By Vanessa Beasley

Curtin University’s bid to launch miniature spacecraft for deep space missions is one step closer after a $500,000 investment by the Western Australian State Government.

Curtin’s Space Science Technology Centre (SSTC) has been awarded the funding to support its Binar Space Program (‘Binar’ being the Nyungar word for fireball or shooting star). The spacecraft technology, conceived in WA by Curtin’s SSTC is an innovative highly integrated unit, with all spacecraft systems on a single circuit board, making it significantly more cost effective solution than that offered by other manufacturers.

WA Minister for Science, the Hon Dave Kelly MLA made the grant announcement this morning, as part of the State Government’s commitment to maximising benefits for the State through research, job creation, diversification of the economy and innovation.

Funding will be used to employ engineers to support the scheduled launch of five Binar CubeSats to space in 2021-2022. If all five launches are successful, they will be Australia’s first home grown constellation of satellites in space.

SSTC Director, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland, said the funding will help the Binar Program achieve its true potential.

“Easy access to space isn’t just about lower launch costs. It’s great that you can now put a satellite into orbit for $100k. But that’s not much help if even the smallest spacecraft costs millions. It is our goal to remove that hurdle,” Professor Bland said.

“Universities are the crucibles of innovation. They’re training the next generation of scientists and engineers for a future space workforce. We want to help them innovate and train those students by providing them with a cost-effective platform, allowing for an agile fast-fail approach to payload development. Researchers will be able to rapidly iterate technologies in orbit, developing solutions that can help Australians, and Australian industry, whether that’s fighting bushfires or tracking groundwater.

“For us, we’re also planetary scientists and every success in Earth’s orbit allows us to iterate our technology, getting us closer to our goal of a WA mission to the Moon, and beyond.”

The Binar space technology platform has the potential to be Australia’s sovereign cubesat solution, said Samuel Forbes from Fugro Australia, Director of the Australian Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC).

“With four Binar spacecraft contracted to launch in the next year, including Australia’s first satellite constellation, Fugro is excited to partner with Curtin University to support operations of the Binar Space Program through its SpAARC facility. We see the Binar technology platform delivering a game changing capability for Australia,” Mr Forbes said.

Curtin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Chris Moran said the funding boost to the Binar Program includes a valuable outreach component to inspire young people in WA.

“The research and practical capabilities of this outstanding SSTC program are powerful, but it also has the real potential to inspire students to consider a career in space science through STEM engagement activities, using these miniature satellites as evidence of what science innovation can look like in WA,” Professor Moran said.

“This funding advances Curtin’s mission to see WA spacecraft delivering value for WA industry, WA students helping to build them, and on graduating, those students finding jobs in a thriving WA space industry. By working with local industries, the Binar Space Program will connect WA with a pathway to space, advancing the State’s economy and shining a light on possible futures for students in the space sector.”

As part of the funding agreement, the WA State Government coat of arms will be included on the SSTC spacecraft when they are launched over the next two years.

Further information on the Binar Program can be found online here.

The Minister’s announcement can be found here.