Western Australia’s homegrown spacecraft, Binar-1, has made first contact with ground control at Curtin University, after it was launched into low orbit from the International Space Station two weeks ago.
The Binar-1 CubeSat sprung to life overnight, making contact with the staff and students who built it by sending back an Ultra High Frequency Signal (UHF) signal from 400 kilometres above the Earth to the command centre in Perth, Western Australia.
Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne congratulated the Space Science and Technology 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,” Professor Hayne said. "Curtin couldn’t be more proud."
Director of Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC), John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland, said the contact heralded a landmark day for the Binar Space Program and for the future of space in WA.
“This is an incredibly proud moment for the entire SSTC team," Professor Bland said. "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.
“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.”
Binar Program Manager Ben Hartig said with Binar-1 safely in orbit and communicating, the team is focussed on testing commands and collecting data.
“After a few anxious weeks, the team was both ecstatic and relieved to make contact with Binar-1 for the first time overnight,” 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.”
The Binar Space Program has been supported by a State Government investment of $500,000 to facilitate joint operations with the Fugro SpAARC facility, and advance a valuable outreach component to inspire young people in WA to pursue careers in STEM. It is also supported by the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) consortium.