Australia's 'loaf of bread' satellite is now orbiting Earth

A CubeSat. Image: University of Sydney

Australia has returned to space with a CubeSat, a satellite the size of a loaf of bread.

The Australian CubeSat INSPIRE-2, part of a NASA program offering low-cost pathway to conduct science in space, launched from the International Space Station on Friday.

INSPIRE-2 carries five payloads, one from the QB50 project (an international network of 50 CubeSats), three from the University of Sydney and one from the University of New South Wales.

The CubeSat, designed and built in Australia, weighs 1.3kg and is about 60cm long.

PhD student Jiro Funamoto, Professor Iver Cairns and Electronics Engineer Wayne Peacock with INSPIRE-2. Image: University of Sydney

Project lead Iver Cairns, the University of Sydney Professor in Space Physics, says the payloads will provide unique scientific data on Earth’s upper atmosphere.

“The deployment from the Nanoracks pods on the International Space Station was exactly on time and entirely nominal, with the three cubesats (ours leading) coming out smoothly,” he says.

“It was a wonderful sight to see INSPIRE-2 and the other cubesats superposed on the blue-and-white Earth below. The deployment took place over the Pacific Ocean and we could clearly see many clouds with elegant shapes and patterns plus the blue ocean.”

The CubeSat is the first Australian-built spacecraft in space for 15 years.

“They will also demonstrate new Australian technologies in space, specifically a ‘photonic lantern’ to study the spectrum of light from the Earth and other objects, plus a GPS receiver to study GPS signals reflected off the sea and refracted through the atmosphere,” says professor Cairns.

Here’s an animation of the satellite being deployed from the International Space Station:

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