Malta is planning its first space mission in a joint venture between the universities of Malta and Birmingham.

A 250-gram device – a miniature satellite known as a pico-satellite – will be launched into the upper atmosphere in 2018 using a multi-stage rocket.

The collaboration has brought together two Maltese postgraduate engineering students – Darren Cachia in Malta and Jonathan Camilleri, a PhD student at the University of Birmingham – who have joined efforts and are developing the satellite platform and the scientific payload respectively.

This first launch will pave the way for a larger group of eight such satellites that will be spread over a large geographical area and gain better coverage of changeable conditions in the upper atmosphere, which affect radio communications.

The mission is expected to last about 18 months and will relay information back to earth that will be accessible to anyone owning an amateur radio set.

The multi-year miniature satellite research initiative led by Marc Anthony Azzopardi and Andrew Sammut is the flagship of the Astrionics Research group of the University of Malta’s Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, which will use €1 million in EU funds to develop, manufacture and test the satellite platform.

“Miniature satellite technology is set to bring some unique advantages to Malta by addressing a long-standing problem we face with conventional earth observation satellites,” Dr Azzopardi said.

Dr Sammut said this research served a dual purpose as it stemmed Malta’s brain drain and provided know-how to industry.

In addition, discussions have started with the university’s Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy (ISSA), which could eventually see the university develop its own scientific space missions.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us