New Australian UNSW-EC0 satellite deployed into space


The new UNSW-EC0 satellite by the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has been launched from the International Space Station (ISS).

The UNSW-EC0 has already made its first pass over Sydney, but UNSW has not received the signal from the satellite to confirm that it is operating as designed.

UNSW researchers were attempting to establish contact with the satellite, which is a cubesat built using 3D-printing technology.

The UNSW-EC0 is among a host of Australian satellites to be launched into space over 15 years.

“We’re troubleshooting a number of scenarios for why we didn’t detect it, from checking our ground equipment to exploring the possibility that the batteries might have discharged."

ACSER deputy director and UNSW-EC0 project leader Elias Aboutanios said: “We’re not overly concerned yet.

“We’re troubleshooting a number of scenarios for why we didn’t detect it, from checking our ground equipment to exploring the possibility that the batteries might have discharged.

“But at the moment, we just don’t know.”

Part of the three Australian research satellites launched last month from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, the UNSW-EC0 is designed to explore the region above Earth known as the thermosphere.

Featuring a 3D-printed thermoplastic chassis, the UNSW-EC0 will study the thermosphere’s atomic composition and test new computer chips and GPS devices developed at UNSW.

Aboutanios added: “This zone of the atmosphere is poorly understood and really hard to measure.

“It’s where much of the ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from the Sun collides with Earth, influencing our weather, generating auroras and creating hazards that can affect power grids and communications.”

The UNSW-EC0 cubesat is part of an international QB50 mission, which is headed by von Karman Institute (VKI) in Belgium and includes a swarm of 36 small satellites weighing 1.3kg each.


Image: Rendering of orbiting UNSW-EC0 satellite. Photo: courtesy of UNSW.