Over Seven Years the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge has Engaged Hundreds of Students

Students from Simon Fraser University at TRIUMF in Vancouver for the radiation testing workshop. Credit: CSDC.

If I told you that over the course of the last seven years upwards of a thousand Canadian students had participated in developing CubeSat missions you might think this was a the result of a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) initiative. You would be wrong though. There was a time the CSA was interested in this, early this decade and before, but poor leadership in government, and to some extent at the CSA, meant the ball was dropped in this area.

In this weeks podcast my guest is Larry Reeves, the founder of the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). At the recent Canadian Space Society Space Summit I ran into Larry and asked him if he would like to be a guest on the show to talk about this program and provide an update on the current competition.

The CSDC is a Canada-wide competition for teams of university students, undergraduate and graduate, to design and build a small satellite. To be clear, this is a competition where the students create their own team at their respective university. It is not a university led program. They do get some guidance from professors at their institutions. Students must also raise funds to build their satellites. Reeves figures upwards of a 1000 students have participated in the competition which is quite an achievement.

The CSDC is in its 4th competition having completed 3 previous competitions since its inception in 2011. Larry and a core group of volunteers manage the CSDC in their spare time with some support from industry and the CSA.

CSA support is not in funds, but in-kind, with the use of the David Florida Lab to test the teams satellites. And Reeves is happy with that support.

The CSDC could use more support though as they’ve been short on funds to get the winning university teams satellite into space. This is ironic as the CSA has just initiated their own Canadian CubeSat Project where teams will get a ride into space. I still don’t understand why the CSA won’t find a mechanism to send the CSDC winning teams satellite into space. It makes no sense. The contribution the CSDC has made is substantial and ongoing.

Larry’s day job is that of an engineer at the Earth Observation company UrtheCast.

Updated: 5:45 p.m. EST.

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About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.