4 mins read 28 Oct 2021

Homegrown WA Satellite Sends First Signal back to Earth

Western Australia’s first homegrown satellite, Binar-1, has just made contact with ground control in Perth two weeks after launch.

The deployment of Binar-1 from the ISS. Credit: JAXA/Space BD.

Western Australia has reached for the stars and touched them. The state’s first homegrown satellite, Binar-1, made contact with ground control at Curtin University as of Monday the 25th of October. The satellite sprung to life overnight and sent out its first signal since its launch into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station (ISS).

Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne congratulated Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) team for their wonderful achievement.

“Binar-1’s ‘first words’ from space are an incredible milestone for the Binar Space Program, and cap more than four years of work by this hard-working and high-achieving team. Curtin couldn’t be more proud,” Professor Hayne said.

The Binar-1 satellite is part of the Binar Space Program, which has been supported by a State Government investment of \$500,000 to facilitate joint operations with the Fugro SpAARC facility, and is also supported by the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) consortium.  

Binar-1 Phones Home

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch which carried Binar-1 to the ISS.Credit: KSC/NASA.

The Binar-1 CubeSat was designed, coded, and built by staff and students from the SSTC in partnership with remote operations experts Fugro. It was delivered to the ISS by SpaceX at the end of August before it was launched into orbit from the ISS earlier this month. All of this hard work culminated in the first communication sent by Binar-1 on Monday, which came in the form of an Ultra High-Frequency Signal (UHF) signal from 400 kilometres above the Earth, received by the command centre in Perth.   

“This is an incredibly proud moment for the entire SSTC team. After a fortnight of listening and waiting, we have finally heard back from Binar-1. It may just be a simple radio signal, but hearing this ‘heartbeat’ is the initial successful step in testing all the critical spacecraft systems and validating what we have built,” Professor Phil Bland, Director of Curtin’s SSTC, said.

“Binar-1 was coded and built from scratch by SSTC staff and students, but testing its viability is only made possible through our partnership with remote operations specialists, Fugro, and their Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC) which enables us to test protocols in space.

“This first contact with Binar-1 puts us on the path to proving that our technology can deliver and sets us up very well to achieve our aim of sending six more satellites into space over the next 18 months, and our ultimate goal of taking WA to the Moon by 2025.”

Next Mission Phase

The SSTC team who designed, coded, and built the Binar-1 satellite. They watched on from Yagan Square, Perth, as Binar-1 launched into space on a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida back in August. If the Binar-1 mission goes well, the team will hopefully have several more Binar Program launches to watch in the future. Credit: Curtin University/Twitter.

The Binar (pronounced BIN-ah) Program, named for the Noongar word for fireball, is set to launch several more satellites before culminating with the Binar Prospector mission, which will orbit and gather data from the Moon. The success of Binar-1 will pave the way for future Western Australian missions.

“After a few anxious weeks, the team was both ecstatic and relieved to make contact with Binar-1 for the first time overnight,” Binar Program Manager, Mr Ben Hartig, said.

“It made contact using Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio signals. Picking up that beacon not just from our own ground stations, but from all around the world with our partners and the amateur radio community was incredible.

“Our Curtin SSTC team will now further decode the signals to confirm all systems are working, collect data and then begin sending instructions for the next phases of its mission.”  

Follow along with the Binar Space Program at the official website