Projects and Grants

Current Projects

SMiLE: Spun Microgravity Liquid Experiment

This project aims to carry out an experimental investigation into the dynamics of droplet production in a reduced gravity environment onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment has been designed to interface with and occupy a 1U (11cm x 10cm x 10 cm) slot in the nano labs rack provided by NanoRacks. The investigation will focus on clearly identifying the dynamics of a newly identified drop formation process present in reduced gravity environments (akin to a dripping tap in reduced gravity). The experiment comprises a flow chamber (where the drops are formed and observed), a syringe pump to provide the flow, two control valves, two USB cameras and a microcontroller. The assembly is housed in a rotating drum, allowing the system to be spun and introducing a centrifugal force to separate the fluid from the air in the flow chamber. Flow rate control allows adjustment of fluidic parameters such as Reynolds and Weber number. Cameras monitor the fluid flow into the chamber and provide the principle data output. Outcomes from this investigation will be the experimental identification of the measure of the chaos present in this system and a refinement of the understanding of the transitions into and out of this flow regime. Applications of this work are relevant to industries that rely on drop on demand processes such as ink-jet, PCB, flexible electronics and genome printing.

The SMiLE website is live and the news blog and picture galleries are updated regularly, keep track of the latest updates here.

QB50 - An International Network of 50 CubeSats

QB50 is a network 50 CubeSats that will be launched together in the first half of 2015 into a 'string-of-pearls' configuration in a circular orbit at 320 km altitude, inclination 79 degrees. These CubeSats will comprise a mix of atmospheric double CubeSats and double or triple CubeSats for science and technology demonstration. All atmospheric double CubeSats will carry a set of standardised sensors for multi-point, in-situ, long-duration measurements of key parameters and constituents in the largely unexplored lower thermosphere and ionosphere. These multi-point measurements will allow the separation of spatial and temporal variations. Due to atmospheric drag, the CubeSat orbits will decay and progressively lower and lower layers of the thermosphere/ionosphere will be explored without the need for on-board propulsion. The mission lifetime of individual CubeSats is estimated to be about three months.

For more information, please click here.

Rapid Recovery from Radiation-induced Errors in Reconfigurable Hardware

This project aims to develop new methods for implementing satellite-based digital systems using reconfigurable hardware devices. The results aim to extend knowledge on the design of fault-tolerant systems and enable the use of off-the-shelf digital hardware in the implementation of satellite systems. The project aims to develop essential tools to assist in implementing fault-tolerant reconfigurable systems. These tools will be founded on the discovery of techniques needed for modifying a design into a form amenable to error recovery and for implementing the design in hardware. During the course of the project, these techniques will be demonstrated and tested in-orbit on the international QB50 CubeSat program.

With Industrial Partner: General Dynamics Corporation, New Zealand.

Protecting Critical Transport Infrastructure using Hybrid Approaches for Interference and Spoofer Detection and Localisation

Modern infrastructure increasingly relies on the positioning and timing capabilities provided by the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). GNSS signals, however, are vulnerable to interference and spoofing attacks. This vulnerability is aggravated as satellite navigation becomes more central to the operation of airports, ports, railways, and communications systems. Building on from earlier work by University of New South Wales, University of Adelaide and GPSat Systems, this project aims to create a system for locating interference and spoofers to GNSS of any power in real time, providing layered monitoring and reactive mitigation solutions against interference and spoofing attacks.

With Industrial Partner: GPSat Systems Australia P/L.

Biarri GPS Receiver Project

Biarri is a collaborative cubesat program, led by BAE Systems. The Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research will deliver a space-qualified GPS GPS L1-only receiver ultimately for use by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation's (DSTO) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division (ISRD). Australia is participating in Biarri with four international partners. The satellites will be launched in 2014

For more information, visit the Biarri Website.


Warrawal - A Comprehensive Tertiary Education Program in Satellite Systems Engineering

As announced by Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr on 17 June 2011, an education program in Satellite Systems Engineering, to be developed by the ACSER, was awarded a $675,000 grant in Round 4 of the Australian Space Research Program (ASRP). The project will develop and deliver a comprehensive, sustainable tertiary education program in satellite systems engineering comprising a two-year master's qualification. The project is led by Elias Aboutanios, of the University of New South Wales in collaboration with a world class consortium which includes Australia's only satellite owner and operator, Optus, the multi-national Thales Group, and France's Institut Superieur de l'Aeronautique et de l'Espace.

The developed program will be optimised for Australia's strategic and commercial interests and deliver a 'systems-wide' understanding of satellite systems and their applications, from the space segment, to the ground operations, and the end users. International and local industry internships and student exchanges will be incorporated into the program to enhance the skills of graduates. This program will address the current education gap and help prepare graduates with industry experience for Australia's developing space industry.

For more information, visit the Warrawal Website.

Older Projects

Garada - SAR Formation Flying

Garada, funded by the Australian Space Research Program (ASRP), is a collaborative space engineering research project at the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER). Garada's primary mission is focusing on measuring the moisture in Australia's soils - for environmental protection, agriculture, land use planning, meteorology, ecology, mining and prediction of dust conditions. Using L-band radar, it will also measure forest conditions and flooding events. This suite of applications is consistent with the environmental focus of the GARADA SAR Formation Flying ASRP proposal. The research consortium consists of UNSW, Astrium Limited, Curtin University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, General Dynamics and BAE Systems.

For more information, visit the Garada Website.

Testing Formation Flying Technology using UAV Platforms

The project "Testing Formation Flying Technology using UAV platforms" was aimed to develop a low-cost multisensor platform NAVCON for implementing a test of formation flying technology on a quadrotor.

For more information, please click here.

Gagarin Educational Microgravity eXperiment (GEM-X)

As part of the UK celebration of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight into space YuriGagarin50 and Kingston University School of Aerospace Engineering are working to create an educational experiment that can be performed on-board the International Space Station (ISS) and in classrooms (in the UK, Europe and Russia). This project will primarily seek to emphasise and encourage interest and further study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related subjects and will be targeted at school children between the ages of 12 and 18. It aims to build on the previous successful educational experiments previously on board the ISS, which have reached >160,000 European school children. This project seeks to use the broad appeal of spaceflight in engaging with and boosting the interest in science and technology based education in Russia, Europe, UK and internationally.

For more information, please click here.

Platform Technologies for Space, Atmosphere and Climate

Platform Technologies for Space, Atmosphere and Climate is a research project funded by the Australian Government as part of its Australian Space Research Program (ASRP). Advanced platform technologies will be developed for space-related research, including in-space tracking and navigation, precise positioning, space weather, atmospheric modelling and climate monitoring. New algorithms and enhanced atmospheric models will be developed in the context of new generation navigation and geo-environmental satellite programs to enhance Australia's capability in space research. The research consortium consists of RMIT University, Curtin University of Technology, UNSW, The Bureau of Meteorology, Electro Optic Systems Space System, GPSat Systems Australia Pty Ltd, National Space Organisation Taiwan and NOAA's World Data Centre for Meteorology.

For more information, visit the RMIT project website.

SCRAMSPACE: Scramjet-based Access-to-Space Systems

SCRAMSPACE, funded by the Australian Space Research Program (ASRP), offers the prospect for Australia to develop a scramjet-based access-to-space industry and contribute to assured and secure access by Australia to space and technology. The ultimate aim is to develop mature scramjets that can operate at much higher Mach numbers, to accelerate a vehicle to the speed required to leave the Earth's atmosphere. The partners in the SCRAMSPACE consortium include: Australia's key players in hypersonics research - UQ, University of New South Wales, University of Adelaide, University of Southern Queensland and DSTO; local industrial partners BAE Systems, AIMTEK and Teakle Composites; international partners German Aerospace Center (DLR), Italian Aerospace Research Center (CIRA), Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the University of Minnesota; as well as involvement from our young people through the Australian Youth Aerospace Association.

For more information, visit the UQ project website.

Pathways to Space: Empowering the Internet Generation

A related educational project Pathways to Space: Empowering the Internet Generation program is led by the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at UNSW, who partnered with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney - Australia's largest science museum, and Cisco Systems Australia.

For more information, visit the Powerhouse Museum website.

Preliminary Parameters For An Experimental Payload For Tropospheric CO2 Measurement Using A Space-borne Lidar 6U Cubesat Platform

This project investigated the design of a nadir-pointing space-borne lidar system for Tropospheric CO2 concentration mapping. The payload had very strict sizing and mass constraints and must fit inside a 6U Cubesat satellite bus. The laser transmitter uses an Erbium doped fibre laser in a Master Oscillator Power Amplifier (MOPA) configuration. It consists of a tunable narrow-line CW laser of low power that produces the required narrow line shape and can be switched between on-line and off-line wavelengths. Pulses are passed through a number of erbium doped (or erbium-ytterbium doped) fibre power amplifier stages. These stages use large mode area fibres, which increase the Brillouin scattering threshold and hence the power that can be handled. The system requires approximately 30 W of electrical power, and pulse energies of 1mJ. Lasers that would meet the mission requirements are not commercially available, so a laser system would have to be developed specifically for this application. The detection of the very faint signals will be made using an InGaAsP single photon counting system, based on the use of avalanche photodiodes operated in Geiger mode. A 10 cm aperture telescope was used as both a transmitter and receiver telescope.

Using VSTAR model derived spectra, the minimum number of photons collected for meeting the selection criteria at the calculated CO2 sensitivity peak, is M = 2.67x106. Preliminary results show that for a 600 km, circular sun-synchronous orbit, the number of photons detected is significantly lower than the required minimum to meet the high spatial and temporal resolution requirements, so the mission as proposed was not feasible. Higher power and telescope settings will have to be considered for a successful mission. Other applications such measurements from a UAV platform could potentially be achieved using the proposed payload configuration.

For more information, please click here.

Simulation of a High Performance Attitude Control System for a 6U CubeSat

The purpose of this project was to analyse the attitude control system of an 8kg 6U CubeSat, which is capable of delivering similar performance to a microsatellite weighing 100 kg, with a corresponding reduction in cost. Specifically, the mission was a small optical telescope.

The results indicate that it may be possible to meet the arc second pointing stability requirement. However, there are limitations with the proposed model that require further investigation such as the resolution of the reaction wheels. It appears that 8 bits is insufficient to match the satellites body rates over the imaging period of 7.5ms. Further modelling of these wheels, the attitude Kalman filter, and the noise model is required.

For more information, please click here.