OzQube-1: A Tiny Australian Satellite

Over the last couple of decades we have become used to the possibility of launching a satellite into orbit no longer being the exclusive preserve of superpowers. Since the first CubeSats were launched over a decade ago a myriad others have followed, and scarcely a week passes without news of another interesting project in this area.

OzQube-1 is just such a satellite, designed for imaging of the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s the brainchild of Australian [Stuart McAndrew]. He’s posted significant details of its design: it’s a PocketQube, at 50mm cubed, an eighth the volume of a CubeSat, and its main instrument is a 2 megapixel camera with a 25mm lens. Images will be transmitted to earth as slow-scan digital video via the 70cm amateur band, the dipole antenna being made from a springy tape measure which will unfurl upon launch. Attitude control is passive, coming from a magnet aligned to ensure the camera will be pointing Earthwards as it passes over the Southern Hemisphere. The project has a little way to go yet, but working prototypes have been completed and it has a Gofundme campaign under way to help raise the money for a launch.

There are plenty of Cubesat and other small satellite builds to be found on the web, here at Hackaday we’ve covered a significant number of them. Many of them are the fruits of well-funded university departments or other entities with deep pockets, but this one comes from a lone builder from Western Australia. We like that, and we wish OzQube-1 every success!

22 thoughts on “OzQube-1: A Tiny Australian Satellite

  1. The cube and nano-sats are a mixed thing. It is insanely cool that most universities can get their own cube into orbit every few years. The downside is that the very capable multi-band amateur radio sats with stuff like a motor for transfer to a molinya orbit are pretty much done. Until you realize how much cool stuff could be done with say AO-40 or just the 100Mb/s router among the other transponders on the phase 3E satellite which has been sitting for over a decade in Germany in some lab you don’t even conceive the amateur space capabilities we are missing.
    I love cube sats and there is no going back as they probably utilize far more wasted launch capacity but they are very limited too.

  2. I just wish we could kickstart a real ham radio sat in Geosynch in the 440 band or even 1.2ghz band. put up agnostic transponders and suddenly you have a hemesphere wide PAcket radio link.

    I have fun with the LEO birds but tracking them across the sky is a pain in the arse. getting a real ham radio bird or 4 up in geosynch would be a HUGE boost to the hobby and a HUGE boost to RACES, MARS, and other EMCOMM operations.

    1. AMSAT is working on two hosted payloads for GSO satellites, so called “Phase 4” projects. Planned bands are (up/down) 2GHz/10GHz and for the other 5GHz/10GHz. Weekly status reports for the AMSAT-NA project can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/user/abraxas3d/videos?view=0&sort=dd&shelf_id=0
      Their ground segment is in open source development (the space segment is apparently export restricted and uses proprietary hardware): https://github.com/phase4ground

    2. I have to admit, that the idea of a geosynchronus amateur satellite doesn’t do it for me. Kinda too easy, if that’s not an unpopular thing to say, I like my amateur radio challenging.

      1. Too sexy? There must be an uncanny valley of hotness.
        I bet the ‘wicked cool’ and ‘sexy hot’ cancel out. ;)
        Agreed. I see something incredible that goes somewhere amazing and I just sigh! In ten years, what in the world (or out of) will we have available for purchase!

      2. Hard modes are cool for contesting but the whole idea behind us getting to do the tricky stuff is that the public airwaves allocated to our hobby are purchased at the price of educational/scentific and emergency services volunteering. For the former tricky privides many good targets but emergency services should as best as possible just work. This is the motivation to get another(it failed) amateur radio in geostat on another DOD launch with priority for ARES but also for general use as a form of training and experimentation. http://www.arrl.org/ares
        FWIW even Morse code is popular not because it is hard but because it is the easiest way to punch through on minimal power though some very slow digital modes now surpass it especially for stuff like EME.

        1. While the need to track satellites can be a PIA, it’s really not that difficult. Like many other things, it take an effort and patience to get everything working together. Cost can be prohibitive for those who want to avoid home brew, and desire to purchase manufactured rotators.

      3. Like in the early days of amateur satellites, when life was measured in weeks? Was it OSCAR III that landed in a bad orbit, it was pretty much unusable. It was such a big deal when OSCAR 6 had a much longer life, and
        OSCAR 7 just kept on going.

        A geosynchronous satellite seemed like a logical next step, the talk has been there for a long time. It’s not “instead of” but “in addition too”. Endless amateur satellites have gone up in that same time period. All about the same level, and joined by the other amateur satellites that just happen to use amateur frequencies for their downlink.

        That’s the irony, the success of amateur radio satellites has given others that chance into space, while making it harder to get a launch.


        1. AO-7 was dead for years, then the battery short opened up again and it is now flying zombie only on when the solar cells power it up. If you go FM bandwith on AO-7’s transponder it under-volts the whole satellite and it resets.

    1. +1
      I was under the impression that most mini satellites have a predicted decaying orbit. That they ‘fall’ after an estimated end of life. The link from ‘kb’ gives an orbital decay of over 25 years! I’m betting that these ‘PocketQubes’ are not that big of a problem.
      Experts in the know; please tell us what the opinion of this issue is in the field. The mainstream media has been very poor information wise.

      1. Deorbit times can vary greatly and depends on the size/mass/orbit etc. One of the PocketQubes that was launched in 2013 – $50Sat – is predicted to re-enter some time mid 2017. That will be just under 4 years from initial deployment at approx. 615km.
        (ref $50Sat Dropbox – https://www.dropbox.com/sh/l3919wtfiywk2gf/AABG8ehkXiN45gj0s9bBj4qGa/Deorbit-Prediction/N8OQ-James-DeYoung?dl=0&preview=2015Jul07_TLE_Obs_Calc.png )
        As the linked articles above suggest, sending something to an altitude of 750km or more means that the object will be in space for a very long time, unless the satellite has some form of deorbit capability. Note that de-orbit capability could be many things. There are several companies that sell this capability, and the technology ranges from long tethers to big foil sails.
        If you consider deployment from the International Space Station at around 400km, then the time in orbit will generally be no more than 2 years, no matter what size the satellite. Planet Labs is a good example of this scenario, as almost all of their spacecraft have been deployed from the ISS. See their description here: https://www.planet.com/pulse/keeping-space-clean-responsible-satellite-fleet-operations/

        1. Thanks! I have heard about the foil sails before but didn’t recall them until your answer.
          So ‘Kessler Syndrome’ is what they’re calling the problem! That helped me find more information, really appreciated. :)
          Planet Labs is on the right track, IMO.

  3. The tape measure antenna is brilliant. They roll up extremely compact and want to pop out straight. Should be fairly simple to make a cannot fail deployment system.

    Would a small Estes model rocket engine be enough to deorbit these little satellites when their mission or useful life is over? Have it pointed straight up so rotational orientation doesn’t matter. Would be as effective as having the retro rocket aimed prograde, but it should be able lower the periapsis enough to increase drag to where it would decrease altitude with every orbit.

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