Next step to all-Australian space flight

The University of Sydney’s ARC Training Centre for CubeSats, UAVs & their Applications (CUAVA) has chosen US-Australian company Saber Astronautics to provide satellite operations for the first flight of a CUAVA satellite.

The partnership represents a largely Australian-delivered space project, as Professor Iver Cairns, director of ARC Training Centre CUAVA, highlighted.

“Together we are going to develop a spacecraft control, data management and ground-station solution that links to our new spacecraft software. This could also provide a template for many future Australian space projects. It is an example of two Australian entities coming together to develop an Australian solution to a global problem,” said Cairns.

The satellite that will be launched by the partnership, CUAVA-1, is part of an ongoing research project, supported by academics, government, and industry organisations. The team hope that the CUAVA project will provide a vehicle for commercially marketable products from Australian manufactures.

If successful, the returns for the local space industry could be great, as CEO of Saber Astronautics, Dr Jason Held, pointed out.

“CubeSats are small, susceptible to damage and prone to failure so the willingness to take a risk and learn-by-trying is what innovation is all about,” said Held. “The reward is high because a successful flight will qualify several new Australian products for the space industry. That’s exciting.”

Concurrent with the launch planning, CUAVA and Saber Astronautics will develop standardised operations which could apply to future Australian space projects and those that liaise with international counterparts.

“Our infrastructure will allow for maximum international engagement and increases the chances for successful downlink, particularly in the first few days of launch,” said lead avionics engineer of Saber, Andreas Antoniades.

The low cost of CubeSats makes the technology attractive for space start ups and smaller space programs, such as those being pursued in Australia. CUAVA has been leveraging this technology since its opening in June 2019, and hopes to form a primary part of Australia’s future space development.