Attention All Space Rangers!

Watch Australia’s satellite lift off live this Saturday.

Taking part in a history-making moment for Australian space research will be as easy as turning on your home or office PC this weekend when Fedsat, Australia’s first satellite to be launched this century, lifts off at 12 noon Adelaide time. 

The satellite, a 50 cm cube weighing just 60 kg will piggyback into space on the rocket that will launch Japan’s National Science Development Agency satellite ADEOS-II, at the Tanegashima Space Centre on December 14. 

To join in the countdown Australian space science enthusiasts can simply log on to http://h2a.nasda.go.jp/index_e.html to watch the launch and get updates on Fedsat’s progress to its 800 km orbit around the earth. 

Fedsat carries six major payloads or space and communications technology experiments, which will include testing and research data on the high frequency Ka-band which has potential to improve communications in rural and remote Australia; space storms and their impact communications; and Global Positioning System receivers testing navigation, timing and meteorological factors. 

The launch of Fedsat will occur in five key stages. The 53 metre high Japanese H-2A rocket weighing 280 tonnes will lift off heading south through the earth’s atmosphere travelling at about 2,500km per hour. When it is 50 km above the planet the first stage fuel boosters will separate and fall away from the main craft, followed by the jettison of the first stage at 400 km.  

In stage two, about 800 km from the earth, the second stage of the launch vehicle will separate from the payload module, which contains Fedsat and three other satellites.  

In stage three some 30 minutes after the rocket lift-off, a small controlled explosion just big enough to push the satellite away from the rocket system, will launch Fedsat into orbit. In stage four Fedsat will go to work.  

Travelling at 7.5 km per second in its orbit some FedSat’s control systems will turn on and listen for the first contact with the controlling ground station. Fedsat will orbit six times around the earth before the UniSA ground station will come into range and make contact with the satellite, 10 hours after lift off.  

The crucial stage five for researchers is when Fedsat passes over the UniSA ground station at Mawson Lakes campus, where radio communication will be established with the satellite to enable its systems and experiments to be activated. 

Once communication is established Fedsat will be orbiting the earth and regularly sending data to the ground station where it will be collected and fed back to key research centres around the country. The satellite will remain in orbit for several decades but its operational life for research purposes is expected to be three years.