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Professor Iver Cairns: Australian Satellites and Where to Find Them
Tue. 15 August 2017, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm AEST
About the speaker
Professor Iver Cairns is Professor in Space Physics at the University of Sydney. His primary interests are in explaining the fundamental, widely applicable, plasma physics of radio emissions from the sun and using this understanding to predict whether space weather should occur at Earth. Professor Cairns is the past Chair of the Australian Academy of Science's National Committee for Space Science. He led the development of Australia's first Decadal Plan for Australian space science, published by the Academy in 2010. Professor Cairns is also leader of the three-university INSPIRE-2 CubeSat, part of the European-led QB50 project to probe Earth's ionosphere and upper atmosphere with a constellation of 50 CubeSats, that is scheduled for launch in 2017.
About the talk
Are there any Australian-built satellites in space today? Have there ever been any? Are any expected, or should Australia leave ‘space’ to other nations?
Professor Iver Cairns describes the revolution in satellites, space research, and space industry occurring across Australia today. Crucially, by the end of 2017 there should be at least four Australian-built satellites in space, three participating in the European Union's QB50 project (ECO, INSPIRE-2, SUSat) and one a Department of Defence project (Biarri-Point). These will be Australia's first satellites in space for 16 years, only our 4th-to 7th satellites ever, our first satellites launched from the International Space Station, and our first satellites in a constellation. They involve six Australian universities and the Defence Science and Technology Group, with at least three other universities, three other government entities, and five Australian and international companies involved in other space projects. Similarly, over 30 ‘space’' start-up companies were formed in 2016, already raising over $15 million in funding. This is more space startups per capita than anywhere else in the world right now except perhaps California. This level of activity did not exist prior to 2015.
A vital part of this revolution is that the four new Australian satellites are CubeSats; about the size of a loaf of bread and weighing less than 2–3 kg, yet filled with advanced Australian payloads that would not be out of place in the standard 1m3 and 1 tonne satellites familiar to most people. CubeSats use standards that support the design and use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts, dramatically lowering costs, reducing development times, and allowing scientists and entrepreneurs to focus on their scientific and commercial projects and not on engineering the satellite. For instance, direct costs for INSPIRE-2 are much less than half a million dollars and inception to delivery took less than a year. These cost and time scales appear ideal to drive development of a sustainable Australian space capability that includes academia, industry and government.
The talk will finish with a glimpse of the future and, if available, initial data from the Australian QB50 satellites INSPIRE-2, ECO, and SUSat.