ARC Training Centre for CubeSats, UAVs & Their Applications

Mission Motivation and Objectives

The objectives of CUAVA’s flight programs are to train future engineers, industry  people, and scientists in space and UAV applications and in commercialisation, to increase the capabilities of CubeSats and UAVs, to solve particular research problems, to flight-test new applications and services,  and to develop the future workforce of the space and UAV industries in Australia.

The CUAVA-1 satellite is the first satellite designed, developed and launched by the CUAVA Training Centre.  CUAVA-1 will be a stepping-stone for the Training Centre to more refined missions in the future. It will fly first-generation payloads developed by CUAVA partners and directly address the Centre’s goals.

CUAVA-1 is a 3U CubeSat that will carry significant heritage from the QB50 CubeSat INSPIRE-2. It is the second CubeSat to be developed in quick succession by the Universities of Sydney and New South Wales after the launch of the 2U INSPIRE-2 (AU03) satellite which was deployed from the ISS on the 26th of May, 2017, as part of the QB50 initiative. CUAVA-1 will build on the previous INSPIRE-2 design utilising COTS components and payloads provided from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The CUAVA-1 mission will:

(1) link with the international radio amateur union for education, outreach, and increased data downloads,

(2) observe the Earth with a novel RGB imaging camera and spectrometer assembly, both located in the integrated Imager, Spectrograph, and Toliboy Instrument (ISTI),

(3) flight-test a design of the innovative Tolibou imager in ISTI for the Breakthrough Watch programme by observing stars and other astronomical objects,

(4) use a GPS instrument to explore radio occultation and the reception of GPS signals scattered off the Earth (as well as provide a backup determination of the CubeSat’s location),

(5) investigate Earth’s plasma environment and associated space weather with radiation detectors,

(6) validate an In-orbit reconfigurable FPGA system to enable FPGA based off-the shelf hardware to be customized for this use without compromising reliability.

Testing was carried out at the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at the ANU.  CUAVA-1 was delivered in Q2-2021 to Space-BD in Japan and is scheduled for launch on a SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station in August 2021.


Satellite bus and payload

CUAVA-1 is a 3U CubeSat with four experimental payloads:

  • ISTI (Imager, Spectrograph, and TinyTol Instrument) developed by the School of Physics, University of Sydney. Includes RGB camera, hyperspectrum for image core, and TonyTol for Breakthrough Foundation.
  • KEA GPS Instrument developed by Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, University of New South Wales.
  • Radiation Detector with integrated Power Over Databus payload developed by the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and the School of Physics, University of Sydney.
  • RUSH (Reconfigurable Systems for Space) developed by Macquarie University.

The bus consists of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components for each sub-system listed below:

  • Electrical Power System (EPS): GOMspace P31U with two lithium-ion battery cells and 7 solar panels  made by GOMspace with 2 panels made by Air@wave. Both type of solar panels consist of two Azurspace triple-junction solar cells in series in each panel, with sun sensors integrated.
  • Command and Data Handling(C&DH): Innovative Solutions In Space on-board computer (OBC).
  • Communications: Innovative Solutions In Space crossed dipole pair antenna with aVHF Uplink/ UHF downlink transceiver.
  • Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS):  CubeADCS from CubeSpace with integrated reaction wheel system. It also includes three magnetorquers, a three-axis magnetometer and a gyroscope. Sun-sensors integrated into solar panels used as inputs to the ADCS system.
  • Structure: Innovative Solutions in Space 3U PC104 form factor structure.

Spacecraft and Mission – Summary


Reference numberVK2USY CUAVA-1
Size30cm x 10cm x 10cm; 3 Unit CubeSat format

3000 gm (3 kg)
EquipmentCommercial ‘off-the-shelf’ control and operating systems; 4 research instruments
Mission purposeScientific research, technology demonstration, linking with the international radio amateur community, national capacity building
Altitude at launch405km
Mission duration1 year
Mission conclusionComplete burn-up in upper atmosphere at >80km altitude


Prof. Iver CairnsChief Investigator, Director of CUAVALead for CUAVA-1University of Sydney
Prof. Andrew DempsterChief InvestigatorGPS payload and UNSW leadUNSW
Dr. Xueliang BaiTraining Centre Engineer (2019 - )Design and Build of CUAVA-1University of Sydney
Mr James HarpurTraining Centre
Engineer (2018)
Design and Build of CUAVA-1University of Sydney
Dr. Joon Wayn Cheong Postdoctoral Research AssociateEngineering and GPS payloadUNSW
Dr Youngho
Postdoctoral Research AssociateDesign & buildUniversity of Sydney
Dr. Tony MongerCommunicationsIARU and Development of Comms systemUniversity of Sydney
A/Prof. Sergio Leon-SavalPayloadImager and SpectrographUniversity of Sydney
Dr. Chris BettersPayloadImager and SpectrographUniversity of Sydney
A/Prof. Joe KhachanPayloadRadiation Counter University of Sydney
Dr. Xiaofeng WuEngineerEngineering support and dosimeter developmentUniversity of Sydney
Dr Jason HeldPartnerGround StationSaber Astronautics
Mr Andreas AntoniadesPartnerGround StationSaber Astronautics
Ms Reign MacMillanOperations ManagerProject operational supportUniversity of Sydney
Mr David Byrne StudentSoftware
University of Sydney
Mr Patrick Oppel StudentSoftware
University of Sydney
Ms Ada Song StudentSoftware development and satellite testingUniversity of Sydney
Mr Chung Hang Chu (Shaka)StudentMechanical DesignUniversity of Sydney
Mr Byung Hoon ChoStudentSatellite software designUniversity of Sydney
Mr Daniel HusseyStudentRadiation Counter Software DesignUniversity of Sydney
Mr Alex Gaoshan LiangStudentElectronics DesignUniversity of Sydney
Prof. Peter TuthillPayloadToliboy Instrument (ISTI)University of Sydney
Mr Yijun HuangStudentRadiation CounterUniversity of Sydney
Dr Ediz CetinPayloadRUSH InstrumentMacquarie University