First place winners from Concordia University. Credit: SpaceRef.

Concordia University Wins First Canadian Satellite Design Challenge

The winner of Canada’s first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) is the University of Concordia in Montreal, Quebec.

The announcement was made at a Gala event on September 29, 2012 in Ottawa marking the 50th anniversary of the launch of Alouette 1, Canada’s first artificial satellite. Presenting the award was Mr. Justin Moores from Mitacs Inc.

Going into the final few weeks of the competition, the University of Manitoba was favoured. Concordia’s win was a surprise.

This Canada-wide university competition challenged universities to create new innovative satellite designs and subjected them to a grueling two year process. A panel of experienced space mission experts from across Canada worked closely with the teams in providing mentorship and direction.

Concordia University’s winning cube-satellite entry. Credit: GEOCENTRIX

The winning satellite is intended to be launched into orbit, in order to conduct scientific research. Concordia’s satellite includes a gas analyser to detect trace gasses, as well as an instrument to measure the temperature and density of plasma. Although a launch is planned, nothing has been formalized.

Nick Sweet, leader of the Concordia team said, “I was absolutely ecstatic about winning the Challenge. Two years of hard work has paid off and I am so incredibly proud of my team and so happy to have been part of this competition. I reflected on all the value that we gained throughout the competition, working together as a team, and learning about things not taught in the classroom, to have been given this opportunity is absolutely incredible. I know there are other similar competitions, but I don’t think any of them deal with multi-disciplinary learning nearly as well.”

Concordia University president Alan Shepard is thrilled, noting “this is a fine example of the astounding work our students are in engaged in. It takes them far beyond the lab or the classroom.”

Larry Reeves, president of Geocentrix said, “It has been incredibly rewarding to witness the energy, dedication, and capability which the teams brought to this competition. The students have expressed overwhelming support for the competition and the experience they have gained from it.”


Second place team from the University of Manitoba Credit: SPACEREF

Third place team from the University of Victoria Credit: SPACEREF

Master of Ceremonies for the evening: CBC’s Bob MacDonald Credit:SPACEREF

The universities which participated in this first offering of the competition were:

  • Carleton University (Ottawa, ON)
  • Concordia University (Montreal, QC)
  • Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS)
  • Queen’s University (Kingston, ON)
  • Royal Military College of Canada (Kingston, ON)
  • The University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)
  • The University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)
  • The University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB)
  • The University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)
  • The University of Victoria (Victoria, BC)
  • The University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)
  • York University (Toronto, ON)

The goal of the CSDC was to give participating students a solid foundation in satellite design, project management, and working in a large, inter-disciplinary team setting. The competition, and many of the teams, have received wide-spread support from the Canadian and U.S. space industry, who see the importance in developing the next generation of space mission engineering and management leaders.

These companies include MITACS, MDA, Microsat Systems Canada, Neptec Design Group, ABB, Magellan Aerospace, AppSpace Solutions, Analytical Graphics, Manitoba Aerospace, MAYA, NEI Software, SolidWorks, and the Canadian Space Society.

University teams test their satellites at the David Florida Lab in Ottawa Credit: GEOCENTRIX

Small satellites are extremely cost-effective to develop, due to the shrinking size and increasing capabilities of the electronic components which are used. The satellites are smaller than the average shoe-box, but can be extremely capable. Previous satellites of this size have included science instruments to detect emissions from seismic activity during earthquakes, Earth-observation cameras, and receivers to detect ship-borne Automatic Identification System beacons. The reductions in size and mass also enable the satellites to get a low-cost launch by “piggybacking” on rockets launching larger satellites.

Despite their small size, the satellites have significant capability and research potential. The objectives of the missions was diverse, from measuring ocean turbidity, the extent of Arctic sea ice, or greenhouse gasses, to observing whether certain small organisms can survive in the space environment.

Along with the announcement of the CSDC winners, the evening was devoted to recognizing the 50th anniversary of the launch of Alouette 1 – Canada’s first satellite. Twenty-five members of the Alouette 1 team were on hand to celebrtate the achievement. Videotape messages from Governor General of Canada David Lloyd Johnston and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Steve MacLean were played. Former CSA President Mac Evans addressed the attendees.

Twenty-five Alouette Pioneers who helped to make the Alouette 1 mission a success. Credit: SPACEREF

Click for more information on the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

About Randy Attwood

Amateur astronomer, astrophotographer, space exploration historian. Executive Director, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada / Publisher - SkyNews magazine.

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