Thursday, 20 September 2007

Alas, Poor FedSat

From the ABC :
A scientist thinks Australia's only non-commercial satellite may have run out of battery power.

The 58-kilogram FedSat has been operating since 2002.

It was only supposed to last for three years.

The University of South Australia has been responsible for its day-to-day operation and says it has lost contact with the public satellite.

The batteries were always the things that were going to fail first. We designed for 1 year at 100% operation, 3 years at possibly degraded operation, and maybe 5 years of partial and intermittent operation - if we ever got funding beyond the 3 years originally alloted for the ground station.

We got our money's worth: and the performance consistently exceeded expectations. Even now, contact may be regained, as the solar cells may be able to get the degraded batteries "Over the line" now and then.

I can't help but feel sad though. I knew it was going to happen, but FedSat is, and always will be, my baby in some ways.

Update: It looks like it's the end.

From the University of South Australia :
Launched in December 2002 as Australia’s first 21st century satellite, FedSat has finally ceased operations, a full year later than expected and after completing 20,000 orbits of the earth (about one billion kilometers).

The Australian satellite was developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Satellite Systems (CRCSS) as a scientific or research satellite and was launched at the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan.

Contact was lost with the satellite by the ground station at UniSA’s Institute for Telecommunications Research a few months ago, after the first signs that the batteries were finally failing and unable to continue to supply power to keep the satellite functioning.

The FedSat mission was the first Australian scientific satellite placed in orbit for more than 30 years and was used by the research community to gather data on space weather and radiowave propagation. The 58 kg satellite (the size of a bar fridge) also carried instruments used to test new communications technologies and self-healing space computers.

Former CEO of the CRC for Satellite Systems, UniSA’s Pro Vice Chancellor for IT Engineering and the Environment, Professor Andrew Parfitt says FedSat represented a bold initiative by Australian researchers to re-engage directly in space science and technology.

“The FedSat mission provided valuable experimental infrastructure and a wealth of scientific data that will continue to be of use,” Prof Parfitt says.

“Unfortunately the demise of FedSat means we no longer have a space asset with which to conduct new science - at least for the time being.”

With the closure of the CRCSS in December 2005, the Australian Government through the Department of Defence assumed ownership of FedSat in order to extend the initial three-year mission and gather further scientific data for the benefit of the Australian research community.

“The extra data collected has added to the already considerable FedSat legacy,” Prof Parfitt says.

“The Australian space science community is now developing its first decadal plan to ensure that Australia remains engaged in space science and technology at an appropriate level.”
So that's it then.

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

No sweat. Be sending a few Duracells by FedEx.

And yeah, batteries are the weak link everywhere, and this is probably the reason we depend on them more and more...