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Australian Defence Sector Supports Its Indigenous Space Industry With Cubesat Programme

Artist’s impression of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Cubesat-M1. Image courtesy of the University of New South Wales.

Final testing for the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) CubeSat-M1 is underway. This first-of-three cubesats has been developed as part of a AUS$10 million contract with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space Centre, which was signed in November.

This home grown satellite is testament to the ‘Down Under’ effect that is currently shaping the Australian NewSpace landscape as the country drives innovation and enters the global space market.  Australia is working hard to get the very best out of its impressive indigenous talent which, in the past has often had to go elsewhere in pursuit of a dream career in space. The creation of an Australian Space Agency was announced in 2017 and small satellites will form an important part of the sector.

“Small, low-cost satellites like M1 provide a unique opportunity to support Australian Defence Force capabilities and to rejuvenate Australian space industry,” said Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne. “The government is investing significantly in space-related projects for defence over the next two decades. Over AUS$300m (U.S.$229.75m) is already committed in this year’s budget to establish the Australian Space Agency, which will drive Australia’s involvement in space, and to develop national space-related infrastructure.”

The three cubesats will provide new ways to further develop Australia’s future defence capability through remote sensing information with radios and cameras.

“These versatile small satellites have re-programmable software defined radios on board, and can change their purpose mid-mission greatly improving their functional capabilities for multiple uses by defence,” added Pyne.

Furthermore, not only will the defence sector benefit from the Cubesats, but the missions themselves will also provide excellent experience for the defence and civilian students that are studying at UNSW Canberra and will promote a new generation of space engineers with a great future ahead of them – in Australia.

The second and third CubeSat satellites for the RAAF will be launched next year.

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