Professor Slavek Rucinski (University of Toronto, Canada), the initiator for the Canadian space telescope MOST, advocated in 2002, together with Rob Zee (UTIAS-SFL) an even more miniaturized follow-up space telescope, called BRITE (BRight Target Explorer) .
Driven by the successful participation of the University Vienna in MOST – technically, by providing another satellite ground station, as well as scientifically – the Institute for Astronomy explored the possibilities for also joining this new challenge.
The first step was to organize a conference in 2004 with Austrian industry and research institutions for checking the potential and interest in building and operating a small Austrian satellite.
This activity was timely, as in 2005 the University of Vienna opened a program for improving its infrastructure and the Institute for Astronomy submitted a successful proposal for purchasing in Canada at the Space Flight Centre of the University of Toronto what is now called UniBRITE.
Fortunately, the Austrian Space Program issued in the same year its third call for proposals, ASAP III, to which the Technical University Graz replied as PI and the University Vienna as CoI with the goal to build a nanosatellite in Austria based on the concept of UniBRITE. With secured funding of BRITE-AUSTRIA (or TUG-SAT-1) in 2006 it is the first satellite built in and operated by Austria.
Poland joined BRITE-Constellation in 2009 and Canada (funded by the Canadian Space Agency, CSA) in 2010. UniBRITE and BRITE-AUSTRIA are the first to be launched (in 2012) from a fleet of currentl six nanosatellites.