The University of Melbourne has announced that its SpIRIT satellite has been booked with launch service provider ISISPACE to blast off on a Falcon 9 rocket in April 2023.
No larger than a shoebox, the 11.5kg 6-unit SpIRIT (an abbreviation of the Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal satellite) is being designed and built by a consortium led by the Melbourne Space Laboratory at the University of Melbourne. It is the product of an Australian-first collaboration between many companies locally and internationally. The participating partners from the Australian space industry include Inovor Technologies, Sitael Australia, Nova Systems and Neumann Space.
It carries one main payload to perform advanced X-ray remote sensing, called the HERMES instrument, which was developed with funding by the Italian Space Agency and by the European Commission H2020 framework. The purpose of the X-ray detector is to discover gamma rays, which are generated by some of the most powerful explosions in the universe. More broadly, the satellite is a project in interdisciplinary collaboration and technology readiness.
Once in orbit at an altitude of 550km, SpIRIT will deploy its solar panels and thermal radiators stretching to nearly a metre long. It will operate for two years, gathering data from deep space. It will also run a suite of powerful scientific instruments, cameras, guidance systems, communication antennae, on-board computers with artificial intelligence capabilities, and even its own electric propulsion thruster by Neumann Space.
With all these functionalities in one 30cm x 20cm x 10cm unit, it has been dubbed “a miniaturised spaceship” by principal investigator Professor Michele Trenti from the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne.