• Renae Kiely

The ACRUX-1 Resurrection

Updated: Feb 20

It has been 231 days since the Melbourne Space Program’s CubeSat named ACRUX-1 was launch into LEO (lower earth orbit) as a payload by Spaceflight in accordance with Rocket’s Lab “Make It Rain” Electron mission.


Two hours after launch and during the second pass, we received the first ping from ACRUX-1 via SATNOGS ground station in Adelaide. Mission success!


A week later we stopped hearing from ACRUX-1. We were just so grateful that the satellite worked while in orbit. We launched something into space!


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Come forth to Sunday, 1 December or 155 days since launch. MSP's Jack McRobbie raised the point that we need to think about formally declaring the satellite was dead...


Or so we thought… or perhaps ACRUX-1 heard us…


At 6 am on Monday, December 2 or 156 days later, the MSP Twitter account was flooded with notifications, which didn’t make sense as we are in between projects. Why were we so popular all of a sudden?


Then we saw this:

Above: the tweet we received from SATNOGS that told us ACRUX-1 was alive.


All around the world, there are HAM radio satellite operators and thanks to these guys they detected a stray package that had sent the following message, “Please tell MSP that their satellite works". Thankfully, the SATNOGS team who originally who received our very first ping – 231 days ago – recognised it and informed us. Thanks again, guys!


To say our minds were blown is an understatement.


After hearing the early morning news, the MSP team came together online that morning. We were all confused, but yet so elated! Is this legit??


By 7 am that morning, MSP’s Telecomm. Engineer, Gabi Abrahams had confirmed that it was our beacon! However, it was sending packages via another frequency. Nevertheless, it was true! The Phoenix has risen to squawk again, in other words, ACRUX-1 was still alive!


Throughout that day the ACRUX-1 team got together and put their minds at work. They figured out that the transceiver had received a radiation hit (cosmic ray) which corrupted a section of the memory and reset the configurations to the factory default settings. So, the engineers had to send a command to correctly reconfigure the modem back to the proper frequency.


Therefore, it was back to dust off the ground station equipment and get it running for the uplink.


Above: Back to the ground station we go! Image credit: Rowan Skewes, MSP.


Unfortunately, by the time our team were ready to upload, they were unable to connect to ACRUX-1. It was literally radio silence. It’s fair to say we were disappointed, but still pleased with how the mission had lasted as long as it did.


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Sunday, 2 February or 218 days since launched we received yet another package. (Thanks again, SATNOGS!)


How is this happening?


There are so many variables at play which is why we cannot conclusively say why ACRUX-1 keeps coming back to life. What's more, because the packages received from ACRUX-1 are sporadic our team hasn't been able to reconfigure the CubeSat, but we'll keep trying each time it comes back online.


What we do know is that ACRUX-1 is currently orbiting around 400km altitude, it was launched at 450km and now after 8 months, it's lost 50km. It will slowly keep falling until it burns up in the atmosphere in ~1-2 years.


With that being said we are going to continue with our original stretch goal.


And so, our mission continues!

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