Press Release: Successful Satellite Launch



Australia reaches new heights in space

19 April 2017

In an Australian first, two top-tier Sydney universities are counting down the days to the launch of their first satellites into space.

Engineers at the University of NSW and University of Sydney will gather on Saturday, March 25 to witness via telecast the live launch of their shoebox-sized satellites, known as Cubesats, aboard the Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Professor Andrew Dempster, head of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering and Research (ACSER) at UNSW, said: “The UNSW-EC0 Cubesat comes after 40 years of Australia’s non-participation in satellite building.”

The two satellites – UNSW-EC0 and INSPIRE-2, the latter built by the University of Sydney and UNSW together – are part of an EU-sponsored program called QB50, which will launch a constellation of 38 Cubesats into space to carry out atmospheric experiments.  

Each Cubesat is the size of a shoebox but can perform as many functions as a washing machine-sized satellite of the 1980s. 

“Despite how small and light it is, our Cubesat has also managed to pack three UNSW-built technology demonstrators that is critical to future space missions,“ said Dr Elias Aboutanious, project leader for UNSW-EC0, which was five years in the making.

“If successful, these technology demonstrators will also provide rare scientific data that augments several of UNSW’s research projects,” said Dr Eamonn Glennon, GPS receiver payload manager for UNSW-EC0.

ACSER will take part in five space missions in 2017-18. Its participation in QB50 secured the launch opportunity, but funding the operational and material costs was difficult and depended on the support of the European Union. 

“Without a flourishing satellite-building industry in Sydney, we have built a space environment-tested satellite that will soon be in space,” said UNSW-EC0 technical lead Dr Joon Cheong.

“This has proven that even with limited resources, we can still achieve great heights. Imagine what we could do with more.”

The first step in ACSER’s multi-pronged approach to building Australia’s space industry could be a giant leap into a new era. The university believes that with future support from the Australian government and industry, local research ideas will no longer be dependent on foreign entities, and remain Earth-bound. 

UNSW believes the industry is on the cusp of a civil space revolution that could cheaply exploit space for rural internet access, satellite imaging, weather prediction and much more. The time is ripe for seed investment, said Dr Cheong.

But the local Cubesats appear to be defying gravity already. “Australia currently does not have the strategic infrastructure and environment to favour satellites being built here,” said project manager Associate Professor Barnaby Osborne, “but with a little help, Australia can potentially attract billions in investment, initiate new start-ups and create more advanced-economy jobs.”

Media Contact: Professor Andrew Dempster

Tel: +61 (2) 93856890





-        This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development under grant agreement no [284427].

-        This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.