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iLAuNCH to improve CubeSat manoeuvrability

The iLAuNCH research collaboration’s latest project will use the pioneering Bogong thruster developed by ANU last year to enhance the manoeuvrability of CubeSats.

Researchers hope the development will solve the problem of smaller satellites traditionally lacking the size, weight, and power to be controlled like larger spacecraft.

The environmentally friendly Bogong thruster, developed by Boswell Technologies and manufactured by the university, uniquely uses solid naphthalene rather than plasma.

It was tested in November last year using one satellite in the Skyraft 3 constellation launched in mid-2023.

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“We are pioneering Australia’s first vectored thrust technology for small satellites, using space heritage demonstrated by iLAuNCH university partner ANU and Boswell Technologies,” said iLAuNCH Trailblazer executive director Darin Lovett.

“We are partnering with Indian company Azista Industries to integrate the thruster into a CubeSat to demonstrate space flight heritage on orbit. Successful demonstration of this thruster will open it up for commercialisation into the CubeSats and SmallSats that Azista is developing.”

iLAuNCH said the “cutting-edge system” will be integrated into Azista’s attitude control system (ADCS) to offer “unprecedented precision manoeuvring”. The advancement is hoped to open up new capabilities for applications in Earth observation, secure communications, and optical alignment.

“This project shows how a PhD student’s research at university can be developed into a cutting-edge technology in the space industry. Collaboration between industry and the university resulted in the full development of the Bogong 1 thruster, which is now functioning in orbit,” said ANU’s Professor Christine Charles.

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“Bogong Thruster demonstrates the ANU’s capabilities and potential future development of the technologies and can inspire many students and researchers.”

“Azista will undertake the design and production of the CubeSat, ensuring it is compatible with the integrated propulsion and pointing systems, preparing it for comprehensive altitude/attitude control testing then manage the launch of the satellite into orbit to showcase the technology’s functionality and readiness for the market,” said Azista Industries’ Bharath Simha Reddy Pappula.

The $180-million iLAuNCH trailblazer is a partnership between academic institutions and more than 20 industry partners that aims to accelerate the development of the space manufacturing sector.

Since its inception in 2022, it has already helped scores of projects.

Last week, for example, Space Connect reported that researchers at the University of Southern Queensland would be trained to use software to simulate hypersonic space missions in a deal facilitated by iLAuNCH.

As part of the agreement, software engineering company LEAP Australia will provide scientists with access to the ANSYS suite of tools, which can model aerodynamics and structures.

While hypersonic technology – defined as flying at least five times the speed of sound – is nothing new, countries are currently in an arms race to develop the next generation of missiles that are so manoeuvrable in midair they can’t be intercepted or detected.

The advances are also being used to create scramjet-powered hypersonic spaceplanes, which could one day provide an alternative to rockets for taking satellites into space.

UniSQ already has its own pioneering wind tunnel that can simulate the effect of Mach 5 speeds on vehicles and the heat it generates.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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