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Adelaide designed and built climate satellite launches from Cape Canaveral

A satellite designed and built by the University of Adelaide has been launched at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to measure climate change data and communicate it back to Earth.

The CubeSat, named SUSat — launched early Wednesday morning — is one of three developed in Australia. It is part of an international collaborative project called QB50 to launch 50 climate science CubeSats to carry out atmospheric research within the lower thermosphere, approximately 400kms directly above Earth.

The satellites will be released via the International Space Station in the coming months, remaining in orbit for 12 to 18 months.

And, data will be collected from the CubeSat up to thrice a day via the University of South Australia’s Institute for Telecommunications’ ground station at Mawson Lakes.

A $300,000 Premier’s Research and Industry Fund grant, awarded in 2012-13, was used to develop the CubeSat, which will carry two small measuring devices for atmospheric measurement and for communications, in addition to the QB50 climate modelling payload.

More than 40 undergraduate students have been involved in the project across various faculties of the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia, including computer science, mechanical engineering and physics.

The students will continue to gather information from the CubeSat during its time in orbit, with all data collected available to all partners associated with the QB50 project.

The other Australian teams involved in the QB50 project are based at the Universities of New South Wales and Sydney.

South Australian Science and Information Economy Minister Kyam Maher says the launch of a South Australian-made satellite is a “remarkable achievement which will provide information that will be used by climate researchers around the world”.

“Through our defence industry and strong research and innovation community, South Australia is uniquely poised to further grow this space technology sector, through the manufacture of satellite buses and payloads.”

University of Adelaide’s School of Mechanical Engineering Research Fellow Dr Matthew Tetlow said: “It’s a fantastic milestone and a testament to the team. The whole project has been an invaluable and unique experience for the many students who have worked on it. It’s not every day student engineers get to help build a satellite to be launched by NASA.”


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).