Australia's Department of Defense will manage the country's only fully owned and operational satellite FedSat from January next year.But regular readers of this blog would have known that already. :)
Announcing the move, Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill said on Friday that Defense will manage the satellite until December 2008, extending FedSat's useful life to the scientific community by three years. It may also be possible to continue operating the satellite beyond that time.
Launched in 2002, FedSat is a small low earth orbit satellite that follows a near polar sun-synchronous orbit. It carries six payloads performing a variety of scientific and engineering research functions.
Hill said space systems have an ever-increasing benefit for Australia, including precision navigation, global communications and weather information.
"I am pleased that Defense can ensure that FedSat will continue to be of use to Australia," Hill said in a statement.
"It provides Defense with an opportunity to broaden its knowledge of spacecraft control and space experimentation," he said.
"Defense will use FedSat for a range of research and experimental activities. This could include radio propagation studies and magnetospheric observations supporting space weather science," he said.
"In addition, Defense personnel will gain valuable knowledge and skills in controlling satellites," he said.
He said Defense's management of FedSat will cost approximately 1 million Australian dollars (730,000 US dollars) over the next two years.
This is a relatively small cost compared to the expected benefits from the ongoing experimentation, according to the minister.
Another three years - that's reasonable. The batteries (which were always expected to be the first things to degrade) are standing up better than expected, and we'd designed it for a 5-year life anyway. Given FedSat's excellent reliability so far, yes, a 6 year life with some years of partial operation afterwards is more likely than not. It depends if the Attitude Control System holds up.
Gosh, I was a very small part of a very great team. We were Good. From the structural engineers, to the electricals, the guys who assembled it under cleanroom conditions, the test engineers, everybody. It was a fantastic privilege to work with them, to be considered their equal, everyone depending on everyone else.
A 6-year operational period really will give my error-correcting software a good test. Much of it has never been activated, as far as I'm aware, the initial layers of defence were too effective. But we may have to activate the hardware reconfiguration module I put in, and re-map the degraded mass memory to give less storage in some areas, more in others. All part of my cunning plan....
Heck, if it does hold up for that long, given the extreme radhaz it's gone through, dipping in the SMA (South Magnetic Anomaly - a high radiation zone) twice a day, the on-board computer design techniques we used would be quite good enough for a deep-space mission. Of course, there's a little problem of power, deep-space comms is tricky too, a whole new ball game... but a Mars orbiter would be a a doddle, and even an outer-planet one not beyond the realms of possibility.
Ah well, Zoe, let's see if we can get funding for a FedSat-2 first.