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How an Italian-built Australian satellite will deliver the world cosmic fireworks!

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SITAEL, the largest privately-owned Space Company in Italy and a global leader in the development of small satellites, is part of a team awarded a grant from the Australian Government to build a small satellite, called SpIRIT, to be launched by 2022.

The team was awarded the $3.95 million grant to assist in the development of cutting-edge space capabilities in Australia, and will also have support from the Italian Space Agency.

Associate Professor Michele Trenti from the University’s School of Physics is the lead investigator of the Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal (SpIRIT) satellite.

“SpIRIT will be very small – about the size of a shoe box – but powerful,” he said.  “It will carry innovative X-ray sensors, sophisticated on-board computers and radios, and even a miniaturised electric propulsion engine, so we could well say that we will be building a tiny robotic spaceship.”

Associate Professor Trenti said SpIRIT will demonstrate that Australian-made spacecraft are internationally competitive, opening new market opportunities.

“SpIRIT will not only benefit Australian industry, it will also contribute to some awesome scientific discoveries. In particular, SpIRIT will combine its X-ray observations with data from a constellation of six other European satellites to spot cosmic fireworks that can be produced when stars die or collide with each other.”

As part of the SpIRIT project, SITAEL will work to deliver systems engineering, integration and testing of the satellite, ultimately helping to ensure a successful flight mission with the project partners.

The collaboration is testament to the robust partnership between Australia and Italy in this strategic sector that was formalised in 2019 when the two Space Agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding to spur cooperation on space activities for peaceful purposes, and mutual benefit.

“The SpIRIT project will further bring together already close friends in Australia and Italy, and in particular deliver cooperation in the Space domain” Sitael Australia Executive Director and General Manager Mark Ramsey said.

“The SpiRIT satellite, is a fantastic example of Australian – Italian bi-lateral cooperation in advanced scientific and technology areas,” Sitael Australia Executive Director and General Manager Mark Ramsey said. “Led by the University of Melbourne, the project aims to develop an innovative nano-satellite that is designed and built in Australia through Australian industrial partners, and funded in Australia through the Australian Space Agency’s International Space Investment Expand Capability program. The satellite will host an Italian built advanced x-ray remote sensing payload – the HERMES instrument, which has been funded by the Italian Space Agency and the European Commission H2020 framework. Cooperatively, the nations are combining to deliver cutting edge space technology. ”

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