Our First Satellite Launch

On the 17th of April, our group of BLUEsat engineers attended the inaugural Australian Universities Rocket Competition (AURC) to prepare the first-ever launch of a nanosatellite designed and built by BLUEsat. The nanosatellite was launched on an AIAA UNSW rocket, reaching an altitude of 7,600ft. Onboard the nanosatellite was a biological experiment designed and conducted by BioSphere, with the aim to determine the effects of launch conditions on a container of agricultural bacteria.

a man holding a small rectangular satellite
Our CTO Tim holding the assembled satellite

Highlights and experiences

a person holding a torch at night with a laptop and the satellite and micro-controllers on a picnic mat
The team working at night

Our BLUEsat engineers recount the experience as a rollercoaster of challenges and experiences, whether it be overcoming engineering issues or battling the harshness of the Australian outback. Setbacks were encountered as various systems required troubleshooting or failed and required problem-solving for quick fixes. Even to the last minute of every day, our students persevered to work and ensure the success of the mission. Every moment up to the launch was occupied with thinking and discussion on what our next step was going to be.

sunrise over several tents
The early sunrise on the day of launch

Along with the engineering issues, it was also many of the students’ first experience of camping for such a long time. The environment tested the resilience of our team against wind and weather, sending dust devils and fluctuating temperatures throughout the day. Even the satellite had to be frequently cleaned to ensure that the dust didn’t affect the electronics.

the rocket being launched (the satellite launch)
Launching UNSW’s Rocket

On the day of the launch, the team survived the final stretch of the ordeal, weary-eyed from the break of dawn but sighing in relief to watch the satellite loaded into the payload bay of the rocket. Everyone was filled with excitement as we watched the rocket soar beyond our sight.

An extensive amount of data was collected from the launch and is a vital component to the next phase of development. Even with all the failures and mistakes the team has had, they have returned with a milestone and are ready to reach higher!

A full video of the rocket launch can be found here:

The UNSW Rocket Launch


The next goal for the satellite team will be a flight mission on board a balloon for an extended length of time. This iteration will involve improvements on the current subsystems, revision on the overall satellite design, and greater capabilities to satisfy the requirements on the new platform.

The first stage of the next mission will be for preparation and will extend through the duration of term 2 of 2019. Term 2 will include upskilling, restructuring and design planning for the next launch.

The UNSW team at AURC 2019

Special thanks

We would like to give special recognition and thanks to everyone who has been involved and helped to make this mission a success. We would like to thank Dr Elias Aboutanious and Ben Southwell from ACSER for being both academic mentors and supervisors to our BLUEsat students, for their generosity in time and passion to support our students. Special thanks to Subash Puthanveetil and Bryce Davis for their expertise and sacrifice to help finalise the creation of our mechanical structure. BLUEsat is able to operate due to the generosity of our sponsors and fund providers that include the Engineering Faculty of UNSW, ARC UNSW and the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA).

Lastly, we would like to mention all the students and staff that were involved in the collaboration between our societies, and without, would not have made this mission the success that it is. The people that these include are:

BLUEsat: Timothy Guo, Jackie Deng, Nora Deng, Yasmin Akhtar

BioSphere: Ashleigh Ford, Scarlett Li-Williams

AIAA UNSW: Morgan Armstrong, Simon Bohun, Jeff Chang, Arfin Muhammed, Justin Tran, Tom Grimes, Eric Lin, Pranav Patil, Tom Nguyen, Vineeth Rao, Swapnil Yadav, Vanja Videnovic

Engineering Staff: Emily Baldock, Stephanie Bagnell

Author: Timothy Guo

Timothy Guo is a Telecommunications and Commerce undergraduate at UNSW Sydney. He has previously lead BLUEsat's groundstation squad, leading a team of engineers to provide communications to UNSW's satellite, the EC0. He now endeavours to lead BLUESat's satellite tribe towards even greater plans.

Author: Nora Deng

Nora Deng is science squad lead of BLUEsat Mars off world robotic team, BLUEsat general manager and a mechanical engineering student in UNSW.

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