With a device the size of a vegemite sandwich, a tiny number of Perth researchers has created Western Australian history. The Binar-1 satellite was deployed into orbit on a SpaceX Dragon spaceship from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Perth time). The craft will now go to International Space Station (ISS), where the astronauts will release the spacecraft into the low-Earth orbit.
It is the first time a satellite built in Washington has been deployed into orbit. The device’s director, Phil Bland of the Space Science Technology Centre of Curtin University, insists it won’t be the last. “You can’t succeed in space unless you can fly stuff,” Mr Bland added. “So, we’re inventing the technology that will enable us to soar all the time.” The Binar team hopes to deploy at least seven tiny spacecraft to demonstrate that its technology works within the next two years. If it happens, it will have a significant impact on Western Australians’ ability to acquire space.
Approximately a hundred people gathered in Yagan Square to witness a live stream of the deployment. However, the launch was canceled due to inclement weather in Florida. While you might hope for the best, failure is a reality for those who work in the industry. “Space is extremely difficult; your first try has a high failure rate,” Professor Bland remarked. “So, if it turns on, that’s terrific; if we get images back, that’s even better.”
The spacecraft was successfully launched around 3:15 p.m. Perth time on August 29, to the delight of the dozens of people who returned to Yagan Square. The spacecraft will linger in orbit for nearly 18 months, taking photographs of WA as well as the stars with two cameras. Binar-1 differs from other satellites in that its essential operations are all controlled by one circuit board designed by the team and housed in a 10-centimetre-long cube on each side. He explained, “It implies that even in something that massive, we’ve got plenty of room for the payload for the things that you really want the satellite to do.”
“So if we figure out how it works and validate it, we’ll be able to develop far greater things.” As a result of the adjustment, each satellite is now easier to manufacture, and the most substantial cost has become the six-figure price to send it into orbit. “We’re constructing the technology that will allow us to fly all the time,” Professor Bland said. “We’ll be able to validate it; we will test that out in orbit.” “But, more importantly, we will provide payload space on all of that spacecraft to anyone in Washington who has a bridge idea, whether it’s a high school, a university, or a company.”