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Aussie satellites blasted into space on research mission

Three Australian research satellites, including two built at the University of NSW, were launched on a resupply mission to the International Space Station in the early hours of Wednesday.

The 1.3kg satellites were three of 36 launched into space, to be used to examine the atmosphere protecting earth from cosmic rays and solar radiation.

The three satellites — carried on an Orbital ATK/Cygnus OA-7 cargo craft launched by an Atlas V rocket on Wednesday — were headed to the International Space Station (ISS) from where they will be deployed to study the thermosphere.

Launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in the United States, the satellites are part of a wider 28-satellite strong international mission to investigate a part of the earth's atmosphere.

The payload included GPS technology developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney in partnership with Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the research and development programme would help support industry jobs around Australia and in universities.

He said the GPS technology payload developed by UNSW (Sydney) and integrated into the satellite by DST would conduct a range of experiments involving Australian facilities such as Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra.

“The experiments are aimed at increasing our understanding of outer atmospheric effects on small satellites and improve our situation awareness of space.

“The 2016 Defence White Paper highlights the importance of space-based systems for information gathering, communications, navigation and surveillance for all ADF and coalition operations.

“Advances in small low cost space platforms provide a unique opportunity to support Australian Defence Force capabilities and to rejuvenate Australian space research.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).