Artemis 1 Mission

First Canadian CubeSat Project satellites ready

While three CubeSat's are shown here only two will go to space. The CubeSat on the left is the LORIS satellite from Dalhousie University. The middle one is is ORCASAT from the University of Victoria. The CubeSat on the right is the University of Victoria's engineering model. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The first university built CubeSat’s for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Canadian CubeSat Project (CCP) have made their way to the CSA headquarters for their final preparation ahead of a late summer or early fall launch to the International Space Station.

The two CubeSat’s are from Dalhousie University and the University of Victoria. They are the first of up to 15 CubeSat’s from across the country to be ready for launch as part of the CCP.

Inserting the LORIS CubeSat into the Nanoracks CubeSat container. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.
Inserting the LORIS CubeSat into the Nanoracks CubeSat container. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

While it had been hoped that all the CubeSat’s would have launched by now, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with the teams ability to work on their project. SpaceQ has been informed that while teams have done a tremendous job in getting their CubeSat’s ready, a couple of teams might not meet the qualification standards for launch.

Dalhousie University’s LORIS (Low Orbit Reconnaissance Imagery Satellite) CubeSat

Dalhousie University’s LORIS (Low Orbit Reconnaissance Imagery Satellite) CubeSat mission patch.
LORIS CubeSat mission patch. Credit: Dalhousie University.

The LORIS CubeSat “will be demonstrating new technology and capture images of the coastal region of Nova Scotia using near-infrared and visible range cameras.”

The Dalhousie University team has several objectives for their project.

Primary:

  1. Educating students in space systems engineering and satellite design.
  2. Technological demonstration of various satellite subsystems.
  3. Establish and grow a radio amateur club at Dalhousie University that will be responsible for ground station operation as well.
  4. Broadcasting the satellite telemetry on a fixed interval providing an opportunity for amateur operators to interact with the satellite worldwide.

Secondary:

  1. Successfully operate the payload and return images of NS to the ground station.
  2. Provide the opportunity for amateur radio operators to make radio contact with the satellite.
  3. Use the ground station at Dalhousie University to engage and introduce students to an amateur radio club.
  4. To collaborate with Halifax ARC (VE1MR) to train and certify radio operators annually.
  5. Provide direct ground station access to Halifax ARC members to interact with the satellite.
Dalhousie University’s LORIS
LORIS CubeSat for the Canadian CubeSat Project. Credit: Dalhousie University.

University of Victoria ORCASat (Optical and Radio Calibration of Atmospheric Attenuation CubeSat CubeSat)

The Optical and Radio Calibration of Atmospheric Attenuation CubeSat (ORCASat) “will be using a small laser to send a reference signal to a ground telescope allowing measurement of the atmosphere effect on light for astronomers.”

Why build the ORCASat CubeSat?

“The uncertainty on the total amount of absorption and scattering of light (as a function of wavelength) from both instrumental and atmospheric effects, along all the light paths from the top of the Earth’s atmosphere down to the image focal plane within the camera of a telescope, accounts for the largest sources of systematic uncertainties in measurements of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. A reference light source in orbit will allow the precise measurement of this interference and thus allow astronomers to make highly precise measurements of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe and the effects of dark energy.”

Illustration of ORCASat in orbit. Credit:University of Victoria.
Illustration of ORCASat in orbit. Credit:University of Victoria.

How will ORCASat work?

“Once in orbit, ORCASat will flash a laser light source while traveling across the sky above the observatory. While the light source is on, on-board sensors will measure and record the actual output of the light source. At the same time, an observatory on the ground will take its own reading. As the light travels through the atmosphere and into the telescope, some light will be lost due to absorption and scattering and as a result, the measurement recorded by the observatory will be different than the actual value emitted.”

ORCASat goes through vibration testing at the Antenna Test Lab Co. of Raleigh, NC. Credit: University of Victoria.
ORCASat goes through vibration testing at the Antenna Test Lab Co. of Raleigh, NC for the Canadian CubeSat Project. Credit: University of Victoria.

Launch date TBD

The CSA contracted with Nanoracks of Webster, Texas to facilitate the launch of the CubeSat’s. Nanoracks provides a cost-effective solution that places the CubeSat’s on a NASA International Space Station (ISS) Cargo Resupply Mission (CRS). The process is quite elegant:

  1. Satellite handover to Nanoracks for a soft ride to the ISS.
  2. ISS crew transfer, unpack, inspect and stow satellites.
  3. Satellites installed on Bishop, Kaber or CubeSat Deployer.
  4. Satellites power-on checks and Airlock depressurization.
  5. Robotic arm positions for orbit and satellites are deployed.

There are three CRS launch opportunities upcoming. They are the SpaceX CRS-25th mission which had been delayed and is now scheduled to launch no earlier than July 14. The Canadian CubeSat’s won’t be on that mission as it’s already been fully manifested.

That leaves a September launch window on the Northrop Grumman NG-18 CRS mission or the SpaceX CRS-26 mission in October. The CSA won’t say which mission the CubeSat’s are on yet.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

Leave a Reply