A pioneering new cubesat space telescope to observe the most distant explosions in the Universe and to find planets around other stars

Our First SkyHopper Interns

We would like to give a warm welcome to our winter Interns, Lauren Jessup and Jack McRobbie. Lauren and Jack are both University of Melbourne students and are working on Melbourne Uni’s first student cubesat in the student run Melbourne Space Program. Lauren studies Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Melbourne and has studied both physics and teaching in New Zealand, while Jack is an undergraduate physics student. We are excited to have both of them on board for the winter break.

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Cubesat Expert Visit and Student Projects

Greetings from Cubesat Central! We recently wrapped up an extremely productive visit from Dr James Mason, a cubesat expert from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado. James was one of the leads in designing, building, and operating a fantastically successful solar-observing cubesat called MinXSS, and has contributed to a few others. As MinXSS was primarily a student-led project, we invited James to visit and share his expertise in not only cubesat development, but also the best way to bring students into the process. SkyHopper team member Dr Katie Mack received generous funding from the University of Melbourne in the form of the Dyason Fellowship to fly James across the ocean for a two-week visit, during which we kept him busy consulting on SkyHopper design and meeting with students who may be involved in the project.

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SkyHopper talks at international meetings

SkyHopper was recently presented at two international meetings: On April 7th, SkyHopper’s Principal Investigator Michele Trenti gave a talk at the “Science with CubeSats” Specialist Discussion Meeting hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society in London (UK). Shortly after that, on May 31st, Co-Investigator Jochen Greiner talked at the 6th Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop in Cambridge (UK). Both presentations were well received, and the events have been excellent opportunities for networking with other leading CubeSat experts.

Laby Foundation and Spencer Grants

It’s been a great few months for the SkyHopper project! In order to get the design and project management off the ground, the project needs seed funding — some initial investment that will allow us to bring in the right people and ensure that we have a path forward for mission completion. So far, we have had fantastic success in our initial funding requests, from two sources within the University of Melbourne: the Laby Family Foundation, and the John William Spencer Trust Fund. Thanks to the generosity of these funds, we are now able to move forward in commissioning a detailed design for the spacecraft, carrying out preliminary instrumentation work, and coordinating the full collaboration. With this foundation in place, we’re submitting proposals for major project funding with the Australian Research Council. We hope to have more good news soon!

First SkyHopper Collaboration Workshop

Melbourne at nightOn 5th-7th September, the SkyHopper Collaboration held the first workshop, bringing in our partners from around the world to discuss spacecraft and instrument design, refine science goals, and create work plans for progressing the mission. Over the three days of the workshop, we heard a series of presentations and enjoyed productive discussions and brainstorming sessions, resulting in an expansion of the initial cubesat design from a 6U to a 12U cubesat. (A “U” is a standard unit of volume for a cubesat, consisting of a cube approximately 10cm on a side.) This new design will allow us to more effectively gather light while also leaving room for proper cooling of electronic components.

The new design allows for some exciting possibilities. With the extra room, it may be possible to include an additional component from an external group, adding functionality to SkyHopper and bringing in new potential partnerships!


Australian Astronomical Observatory ∙ Australian National University ∙ Cambridge University ∙ Curtin University ∙ NASA Goddard ∙ Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics ∙ Space Telescope Science Institute ∙ Swinburne Institute of Technology ∙ Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg ∙ University of Virginia