What have we been up to?
The answer to that question can vary quite a bit, depending on which member of our team we ask… To sum it up however, we must start with our current mission, Binar-1.
Our current mission, Binar-1 is the first of an ongoing series of small satellite/CubeSat missions to be launched by Curtin University. Binar-1 is a 1U CubeSat currently in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and is a technical demonstrator of in-house developed hardware that aims to become a repeatable platform for research and educational purposes. Lots has happened, and if you check out our previous blog posts, you will understand a little bit about how things went down.
Our upcoming missions, currently named – maybe quite unimaginatively – Launch 2 and Launch 3, consist of two sets of three x 1U CubeSats. The first mission, Launch 2 will see satellites: Binar-2, Binar-3 and Binar-4 be deployed from the ISS in the same way as Binar-1 into LEO. The subsequent mission, Launch 3 will follow about a year later with three more CubeSats (Binar-5,6 and 7) to be delivered into Low Earth Orbit in a similar manner to Binar-1 and Binar-2,3,4.
As mentioned above, one of the purposes of these satellites is to provide a platform for Curtin University’s Cubesat research. This research includes investigations on hardware and software for space; learning, and also teaching other students (high school and university) about designing and developing science missions in space and learning how to operate spacecraft. Launch 3 will hopefully fly Australian educational payloads that have been designed by high-school and university students, who will then use amateur radio to communicate with their payloads.
Binar-234 and 567 Spacecraft Hardware Overview
The satellites in Launch 2 and 3 will be equipped with the existing Binar CubeSat Bus platform and a newly developed communications module and antenna. Each satellite will fly a payload bay designed to be a unit that can be utilised by students for integrating science experiments into our satellites for orbital insertion. This payload bay is a key component of our goal to lower the barrier to entry for students to send science experiments into space, and then to listen to their payloads transmitting on the UHF Amateur Band. This payload bay will be tested and proven in Launch 2 and by the time Launch 3 is ready to go, high-school students involved with the BinarX programs will have had the time and opportunity to design and develop a mission payload to be flown on Launch 3.
Satellites in Launch 2, Binar-2, 3, 4 will be flying an updated version of the satellite mainboard that flew on the Binar-1 mission, the same battery, heating and ADCS configurations as Binar-1.
Our research and development conducted by PhD candidates within our program has enabled us to have deployable solar panels on the satellite for a maximum expected generated power per orbit of 3Whr. The deployable solar panel mechanisms are part of a PhD project studying compliant mechanisms and Shape Memory Alloys for small satellite deployables.
We have also been at work on the communications side of the satellite, adding a few new tricks up our sleeve. The satellites in Launch 2 of the new mission will all fly identical communication systems: a UHF Radio developed by Curtin University that is capable of operating in the 70cm amateur satellite band and will also be operating in the 440MHz frequency range under a scientific licence allocated to Curtin University. Alongside that, the spacecraft will also be testing a S-Band radio developed in conjunction with a local, West Australian radiocommunications specialist group, for higher data-rate communications. Finally, all satellites are equipped with Iridium modules capable of uplink as a backup TT&C link and for some final data transmissions during re-entry.
The changes from the previous mission involve a mission payload bay that is being tested for the development of the BinarX Program. The payload bay flying on the spacecraft from Launch 2 will be used in our subsequent launch to provide students and high schools with the opportunity to design, develop, and remotely operate science missions in space. In this first set of spacecraft (Binar-2, 3, 4), the payload bay houses an experiment designed by Curtin University in collaboration with CSIRO; a radiation detector housed in a few different materials to test radiation shielding effectiveness and to measure radiation dosage over the mission lifetime. The radiation shielding varies between these spacecraft.
Amateur and Educational Mission
As mentioned above, the Binar Space Program is a project under the umbrella of Curtin University’s Space Science and Technology Centre. Our mission is to enable and facilitate, education, research and research enabling technology. However, all research and education, is done with, and by people, and a large portion of our work revolves around ensuring that the people that are the current and future generations of professionals have an opportunity to learn, to grow, to build capability in this space.
Why Amateur Radio?
Part of our mission is to try to make it easier for young, enthusiastic students to learn more about-, and how to use amateur radio in a way which directly relates to STEM. We believe that this specific use of amateur radio is a fantastic crossover opportunity for education and encouragement of STEM. We were the young students who were once constrained by resources according to our personal situation, and we want to provide a platform where students – high-school and university – can learn about spacecraft, their operations, and science experiments flying onboard our spacecraft.
The satellites in Launches 2 and 3, Binar-2, 3, 4 and 5,6,7, will have a multiband radio, capable of operating in the amateur band. The amateur band radio will be utilized for transmitting a CW beacon, activities related to teaching and educating students on how to operate a satellite in orbit over a radio link. This radio link will be using the 70cm Amateur Satellite Radio band and, as required by local and international regulatory bodies (ACMA, ITU, IARU), will be coordinated through the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).
The main purpose of the usage of the amateur-satellite band allocation onboard the Satellites in Launches 2 and 3 is to provide a platform to educate high school and university students on how to operate satellites. This supports the Binar Space Program’s education mission named BinarX. This provides opportunities to high school and university students to get involved in learning and receiving education on how to operate spacecraft in orbit, what it means to develop, design and operate a space mission.
Once the main purpose of teaching, educating, and reaching out to students is achieved, the activities designed for direct interaction with High-schools, which include Store-And-Forward and Capture the flag activities, will be made public and available to the wider amateur radio community.