The Melbourne Space Laboratory develops innovative miniaturised payloads and technological solutions for nanosatellites, enabling scientific investigations, commercial opportunities and defence applications traditionally restricted to substantially larger and more expensive satellites.
What does the Melbourne Space Lab do?
MSL is active in multiple wide-ranging research areas, from innovative astrophysics instrumentation development to low-latency communications and radiation tolerant electronic design and fabrication.View
The Melbourne Space Laboratory is always eager to engage with scientific and industry communities in research collaborations benefiting the Australian space sector. MSL offers both consulting services and access to its facilities.View
The MSL team includes academics with international leadership in space science and engineering and engineers with extensive international experience in aerospace companies.View
The Melbourne Space Laboratory welcomes both proffessional and academic staff with a number of exciting opportunities.View
(Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal)
SpIRIT is the first satellite funded for development and launch by the Australian Space Agency, with an award of $3.95 million to the Melbourne Space Laboratory for its design, fabrication and test, and launch. The Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal (SpIRIT) 6U nanosatellite will be the first Australian spacecraft to host a foreign space agency payload: It’s main instrument – an advanced sensor for gamma and x-rays for astrophysics and remote sensing – is provided by the Italian Space Agency, demonstrating the international standing of MSL in the global space sector. SpIRIT will also qualify several technology subsystems in-orbit, in core areas for MSL R&D (thermal management, low-latency communications, autonomous operations), and advance Australia’s electric propulsion sovereign capabilities through a partnership with Neumann Space.
Three additional Australian companies (Inovor Technologies, Sitael Australia, and Nova Systems) are partners in SpIRIT, demonstrating the strong links of MSL with local industry.
MSL is active in multiple wide-ranging research areas, from innovative astrophysics instrumentation development to low-latency communications and radiation tolerant electronic design and fabrication.
Advanced Thermal Management
MSL is the most advanced aerospace research centre for satellite thermal management in Australia. MSL is leading research for active thermal control on nanosatellites through miniaturised coolers, deployable radiators, and efficient thermal design. MSL activities are underpinned by extensive knowledge from large and small space missions, and supported by state-of-the-art tools (ESATAN TMS).
MSL has more than 30 years of experience in spacecraft systems, and thermal and mechanical engineering, with over 16 years experience in thermal control system design and manufacture on 15+ ESA missions, including Rosetta, LISA Pathfinder and Solar Orbiter, as well as more than 5 Australian nanosatellites.
Low-power, High-performance Radiation Tolerant Electronics
As nanosatellites emerge as disruptive technologies to compete with larger spacecraft for broader scientific, commercial and defense applications, advanced and dependable on-board data processing becomes critical. On-board electronics also need to withstand the harsh radiation environments experienced during polar orbit crossings and the South Atlantic Anomaly during multi-year missions. MSL’s interdisciplinary team of researchers include experts on radiation resistant integrated circuits (FPGAs and CPUs) and memory, with a track record of contributions and achievements in academia and space industry.
Low-latency Communications and Autonomous Operations
Low-latency high-availability communications between spacecraft and mission control centers enables the design of satellites which can both respond rapidly to commands, as well as react to observations made in orbit. MSL is leading research activities to expand these capabilities, traditionally present only in larger satellites, into the nanosatellite format.
MSL is developing the Mercury subsystem, a low-latency communication solution for nanosatellites to autonomously and optimally connect to multiple existing orbital communication infrastructures, informed by the knowledge of the relative orbital positions to select the best channel for rapid data transmission. Mercury is developed by an interdisciplinary team that includes experts in satellite communications, optimisation, and artificial intelligence.
Infrared Remote Sensing
MSL's research into the miniaturisation of thermal management subsystems and the accompanying radiation-hardened control electronics for infrared focal plane arrays is a key system enabler in the development of a sovereign Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for Earth observation applications and space-based Space Situational Awareness.
MSL's research into the miniaturisation of thermal management subsystems and the accompanying radiation-hardened control electronics for infrared focal plane arrays is a key system enabler in the development of sovereign Space Based Infrared Observation Systems for astrophysical research.
Infrared light is an ideal probe for both the most distant objects in the Universe, as well as the intergalactic gas of the early Universe, both key open questions of Australia's Astronomy Decadal plan. The expertise and new technologies being developed by MSL will facilitate the development of sovereign orbital astrophysical research facilities.
MSL is always interested in research collaborations focusing on space research. If you are interested in any of the above areas or other research opportunities, please contact us.
MSL is also available to provide consultation and guidance on spacecraft and mission design.
The Melbourne Space Laboratory is always eager to engage with the scientific and industry communities in research collaborations benefiting the Australian space sector. MSL therefore offers both consulting services and access to facilities listed below.
Access to facilities
MSL has a state-of-the-art facility for nanosatellite development, which are available for use by the space sector within Australia. Our lab is equipped with advanced manufacturing for thermal management system fabrication, vacuum environment characterisation and analysis, and a mechanical and electronics technical workshop offering specialised equipment for development of custom-designed components.
- Thermal model correlation
- Vibration characterisation
- High ESD protection requirement electronics fabrication
- Thermal and vacuum (TVAC) bakeout and cycling
- High-cleanliness requirement fabrication (Positive pressure ISO Class 3)
- Small component mechanical fabrication
Spacecraft thermal management, design and validation
Within the Melbourne Space Laboratory, there is wide experience in Thermal Analysis and Validation gained over many years and many projects both with the European space industry supporting major ESA programs and the Australian space sector.
In addition to designing and building thermal sub-systems, the Melbourne Space Laboratory has heritage in managing thermal verification by analysis and thermal vacuum (T-VAC) testing for a variety of complex spacecraft both at system level and sub-system level. This stretches from detailed thermal work on specific spacecraft components (e.g. antennae and propulsion systems on numerous European spacecraft) to thermal analysis of Australian nano satellites and to large-scale thermal models of entire satellite systems.
The analysis performed by the Melbourne Space Laboratory makes use of industry-wide standard tools such as ESATAN-TMS for verification of thermal performance. This suite is recognised as the standard tool within the European Space Industry. It is further supplemented by thermal software developed in-house, and supports establishing a robust spacecraft thermal design and performing specialised thermal analysis.
The Melbourne Space Laboratory can provide analysis and validation to fully address any and all thermal requirements of both payloads and platforms as required by complex space missions, including:
- A standardised approach to thermal analysis of both missions and operations design, validated across involvement in many projects, ensuring high mission reliability.
- Consultation on spacecraft system thermal design, highlighting key design parameters and design features to ensure thermal control of a spacecraft and its payload
- Guidance on the methods and plans for the verification of a spacecraft system within a simulated flight environment and review of in-flight gathered data.
Contact the Melbourne Space Lab
If you are interested in any of our services or facilities, please contact MSL below.
The MSL team includes academics with international leadership in space science and engineering and engineers with extensive international experience in aerospace companies.
- Simon Barraclough
Technical Director, Thermal Engineering
- Jack McRobbie
- Robert Mearns
Near-real-time Communications, Autonomous Operations
- Mika Ohkawa
- Miguel Ortiz del Castilo
- Clint Therakam
The Melbourne Space Laboratory welcomes both professional and academic staff with a number of exciting opportunities.
MSL is not currently hiring, but please check back.
There are a wide range of research and study opportunities available with the Melbourne Space Lab.
Postdoctoral fellowships are available within the Melbourne Space Lab in wide ranging research areas, and are advertised through the University of Melbourne careers pages.
Internships for University of Melbourne students are available upon request to high achieving Physics or Engineering students. Past internships have contributed to the research and development of technologies used by MSL. Some notable past projects include:
- Low cost inspection photography for nanosatellites, focussing on rapid integration for missions.
- Thermal control of nanosatellite payloads via thermal-electric cooling.
- Development of innovative thermal strap technologies.
Laby Research Program
The Laby Research Program is available to second or third year University of Melbourne students who are considering enrolling in postgraduate studies within the school of Physics and wish to gain research experience.
Contact the Melbourne Space Lab
If you would like to discuss any of the available opportunities with us, please contact MSL below.