According to The Australian Financial Review today, Australia is not renowned for its space industry, but if 22-year-old Solange Cunin has anything to do with it, this could be about to change.
The student from the University of New South Wales has co-founded a satellite start-up with fellow 20-something and University of Technology Sydney student, Sebastian Chaoui, aiming to make satellites cheaper and more widely available.
"At the moment it's very difficult to get into space," Ms Cunin said. "If you want to launch a payload, you have to build the entire satellite to go with it. It costs more than $200,000 and takes years because you have to get it tested and certified."
Through Quberider's product Cubesats (miniature satellites), people are able to share space on satellites, reducing the cost by 75 per cent to about $50,000.
Ms Cunin expects the education sector to be the biggest initial customer base, but she has also received enquiries from mining, data and arts companies.
"As we bring down the prices it will mean the demographic of people who can afford space will broaden and new ideas will be generated on how to use space," she said.
Quberider's first customer is UTS and it's part of Microsoft's BizSpark program, but it is yet to receive funding.
Ms Cunin also plans to include a Raspberry Pi electronics board (a low cost, credit-card sized computer) on the satellite so that computer programmers can create and upload code to run in space for a few hundred dollars.
"By having the code run from the satellite in space you can do a number of things such as get your own data without needing to build an entire payload," she said.
Quberider is scheduled to launch its first satellite in late 2016. After six months in orbit the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere to avoid creating more space junk.
Like many start-ups, Ms Cunin is currently running the business from her living room while continuing to study mathematics and aerospace engineering, but she hopes to have a laboratory and an office in the next few months.
"At the moment to work in space you have to move overseas. I'd like to inspire other start-ups to enter the industry. We need to make the step ... to get the industry off the ground."
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