After a year-long journey, Western Australia’s first spacecraft has re-entered the atmosphere, marking the end of a “valuable” space journey.
Binar-1, a spacecraft built by Curtin University staff and students, became a fireball and burnt up while descending to earth over the weekend.
Scientists said the maiden voyage had taught them important lessons during the spacecraft’s almost 6000 orbital laps around the Earth, with close to 250 million kilometres travelled in 360 days.
“Throughout its year-long maiden voyage, Binar-1 has taught us valuable lessons about end-to-end spacecraft design that will shape the way we explore space in our next six space missions,” Binar Space Program manager Ben Hartig said.
“Binar-1 has been a hugely valuable mission with the greatest lessons including locking down mission requirements early, performing power budget testing with flight model systems, preparing for testing delays, planning for satellite operation, and the importance of using custom-designed systems when aiming to perform consistent CubeSat missions.”
Measuring just 10cm to each side, Binar-1 is a small CubeSat spacecraft, designed to make orbiting the earth cheaper and easier.
While many CubeSats are available as kits, the Curtin team designed their own with two cameras included, allowing for experiments in space.
The mission was important in “inspiring the next generation of space explorers”, Curtin Space Science and Technology Centre director Professor Phil Bland said.
“Our first homegrown spacecraft mission signals a new era in space exploration for our team at Curtin, opening up a pathway to interplanetary missions in the future,” he said.
Binar-1, named after the Noongar word for fireball, was deployed into space on October 6 last year and was initially orbited at about 400km above the Earth’s surface.
Three spacecraft (Binar-2, 3 and 4) are set to launch next year after the success of Binar-1.