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CubeSats are miniaturised cube-shaped satellites units, or nanosatellites, with a single unit size that is 10cm by 10cm by 10cm. They are lower cost, faster to build and cheaper to launch than larger satellites. With these low barriers to entry, they are a cost-effective option for trialling new technology and space research in low Earth orbit.

CSIROSat-1 will be a three-unit CubeSat, about the same size as a loaf of bread. It will carry an infrared sensor – the first time an Australian satellite has operated in this spectrum that will allow researchers to 'see' features that can't otherwise be seen using satellite imagery in the visible spectrum.

CSIROSat-1 will be a three-unit nanosatellite called a CubeSat that will give us new information about our planet. ©  Inovor/CSIRO

Although the satellite is a pilot and relatively small, the data it will collect about Earth will be valuable for detecting land cover changes such as flooding events or deforestation, detecting bushfires through smoke, studying cloud formation and the development of tropical cyclones, as well as many other applications.

Working with industry to develop CSIROSat-1

In addition to enabling scientific research, CSIROSat-1 is a demonstration project aimed at furthering development of the technology to support growth of Australia's advanced manufacturing, imaging and data processing capabilities for small satellite systems.

Expected to be launched in 2021, the $2 million project will be funded by CSIRO, a grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund and in-kind support from industry partners.

We're working with South Australian-based business Inovor Technologies to build CSIROSat-1. As the only Australian company manufacturing satellites using a fully integrated Australian supply chain, Inovor Technologies provided the added benefit of upskilling the local advanced manufacturing sector.

Other collaborators and research partners in the project include the University of New South Wales Canberra, the Australian National University, and Defence Science and Technology Group.

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