A satellite designed and built by the University of Adelaide is due to be launched tonight into the atmosphere to measure climate change data and communicate it back to Earth.
The CubeSat, named SUSat, was one of three developed in Australia, and is part of an international collaborative project called QB50 to launch 50 climate science CubeSats to carry out atmospheric research within the lower thermosphere, approximately 400 kilometres directly above earth, the least explored layer of the atmosphere.
The rocket launch is scheduled for 12:41am ACST on Wednesday 19 April from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellites will be released via the International Space Station in the coming months, remaining in orbit for 12 to 18 months.
Data will be collected from this CubeSat up to three times per day via the University of South Australia’s Institute for Telecommunications’ ground station at Mawson Lakes.
A $300,000 Premier’s Research and Industry Fund grant, awarded in 2012-13, was used to develop the CubeSat, which will carry two small measuring devices for atmospheric measurement and for communications, in addition to the QB50 climate modelling payload.
More than 40 undergrad students have been involved in this project across various faculties of the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia including computer science, mechanical engineering and physics.
These students will continue to gather information from the CubeSat during its time in orbit, with all data collected available to all partners associated with the QB50 project.
The other Australian teams involved in the QB50 project are based at the Universities of New South Wales and Sydney.
Science and Information Economy Minister Kyam Maher saidthe launch of a South Australian-made satellite is a remarkable achievement which will provide information that will be used by climate researchers around the world.
“The State Government provided $300,000 towards the development of this satellite through the Premier’s Research and Industry Fund.
“Through our defence industry and strong research and innovation community, South Australia is uniquely poised to further grow this space technology sector, through the manufacture of satellite buses and payloads.”
University of Adelaide’s School of Mechanical Engineering Research Fellow Dr Matthew Tetlow said: “This is incredibly exciting to see our spacecraft launched to the International Space Station and know that it will play an important part in this research.
“It’s a fantastic milestone and a testament to the team. The whole project has been an invaluable and unique experience for the many students who have worked on it. It’s not everyday student engineers get to help build a satellite to be launched by NASA.”