Student Satellite to Probe Near-Earth Energy Cloud

A team of Montreal university students will launch a small satellite into space as soon as next year after winning the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge. When launched, Concordia University’s CubeSat will aim to map plasma changes in a portion of the Van Allen belts, which are bands of intense radiation circling the Earth, according to the website

The prize is worth at least $300,000 in launch costs; in-kind contributions are also provided to shepherd the satellite through the final stages of development. The winning teammates are members of Space Concordia, a student-run astronautical engineering association based in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. The core team members are mainly undergraduates, advised by a handful of graduate students and Scott Gleason, assistant professor in Concordia’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Smaller than a shoebox, and at 2.84 kilograms, well below the maximum allowable competition weight of four kilograms, the students’ winning design, using a CubeSat, is still big enough for a “payload” of sophisticated scientific equipment. When the satellite is launched, it will orbit the earth 36 times per day and relay data back to a ground station that will be set up in the Montreal region.

The CubeSat’s mission is to study the South Atlantic Anomaly, a near-Earth plasma cloud over South America, comprised of high-energy particles that are known to disrupt the instrumentation of spacecraft and aircraft. Space Concordia will be monitoring and mapping space weather in this region so the properties of the anomaly can be better known and understood.

The team members are Alex Teador Ionita, Ivan Ivanov, Stefanos Dermenakis, Robert Jakubowicz, Alex Potapov, Tiago Leao, Nick Sweet, Shawn Stoute,  and Gregory Gibson. The design challenge was sponsored by space consulting company Geocentrix.

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