Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Asia Minute: Australia Working on New Generation of Mini-Satellites

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons
/

A new sort of spacecraft is heading for the International Space Station. It’s a project led by Australian researchers—and if it’s successful it may have a global impact. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

When you think of a satellite, what sort of picture comes to your mind?  If it’s big and heavy and bulky and metal—a team of Australian researchers has news for you.  They’ve been working on mini-satellites… small cubes weighing less than five pounds apiece.  And they’re plastic—not the same kind of plastic as on your driver’s license or around your house, but toughened thermo-plastic that can withstand high temperatures.  The material is then treated with nickel so it can conduct electricity.

Another piece of technology crucial to producing these devices: 3D computer printing.   The plan is to get 50 of these mini-satellites—also called “nano satellites” or CubeSats—onto the International Space Station later this year.

From there, the CubeSats will be released to study the thermosphere.  That’s the part of the atmosphere where satellites circle the earth in orbit.   It’s also where weather patterns are measured—and researchers say it’s an area that is still not fully understood by scientists.  The Australians are not alone on this project—the rocket carrying the CubeSats will lift off from an American launch pad and the science work has already involved nearly 30 other countries.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
Related Stories