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).


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