A lightweight spacecraft with capabilities that punch above its weight could provide the perfect launching pad for a sustainable Australian space program, a leading engineer says.
Dr Steven Tsitas from the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) atUNSW has developed an innovative system design for a new shoebox-sized spacecraft that enables night imaging and agricultural monitoring missions previously requiring much larger crafts.
With the right instrumentation, the 8-kilogram spacecraft known as the 6U CubeSat can perform some of the commercial earth-observationmissions of 'microsatellites' that weigh around 100 kg and are roughly the size of a washing machine, he says.
"This 10-times size reduction should make the cost of producing a spacecraft 10-times cheaper -- around $1 million versus $10 million," says Tsitas. "The cost may now be low enough to make it politically possible for Australia to establish a sustainable national space program."
"The worldwide space industry has annual revenue of $275 billion and a 9 per cent growth rate," he says. "This is perhaps the last chance for Australia to enter this high growth-rate industry in the capacity of designing and building its own spacecraft."
Researchers in the US developed the original one litre-volume CubeSat for educational purposes. The modified 6U version is slightly larger and rectangular in shape, meaning it has considerably more payload capacity for the inclusion of advanced instruments and cameras.
The system design described by Tsitas was developed in collaboration with Dr Jenny Kingston from Cranfield University in the UK.
Tsitas will chair a workshop at Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra on 17-18 July to explore the range of missions that are possible with the 6U CubeSat.
John Hines, the Chief Technologist for the NASA-Ames Research Centre, will be presenting and speaking on a panel titled: Can the 6U CubeSat form the basis of a sustainable Australian Space Program?
What: 6U CubeSat Low Cost Space Missions Workshop
When: 17 - 18 July 2012
Where: Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre, Mt Stromlo Observatory, Canberra
Register online: http://www.acser.unsw.edu.au/events/cubesat.html
Dr Steven Tsitas, ACSER firstname.lastname@example.org
Myles Gough, UNSW Media Unit email@example.com