University of Victoria wins latest satellite design challenge

MONTREAL — Justin Curran still remembers sleeping under a blanket decorated like a rocket ship when he was a child.

MONTREAL — Justin Curran still remembers sleeping under a blanket decorated like a rocket ship when he was a child.

“It looked like the inside of a space shuttle with a joystick and all the switches and knobs,” the 28-year-old recalls as he recounts his fascination with space. Planets could be seen through windows printed on the quilt-like fabric.

While he may have dreamed of the cosmos while under that blanket, which he still owns, Curran is a little closer to one day travelling into space and living on Mars and the moon thanks to a national competition.

The University of Victoria student is the chief engineer on a team from the B.C. university which recently won the second Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

The University of Victoria group built a small shoebox-sized satellite from scratch with contributions from sponsors and about $24,000 in university funding.

Curran said a team of about 20 students worked on the final build and testing of the satellite, but they weren’t alone.

“It’s been a multi-year project so we’ve had dozens and dozens of people put their hands on the project and work on it over time,” he noted.

The latest satellite challenge involved teams of students from 10 universities across Canada.

One team from Montreal’s Ecole polytechnique partnered with students from the University of Bologna in Italy.

Satellites from six teams made it to the final stage of vibration tests which were carried out on the Canadian Space Agency’s David Florida Laboratory in Ottawa.

The tests simulate the vibrations satellites experience during a launch.

Curran says he always felt confident the University of Victoria team would win.

“We had a pretty good feeling right off the bat,” he said. “We knew the other teams had difficulties . . . but it’s one of those things where you don’t want to count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

The founder of the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge is Larry Reeves, who works at Urthecast, which developed special cameras for the International Space Station.

He says the University of Victoria’s winning satellite, which measures 34 centimetres by 10 centimetres by 10 centimetres, also contains several experiments.

“They have a number of little experiments, including an Earth observation camera, on board,” Reeves said in an interview.

The satellite has an experiment which uses a new type of material that’s a good heat conductor.

“It’s much lighter and much more efficient at conducting heat than copper pipes which are often used for radiators right now in satellites,” Reeves explained.

Another experiment involves a material that can be used to manipulate the satellite using magnetic fields.

“We found that you can actually alter the magnetic field using lasers,” Curran noted.

He said the material, a type of graphite, could eventually be used to “sail” on magnetic currents between planets and other galaxies.

Reeves says the satellite will eventually be launched into orbit to conduct scientific research and monitored from a ground station at the university.

“There are some options that I can’t mention until it actually happens,” Reeves said.

In the meantime, the team hopes to make a few improvements to the satellite. It also has to provide documentation to the launch providers.

“There’s still a lot of red tape to get through,” Curran added.

The satellite, with a projected lifespan of three to five years, could be launched by a number of countries including Russia, India or China.

Montreal’s Concordia University won the first design challenge in 2013 and its satellite was accepted into a European Space Agency program.

But the Montreal team is still waiting for date to get it launched into space.

Just Posted

A representative for the office of Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu says the new Red Deer drug treatment court is expected to be operational by the middle of 2022. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer drug treatment court expected to be up and running no later than mid-2022

The Government of Alberta expects the new Red Deer drug treatment court… Continue reading

Environment Canada says rain Tuesday evening will turn to snow. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Expect wet snow Tuesday night central Alberta

Heavy wet snow could accumlate with the potential for broken tree branches

FILE - In this Thursday, April 29, 2021 file photo, giant bucket-wheel excavators extract coal at the controversial Garzweiler surface coal mine near Jackerath, west Germany. A report by the International Energy Agency on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 says immediate action is needed to reshape the world’s energy sector in order to meet ambitious climate goals by 2050. This includes ending investments in new coal mines, oil and gas wells. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
Energy agency: End new fossil fuel supply investments

IEA report sets out 400 steps to transform how energy is produced, transported and used

A man inspects the rubble of destroyed commercial building and Gaza health care clinic following an Israeli airstrike on the upper floors of a commercial building near the Health Ministry in Gaza City, on Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Strike from Gaza kills 2 as Israel topples 6-story building

Latest attack from Gaza on Tuesday hits packaging plant

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. A review by the national spy watchdog has found inconsistencies when it comes to federal efforts to ensure information sharing with foreign agencies does not result in torture. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Spy watchdog calls for changes to ensure information-sharing does not lead to torture

Differences in federal departments stances when dealing with the same foreign agency creates concern

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

Sheffield United’s Daniel Jebbison celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Sheffield United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alex Pantling/Pool via AP
Canadian teenager Daniel Jebbison turns heads with Premier League goal

Jebbison, 17, is the youngest player in Premier League history to score on his first start in England’s top tier

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie makes a comeback this summer

Last year, summer earnings were $176 million, down 96% from 2019

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Most Read