At around 1am on the morning of 19 April, while most of Australia was asleep a rocket carrying a University of Adelaide-built satellite was lifting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The destination for this historic flight of the Atlas V rocket was the International Space Station.
The satellite, dubbed CubeSat, is a nonosatellite which has been four years in the making thanks to a team of 50 University of Adelaide students and a staff team led by Research Fellow Dr Matthew Tetlow.
The student engineers helped to build the satellite which is due to be deployed by the International Space Station in May, to play a vital role in a project to explore the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The satellite will take different measurements of the lower thermosphere to understand its relationship to other layers of the atmosphere and how that affects our climate.
By harnessing the very latest advances in electronics, the more economical miniature satellite can carry the same amount of research equipment as a regular-sized satellite. The ‘CubeSat’ is one of three nanosatellites developed in Australia under the European-funded project QB50, an international network of 50 CubeSats.
Apart from the locally built satellite, the NASA mission was carrying a cargo including clothes, food, water, equipment and science experiments for the space station crew.