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Scholarship details

2024 RTP round - Distributed Fault-tolerant Small Spacecraft Architecture

Status: Closed

Applications open: 7/07/2023
Applications close: 25/08/2023

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

The Space Science and Technology Centre at Curtin University is building highly capable small spacecraft within its Binar Space Program. Our first spacecraft, Binar-1, which trialled our ultra-compact spacecraft platform was launched in October 2021, and we’re currently building the next three spacecraft, Binar-2, Binar-3 and Binar-4, for launch in the first half of 2024. With each iteration we are evolving our capability whilst retaining a highly compact platform which keeps around 70% of a 1U CubeSat available for mission payload. As we prepare for our flagship mission, Binar Prospector, which will travel to a low altitude orbit around the Moon and search for resources to enable the next era of space exploration, we are interested in exploring new ways to increase the reliability of small spacecraft via incorporating redundancy at the system level.
As small spacecraft are increasingly travelling beyond low Earth orbit, there is an increasing need to increase the fault tolerance to produce more reliable spacecraft, but this needs to be implemented without significantly increasing cost, mass and volume to retain the cost and timeline advantages of small spacecraft. This project aims to investigate ways to build small spacecraft with additional fault tolerance while minimising the added complexity to better inform the space systems architecture used on future Binar space missions. 

The aims of the research project are to investigate the benefits and limitations of a fault spacecraft architecture using a distributed systems approach leveraging standard communications and networking protocols used in commercial terrestrial fields (including computing, automotive, and the industrial Internet of Things) as well as modern network-enabled real time operating systems. 

The objectives of the research are to develop a proof-of-concept fault tolerant distributed spacecraft architecture and compare the approach and performance with the traditional approaches (component hardening, component redundancy using voter circuits) via test and analysis for a variety of mission scenarios both in Earth orbit, and beyond. The trade-off between fault tolerance provided by system level redundancy and increased complexity viewed through the lens of mission risk will be a key focus of the work. Whilst this entire project can be successfully completed with ground testing alone, an additional aim is to also conduct some on-orbit testing of the approach.
An early step in the work may focus on developing and testing a proof-of-concept implementation using microcontroller or microprocessor based nodes (representing spacecraft subsystems) connected via an IoT communication protocol such as CoAP on an IP network over single pair ethernet, but the exact nature of this first proof-of-concept implementation will be determined by the successful applicant themselves. 

The outcomes of this work will guide the future directions of the Binar spacecraft program which aims reduce the barriers to space activity and space exploration. The lessons learned will directly guide the development of future Binar spacecraft platforms, and in particular our flagship Binar Prospector Lunar mission.
The work will involve space system architecture design, distributed systems, embedded software development, embedded electronics hardware development and assembly, ground testing in relevant environments (thermal vacuum chamber, vibration testing), flight qualification, on orbit operations and publication.
This project will present opportunities to build hardware and develop software that will fly in space and opportunities to engage with SSTC’s industry partners. 

Internship opportunities may be available. This project may present and opportunity to complete and internship at one of SSTC's industry partners.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Science courses
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships at the 2023 RTP rate valued at $32,250 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3 years, with a possible 6-month completion scholarship. Applicants are determined via a competitive selection process and will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2023. 

For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

This project is ideal for an applicant interested in building more capable small spacecraft (CubeSats) with a keen interest in embedded electronics, computer networking, distributed systems, electronics design, embedded software, or Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The suitable applicant will be a self-motivated candidate with excellent communication and teamwork skills who understands the bigger picture. The suitable applicant is likely to have a background in embedded systems, electronics, computing, distributed systems, software, communications or mechatronics engineering. The applicant should have achieved first-class honours in a relevant undergraduate degree and be able to demonstrate experience conducting a successful project. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form. ahead of the closing date. Please note you should apply as soon as possible, as once a suitable candidate has been identified this opportunity will no longer be available to receive an EOI.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2024.

Recipients must complete their milestone 1 within 6 months of enrolment and remain enrolled on a full-time basis for the duration of the scholarship.


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead Robert Howie via the EOI form above.

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