The third UNSW Canberra Space satellite, M2 Pathfinder, is a collaboration between UNSW Canberra Space researchers and engineers and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). It is the second of four cube satellites to be flown in the program with RAAF and follows the launch of M1 in late 2018. The launch took place on Rocket Lab’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula in June 2020.
M2 Pathfinder is an important mission for UNSW Canberra Space, for RAAF and for Australia, as it is testing home-grown communications architecture and other satellite technologies, which will assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia. The mission stemmed from the lessons learnt on M1, building on the previous technology, and is a demonstrator for the technology that will fly in the final mission of this series - M2.
M2 Pathfinder was designed, assembled and tested in just 10 months – yet the processes employed were extremely rigorous and represent significant growth in the professional maturity of our team following our M1 lessons learned. Shortly after the launch of M2 Pathfinder, we achieved successful communications. It is now orbiting Earth at 7.5 kilometres per second and commissioning and testing the various in-house technologies including on-board computing, attitude control, GPS, optical imaging, communications and flight software on the spacecraft is under way and proving to be highly successful.
M2 Pathfinder was delivered as risk mitigation for our next mission with RAAF – M2. M2 is a twin-satellite mission with a pair of cubesats equipped with advanced radios and telescopes. It will take the art of the possible one step further.