Local space medtech start-up ResearchSat has reached a major milestone, with its first CubeSat launched into Low Earth orbit last month.

On 23 November, ResearchSat’s ADI-Alpha CubeSat was successfully launched from the Esrange Space Centre in Sweden.

Weighing less than 1 kg and carrying pharmaceutical and biological experiments, it travelled aboard the SubOrbital Express 3. Rocketing 260 km into space, it achieved microgravity for six minutes performing real-time monitoring and data collection before returning to Earth.

ResearchSat specialises in satellite microbiological and chemical microgravity space research using small, cost-effective nanosatellites. The launch was ResearchSat’s first sub-orbital nanosatellite space launch and was designed to prove the reliability of the CubeSat to conduct meaningful scientific experiments.

ResearchSat’s chief technology officer and co-founder Jibin Dhanaraj said the new knowledge gained through this exploration is crucial for the further development of drug delivery research.

“Space provides a unique environment that challenges the fluid dynamics affecting living cells. Exploring the changes will provide new insights that may advance life-science technologies and therapeutics,” Mr Dhanaraj said.

“The more time we get in space, the higher the chances to develop new therapeutics.”

A key focus of ResearchSat’s space research activity is improving the effectiveness of pharmaceutical drug and therapeutics discovery and delivery systems by conducting prolonged Low Earth orbit experiments for pharmaceutical clients. The data safely generated from biochemical, microbiology, and chemical experiments are used to further client research, product development, and spin-out technologies from space.

ResearchSat co-founder and chief executive officer Raviteja Duggenini explains the microgravity space environment can give bacteria new properties.

“Dormant genes suppressed on Earth can activate once in space,” Mr Duggenini said. “So, the rapid aging effect produces an opportunity to design disease models and test them at a more rapid pace in space.”

ResearchSat’s CubeSat creates an effective microenvironment for cells that is a replica of cell habitats such as the liver, heart and lung tissue. In space, this creates ideal conditions for single-cell studies and disease modelling.

“We think medical science research will pick up speed as stem cells and tissue cells age and proliferate quickly in space, resulting in the discovery of new therapeutics at a quicker pace and at a lower cost,” Mr Duggenini added.

“This helps develop drugs faster compared to on Earth and this accelerated research can help pharmaceutical companies get to market faster than their competitors.”

ResearchSat’s business development team is based at the Lot Fourteen innovation district , while its engineering team is based at the University of South Australia’s Innovation and Collaboration Centre (ICC) where the CubeSat was built.

The start-up is an alumni of the ICC’s Venture Catalyst Space program. The South Australian Space Industry Centre sponsored program supports local space start-ups to develop into innovative, disruptive businesses achieving commercial success in the international space sector.

Learn more about the mission