Satellite testing takes off at ANU

cansat contruction cansat launching cansat recovery

Can-sats and cube-sats, the size of a loaf of bread, represent a disruptive evolution to satellites being bigger and better.

A loud group of ANU students are hurling plastic bottles from the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility on campus. As each bottle plummets from the 40 metre-high tower, the students erupt into triumphant cheers.

You would be forgiven for calling ANU Security, but far from being mischief-makers, these students are actually just doing what their prof told them.

These bottles are in fact fully-functioning satellites - can-sats, the size of a can - and the students are learning skills that could propel them into the space industry.

"Can-sats and cube-sats, the size of a loaf of bread, represent a disruptive evolution to satellites being bigger and better. With micro-propulsion systems they can form organised clusters that can deliver more powerful data than a single large satellite," says Professor Christine Charles, head of the Space Plasma Power and Propulsion Laboratory.

Professor Charles' group are part of a global project to launch a network of 50 cubesats from the International Space Station.

Australia is contributing three cubesats to the European Union project, through a collaboration of five universities.

Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre

The Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo, ANU, is a unique testing facility in Australia that simulates the heat, vacuum and mechanical stresses of a space launch. Researchers from around Australia came to ANU to put their cubesats through their paces at AITC ahead of launch in late 2016.

Updated:  17 August 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPE/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster