An Australian-made satellite is in orbit after launching from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula on June 13th.

The M2 Pathfinder is the second of four miniature cube satellites and follows the launch of M1 in late 2018.

M2 will test radio communications technologies for future space capabilities in Australia.

The M2 Pathfinder was developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force.

Small satellites such as M2 Pathfinder, also known as CubeSats (about the size of a loaf of bread), allow high-tech capabilities to be tested in space at a lower cost than larger satellites.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the satellite will help inform future capability designs for the Australian Defence Force.

“The collaboration between UNSW Canberra and Air Force allows small satellites to be used for evaluating technologies on more complex space systems, such as communications or earth observation satellites,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Through this collaboration, it has enabled UNSW Canberra to develop a number of space courses and programs to benefit Defence personnel.

“The experience gained in the development and operation of these spacecraft also offers educational benefits for Defence personnel studying space programs at UNSW Canberra. This further enhances the future Defence space workforce.”

Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price said multiple Australian suppliers and industry partners have contributed, including the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre, operated by the Australian National University.

“The Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre is an example of the world-class space capabilities on offer by Australian industry and academia,” Minister Price said.

“UNSW has partnered with many Australian companies from across eastern Australia showcasing the breadth of skills, talent and ingenuity in bringing Australian manufacturing into the future.”

Staff at UNSW Canberra will conduct a series of communications tests with the M2 Pathfinder satellite over the coming months. Results of these tests will improve the design of future satellites, and will provide valuable experience to the engineering and flight operations teams.

UNSW Cubesat Photo: Michael Jackson-Rand.

UNSW Canberra Space Director Professor Russell Boyce said M2 Pathfinder was an important mission for Canberra as it would test home-grown communications architecture and other satellite technologies, which would assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia.

The know-how and expertise that has gone into the project cements the leadership position of UNSW Canberra Space in developing Australian intelligent space capabilities and boosting the national high tech skills pipeline,” Professor Boyce said.

The launch took place on Rocket Lab’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” 12th mission from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula on June 13. Successful communication with the satellite has been established via UNSW Canberra Space’s satellite ground station hosted by Cingulan Space, near Yass in NSW.