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

SpIRIT CubeSat funded: Paving the way for SkyHopper

SkyHopper Principal Investigator Michele Trenti and Co-Investigator Airlie Chapman have been awarded $3.95 million from the Australian Space Agency International Space Investment Expand Capability grant program for the design, fabrication and launch of the joint Australia-Italy SpIRIT (Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal) CubeSat. SpIRIT, to be launched by 2022, represents a substantial step towards SkyHopper’s ultimate success, and demonstrates the strength of the collaboration between the two countries for conducting astrophysics research from space.

SpIRIT is a high-energy astrophysics mission, based on a 6U CubeSat platform developed in Australia through a partnership between the University of Melbourne’s Physics and Engineering Schools, Sitael Australia, Inovor Technologies, Neumann Space, and Nova Systems. The main science payload on board will be an innovative X-ray detector, the HERMES instrument, developed by the Italian Space Agency and Italian National Institute of Astrophysics. HERMES will be cooled and maintained at a stable temperature using a miniaturized Stirling cycle cryocooler and two deployable radiators similar to those we plan to fly on SkyHopper. This represents an excellent opportunity to increase the technology readiness level of SkyHopper’s thermal management strategy through in-orbit feasibility demonstration. SpIRIT will also demonstrate in-orbit performance of the Mercury payload, an integrated solution for near real-time nanosatellite communications under development at the University of Melbourne, which will inform the design of SkyHopper’s real-time communication subsystem.

In addition, SpIRIT will have a strong scientific synergy with SkyHopper if both CubeSats operate concurrently. In fact, Gamma Ray Bursts discovered by combining data from SpIRIT and from the HERMES Scientific Pathfinder constellation could be followed-up at infrared wavelengths by SkyHopper to measure their redshift and characterize afterglow properties.

More information on SpIRIT can be found on the new mission website (which will be populated with more details as the project progresses). A companion press release has been issued by the Italian Space Agency (in Italian only).

Project update: Detailed definition funded!

The last few months have been very hectic for me and the SkyHopper team, and we did not have a chance to update the website. I am sorry about the silence, but I am most happy to break it with great news: SkyHopper has been funded for phase C (detailed mission definition)! We received an award of $800,000 for a 2019 design study led at Melbourne!

The project has been growing as well, with new co-investigators and partner institutions joining the consortium. A proposal to secure the remaining funding needed for construction, assembly, integration and testing has been submitted as well. Stay tuned for an update of the website to reflect all the ongoing and planned activities, which include testing hardware in our newly established UoM laboratory and reports on two productive summer internships.

Combined with resources secured by our national and international partners, we expect a team of about 10 scientists and engineers in place by the end of the year to work on SkyHopper, keeping us on track for a launch by the end of 2022. Here at Melbourne, we are currently looking to recruit three full time engineers, and we also have an opening for a paid internship. Thus, whether you are a student or an experienced engineer/physicist, you have an opportunity to join us and make an impact by getting Australia’s first space telescope off the ground.


Assistant Systems Engineer Internship

We are very pleased to announce that the SkyHopper team has an opening for one paid internship for the remainder of the semester and during the winter break.

The intern will serve as an assistant spacecraft-level Systems Engineer for the project and assist in carrying out research to develop the overall mission design, based on combining commercial TRL9 avionics and bus components with a custom designed and developed science payload. The assistant spacecraft-level Systems Engineer will also coordinate the definition of interfaces between subsystems and work with the Principal Investigator, the mission Systems Engineer and the science management committee to ensure that the overall spacecraft design meets the science requirements of the mission.

The position is remunerated at the UoM casual research assistant grade 1 level (approximately $41/hour), with an expected work load of around one day/week during the current term, and up to full-time during winter break.

Key selection criteria:

  • Enrollment in or completion of a Bachelor degree or equivalent in Engineering, Physics, or a related area.
  • Experience contributing to a nanosatellite development project, or a project of similar scope and complexity.
  • Expertise in code development using Python.
  • Familiarity with LaTeX.
  • Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Excel.
  • Excellent interpersonal and both written and oral communication skills in English.
  • Excellent ability to work co-operatively and positively in a multi-disciplinary research-based team environment and liaise with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Demonstrated excellent organisational skills to meet deadlines and bring projects to a timely completion.

Desirable selection criteria:

  • A BSc or equivalent in Engineering, Physics, or a related area.
  • Enrollment in a postgraduate degree in Engineering or Physics with focus on Space research.
  • Experience with systems level engineering and requirements management.
  • Experience participating in complex projects involving multiple stakeholders.

Expressions of interests for the internship should consist of a brief CV and cover letter addressing the selection criteria, and should be sent to by 5pm May 12th. The team values diversity and inclusion, and actively encourages applications from under-represented groups of students.


Summer Internship 2019: Call for applications

We are very pleased to announce that the SkyHopper team has an opening for one summer intern, to work on laboratory characterization of the cryocoolers that are being considered for use by the mission. The internship will last 4 weeks, with flexible dates in January and February, and an expected commitment of 20h/week. The intern will acquire laboratory data from temperature and power sensors, and develop (Python) code for processing and analysis. The ideal candidate will have previous experience in a physics or engineering research setting (e.g. summer/winter internship, or a subject similar to SCI30001), and/or participation in student-led CubeSat mission development.

The opportunity is reserved to students currently enrolled at the University of Melbourne, who will continue their enrollment in 2019. Thanks to the generous support of backers in our recent crowdfunding campaign, the successful intern will receive a scholarship of $500/week.

Expressions of interests for the internship consist in a brief CV and cover letter, and should be sent to by 5pm November 5th. The team values diversity and inclusion, and actively encourages applications from under-represented groups of students.

Number of posts found: 15


Australian Astronomical Observatory ∙ Australian National University ∙ Cambridge University ∙ Curtin University ∙ Istituto Nazionale Di Astrofisica ∙ Macquarie University ∙ Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics ∙ NASA Goddard ∙ NASA Ames ∙ Space Telescope Science Institute ∙ Stonybrook University ∙ Swinburne Institute of Technology ∙ Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg ∙ University of Colorado ∙ University of Leicester ∙ University of New South Wales ∙ University of Southern Queensland ∙ University of Virginia ∙ University of Western Australia