March 1, 2024

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Satellite launch marks new milestone for produced-in-Alberta space science

5 min read
Satellite launch marks new milestone for produced-in-Alberta space science

In the planet of area science, all eyes were being on NASA’s Kennedy Area Heart in Florida now for the launch of a rocket carrying a few cube satellites designed by U of A students and their associates at Yukon University and Aurora College or university.

One particular of the satellites, called Ex-Alta 2, is completely designed and created by U of A learners — their 2nd time carrying out the feat. It will seize illustrations or photos of forest fires on Earth, information and facts essential to combating their unfold.

Seeing the start with some trepidation was engineering scholar Joanne Cai, units guide on Ex-Alta 2 dependable for earning confident its subsystems — which include computer, battery pack, radio and digicam — all function with each other.

“I certainly didn’t believe I would be ready to establish a satellite throughout my university diploma,” suggests Cai, a 3rd-calendar year university student in mechanical engineering. Now that dream became a truth for her and dozens of other interdisciplinary crew users.

A cubesat is a miniature satellite about the size of a breadbox and weighing no a lot more than two kilograms. Hitching a experience with a resupply mission to the International Space Station, AlbertaSat’s cubesat will inevitably be ejected into space by the station’s astronauts to get started its mission, motivated by the Fort McMurray wildfires of 2016.

“It’s excellent that we’re equipped to function on the local climate-change front, mainly because it is clearly turning out to be extra and far more of an issue, specially for us as college pupils,” says Cai.

Once in space, the satellite’s multispectral imager termed “Iris” — a digicam-like instrument designed for the function by the learners — will capture spectral facts in seen and invisible (infrared) mild on floor vegetation and the ambiance, allowing for researchers to make observations about wildfires.

Making on achievement in space

The start of Ex-Alta 2 — section of the Canadian Room Company’s Canadian CubeSat Undertaking — follows the tremendous achievement of Ex-Alta 1 in 2017. Following winning to start with location in a design and style competitors, a compact team of U of A learners, guided by a staff of college advisers throughout disciplines in science and engineering, made a decision they desired to obstacle on their own outside of design and dedicate to sending the real matter into space.

They joined a large worldwide challenge referred to as QB50, and their ensuing cube satellite stunned the entire world of space science by finishing its mission with all programs performing. 

Its payload took measurements of house storms involving high-electrical power particles in Earth’s magnetic fields. The ensuing facts aid to superior comprehend financial and infrastructure threats on the floor, primarily hurt to electric power ability grids, claims U of A room physicist Ian Mann, a school adviser on Ex-Alta 1.

“Think about what takes place when we shed power for a make a difference of several hours — if you extend that to times or even months, the outcomes could be catastrophic.”

The satellite’s mission proved to everybody that committed undergraduate college students could compete with the finest in the place race — coming up with, constructing, testing, launching and operating satellites that deliver results, says Mann.

“It labored from start, and it labored through its layout life for 18 months until finally it burned up harmlessly in the environment,” he suggests. “For a college student-oriented group, that is a outstanding achievement.”

Of 50 satellites built for the QB50 mission — some by seasoned room experts — 36 productively introduced and 12 managed to ship info again to Earth, says Carlos Lange, another educational adviser on AlbertaSat from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Ex-Alta 1 was a single of people 12.

“It had this sort of a substantial effect that the federal federal government gave money to the Canadian Space Company for three far more rounds of satellites from Canadian learners,” states Lange. That funding resulted in the development of the Canadian CubeSat Job.

“All eyes in Canada are now seeing AlbertaSat — imitating its group, leadership and assembly design.”

AlbertaSat has about 50 lively users every semester from most engineering disciplines as perfectly as science learners, mostly from astrophysics and physics. Other individuals include things like pupils from earth and atmospheric sciences and industrial design, as very well as non-complex groups from schooling and enterprise. School customers in engineering and science supply ongoing direction. 

The task is open up resource, that means all innovations and information gathered are shared with other scholar groups. For Ex-Alta 2, the AlbertaSat team struck a partnership with Yukon University and Aurora School in the Northwest Territories to assistance people universities establish their own entries in the Canadian CubeSat Project. 

The U of A college students made and crafted the principal satellites for their northern associates — a feat no other university staff anywhere has at any time achieved — and the pupils from the northern universities provided the mission payloads.

Inspiring tomorrow’s house researchers

A central part of AlbertaSat’s mandate is to build lessons and present them to elementary and high university students. Due to the fact the group’s inception, it has achieved out to hundreds.

Cai was in junior superior when she to start with read about Ex-Alta 1 from a mate in university.

“I remember listening to she was encouraging to style and design and establish a satellite — the 1st time Canadian undergraduate learners had at any time carried out it,” suggests Cai. “I never consider I recognized it at the time, but it variety of trapped with me.

“Before I went into engineering, I would seem at a computer system and imagine, ‘I never know what is heading on.’ Technological know-how was like a black box. It’s incredibly cool to now be able to see a little something so elaborate and say, ‘I know how each ingredient operates.’”

Cai’s friend was Callie Lissinna, who was liable for leading Ex-Alta 1’s orbital functions team. Following graduating with an engineering degree, she went on to co-found an Edmonton-based satellite firm named Wyvern Space.

Lissinna’s shining example is one explanation Cai made the decision to take engineering at the U of A and be a part of AlbertaSat, alongside with dozens of other folks established to land a occupation in area science.

“I would truthfully characterize it as the defining practical experience of my undergrad,” states fifth-12 months engineering physics university student Thomas Ganley, Ex-Alta 2’s undertaking manager.

“It’s presented me a large total of ability and qualities that will be worthwhile in my vocation, simply because the house marketplace in Canada is expanding,” he says. “This is 1 of the finest possibilities in Alberta for getting this form of discovering.”

Alumni of Ex-Alta 1 have long gone on to careers with the Canadian Area Company, the European Space Agency and the Canadian place engineering corporation MDA, makers of Canadarm. Other individuals have pursued graduate research in aerospace.

AlbertaSat’s next task — by now in the will work — is a different cube satellite that will start into polar orbit to seize photos of glaciers and ice caps.

“We’ve shown that scholar teams are capable to enter the new room race, to make measurements with miniaturized hardware that can’t be manufactured anyplace else, for the benefit of humanity,” claims Mann.

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