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Australia boosting space capabilities with second cube satellite launch

Don't Stop Me Now launch
Photo: Rocket Lab

An Australian-made miniature satellite has been launched into space to test radio communications technologies to help shape future space capabilities in Australia.

The M2 Pathfinder, developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force, was launched on Rocket Lab’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. It is the second of four cube satellites to be flown in the program, and follows the launch of M1 in late 2018.

Small satellites such as M2 Pathfinder, also known as CubeSats and around the size of a loaf of bread, allow high-tech capabilities to be tested in space at a lower cost than larger satellites.

Australian defense minister Linda Reynolds said the satellite would help inform future capability designs for the Australian Defence Force.

“The collaboration between UNSW Canberra and Air Force allows small satellites to be used for evaluating technologies on more complex space systems, such as communications or earth observation satellites,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Through this collaboration, it has enabled UNSW Canberra to develop a number of space courses and programs to benefit Defence personnel.

“The experience gained in the development and operation of these spacecraft also offers educational benefits for Defence personnel studying space programs at UNSW Canberra. This further enhances the future Defence space workforce.”

Staff at UNSW Canberra will conduct a series of communications tests with the M2 Pathfinder satellite over the coming months. Results of these tests will improve the design of future satellites, and will provide valuable experience to the engineering and flight operations teams.