UON honours student Andreas Antoniades thinks space is cool.

“Space is cool. It’s so cool. It’s the best thing ever. There’s something wild about knowing there are man-made things whizzing up above us but potentially around other planets as well.”

“I wanted to study science, but I didn’t expect to be doing this. It didn’t take me long to realise that by combining these degrees I could look forward to more than just a job.”

Andreas chose the university’s combined Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Electrical)/Bachelor of Business degree with an eye to not just satisfying his desire to study within science, but to consider the way his studies may be commercially applied to space technologies.

“I think it’s important that anyone who is interested in space science and technology should be encouraged to get involved, but the high cost of the technologies involved is prohibitive for students at the secondary and tertiary levels.

Andreas’ ProtoSAT project aims to use the best available electrical technologies to develop an affordable satellite that not only conforms to the international CubeSat* standard, but also allows students at all levels to research new ideas and uses for small satellite technology using fully-functional and affordable equipment.

“The extremely expensive hardware meant that students had nothing of this sort to work with unless they had about $100,000 for a complete CubeSat outfit.”

“So why not create that intermediate step – get the hardware that is hard to kill, open, flexible and very affordable, and make it as close to the commercial counterparts as possible so people can experiment, people can learn, they can start to understand just what it takes to get involved in the space industry. It also means it won’t matter if they accidentally destroy the hardware whilst experimenting with it.”

“The CubeSat standard means that everyone knows the size of the satellite launch mechanism so if you can build your satellite to the standard then whatever research or job you wish for it to do – fit it within that box and it’s good to go!”

Andreas spent the last year working on CubeSat compliance for the power supply subsystem, a telecommunications subsystem, and experiment with various telecommunications protocols and preliminary work on a processor subsystem.

ProtoSAT can be powered by its own solar panels, but the benefits of the CubeSat standard are also potentially environmental.

“These are so cheap you can build them, launch them, have them do the science at a low orbit, and then have them burn up in the atmosphere so they aren’t a space debris threat.”

“Over the last decade we’ve seen a renewed interest in the space race, especially with privatisation. People are getting involved again and it’s exciting. So I looked into the problems in the field – with accessing the technology – and I thought I could contribute.”

“Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are working on getting us up there, but I can work on the stuff we want to put up there.”

Mid-year applications for the University of Newcastle are now open.

*CubeSat is a set of specifications for a miniaturised satellite for space research developed for low earth orbit.