A Pirate Cubesat From Australia Is Currently In Orbit Around Earth

Even though it was only recently Australia jumped on the space agency bandwagon, we’ve been launching things into the deep black for years. 2017 is no exception, with the most recent slingshot — in this case a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — carrying the Buccaneer cubesat from UNSW Canberra.

Despite its name, the satellite won’t be engaging in any cosmic piracy. Right now it’s undergoing “operations to check and commission its systems”, with full experimentation and usage starting early next year, according to a statement from UNSW Canberra:

Buccaneer, which is about the size of a shoe box, will help calibrate Australia’s groundbreaking Jindalee over the horizon radar as well as provide crucial data on predicting orbits of space objects including space “junk”.

The cubesat went up with the Delta II on November 18, along with several other satellites, including NASA’s JPSS-1 for weather observation.

Image: NASA

Buccaneer is the first such satellite launched by UNSW Canberra (via a lift on the Delta II). Along with lending the Jindalee radar a hand, the cubesat will engage in “risk mitigation activities”:

UNSW Canberra Space director, Professor Russell Boyce says: “Being able to avoid collisions in space is essential if we are to safeguard the space based technologies upon which society depends. Our cubesats will play an important role in gathering data for this research, among other outcomes such as demonstrating space-based capability ranging from remote sensing to ultra-secure quantum communications.”

Image: UNSW Canberra

According to UNSW Canberra, four other space-bound vehicles have funding with “three in early development”, so this certainly won’t be the last piece of Aussie hardware that will find itself beyond Earth’s atmosphere.