’s first research satellite launch in 21 years.
The 11.5kg SpIRIT, based on Inovor Technologies Apogee satellite bus, is a joint industry mission led by the University of Melbourne and supported by the Australian Space Agency. The mission is an important opportunity to raise Australia’s profile in modern satellite operations. Raising Australia’s profile will help the national space sector compete for a share of the booming small satellite market.
The November scheduled launch is at Vandenberg Space Force Base on SpaceX’s Transporter-9. After launching, SpIRIT will undergo 4 months of testing and commissioning before starting operations.
Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency, said, “SpIRIT exemplifies the Australian space sector’s growing capability and readiness to collaborate with international partners. With new Australian technologies on board, this is an important demonstration of how we can contribute to international space programs.”
Professor Michele Trenti, SpIRIT Principal Investigator, said reaching the launch milestone is rewarding.
“I’m looking forward to receiving images and scientific data back from SpIRIT … however, it is already an incredible achievement just to go through the full satellite development cycle,” Professor Trenti said.
“There is a growing role for big science in smaller craft … in understanding the universe or relaying information around the world, several small satellites can be more competitive than one big one.”
SpIRIT is also the first Australian-made satellite to host a scientific payload for a foreign space agency. The Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) HERMES X-ray detector will scour the cosmos for black holes, by locating the high-energy gamma ray bursts linked to them.
The platform for SpIRIT is Adelaide-based Inovor Technologies’ Apogee satellite bus – the first Australian-made turnkey satellite platform. Apogee features power, telemetry, attitude control, and spacecraft command and control systems in a modular structure.
Neumann Space, Inovor’s Adelaide-based neighbour, has equipped SpIRIT with the Neumann Drive: a lightweight, high-efficiency solar-electric propulsion system. It uses solid metal as a fuel source and is scalable up to larger spacecraft.
Neumann Space CEO Herve Astier said the company is working towards capturing metal space debris in orbit to refuel the system.
“Pioneering metal-based propulsion technology, the Neumann Drive contributes to in-orbit sustainability and paves the way for a future where our propulsion system can be refuelled in-situ from space debris,” Mr Astier said.
The University of Melbourne also has 3 innovations on the SpIRIT mission:
- an instrument temperature control system
- an autonomous low-latency communications module
- a payload management system.
On the ground, Nova Systems will support the mission from its Autonomous Intelligent Ground Station System near Peterborough, South Australia.
Sitael Australia also brings its systems engineering expertise to round out the consortium.