A giant leap

Stuart Buchan (left) and Fergus Downey (right) with the Binar-1 CubeSat. Photo: Isabel Mountain.

A Curtin University-made satellite will take its place among the stars on August 28, marking an Australian first.

The Binar-1 CubeSat took four years to develop by a team of Curtin staff, PhD, honours and undergraduate students from the Space Science and Technology Centre.

Fergus Downey, the lead hardware developer on the project, says it was not always the plan to build the satellite from scratch.

“It wasn’t until halfway through my honours, nearly three years ago exactly, that we weren’t going to buy one off the shelf – we were going to build it ourselves,” he says.

Stuart Buchan, the lead software developer on the project, says the pandemic, out-of-date legislation, and slow paperwork set the project back nearly a year.

“It was quite funny – relatively early in the build process we were talking to the people who worked on the Melbourne Space Program…one of the things they said to us was ‘has your launch been delayed yet?’ We said ‘no’.

“They said ‘well, it will’.”

Professor Phil Bland next to his NASA lego sets. Photo: Isabel Mountain.

Professor Phil Bland, director of the SSTC, says Curtin’s innovation will speed the development of space industry to new heights.

“This is a programme. It’s not a project.

“The whole thing is designed to build capability and technology to really turn this into a programme that, I think, can benefit WA in helping to catalyse a space industry here and really inspire young people,” he says.

“We can accomplish pretty amazing things.”

Professor Bland says the goal is to reach out into deep space.

“If we can do the moon first, then it’ll be Mars after that, then an asteroid, and then I’d like to do three planetary missions before I retire,” he says.

“The moon’s the first step!”

The rocket team. Video: Isabel Mountain. Music:

The programme is scheduled to launch three more flights in 2022.

The launch will be live-streamed on August 28 at 3.37pm in Yagan Square. For more information on the programme, go to

Categories: General, Science, Technology