An Australian-made miniature satellite was launched in New Zealand on June 13 to test communications architecture and technologies that will help inform future space capabilities in Australia.

The M2 Pathfinder, developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force, is a significant step in developing Defence space systems.

Small satellites such as the M2 Pathfinder - also known as CubeSats and about the size of a loaf of bread - allow high-tech capabilities to be tested in space at a lower cost than larger satellites.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the satellite would help inform future capability designs for the Australian Defence Force.

“The collaboration between UNSW Canberra and Air Force allows small satellites to be used for evaluating technologies on more complex space systems, such as communications or Earth observation satellites,” Senator Reynolds said.

“The collaboration, which started in 2017, has enabled UNSW Canberra to develop a number of space courses and programs to benefit Defence personnel.

“The experience gained in the development and operation of these spacecraft also offers educational benefits for Defence personnel studying space programs at UNSW Canberra. This further enhances the future Defence space workforce."

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said multiple Australian suppliers and industry partners contributed to build and testing activities for the M2 Pathfinder, including the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre, operated by the Australian National University. 

“The Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre is an example of the world-class space capabilities on offer by Australian industry and academia,” Ms Price said.

Staff at UNSW Canberra will conduct a series of communications tests with the M2 Pathfinder satellite over the coming months. Results of the tests will improve the design of future satellites and provide valuable experience to the engineering and flight operations teams.

Imagery of the launch is available at: https://innovatehub.sharepoint.com/:f:/s/mediahub/EiBjHBO6wXJEk7VOtSo0s0sBS_b4YxqnpWe5n_BUOpASpg?e=AeThhj