On Tuesday morning, the first made-in-Alberta satellite will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. AlbertaSat is one of the first Canadian university teams to put a cube satellite into space.
“The launch of AlbertaSat will represent the first-ever made-in-Alberta satellite, the first time a spacecraft has been built in the province of Alberta by anybody,” University of Alberta physics professor Ian Mann said.
“We are going to be one of the first Canadian university student teams to put a cube satellite into space,” team member Charles Nokes added.
There are more than 50 undergraduates, graduates and faculty members on the team. They spent seven years working on the Ex-Alta 1 satellite project.
The satellite itself is roughly the size of a loaf of bread.
“The primary purpose of the satellite is to study the effects of interactions between the energy of the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field and the region surrounding the Earth at around 400 kilometres in altitude and lower,” Nokes explained.
“Say an event such as a solar storm or a coronal mass ejection — a very large one — came and interacted with the Earth,” Nokes said. “With today’s infrastructure and today’s dependence on electronics and the electrical grid, what would be the impact?
“They found the impact in the United States would be in the order of $1-2 trillion, and up to 10 years to recover from.”
The project could provide insight on ways to better design equipment on the ground to avoid the massive impact of a big solar event.
It will be launched at 11:11 a.m. EDT on April 18 on an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cube satellite will stop briefly at the International Space Station before making its final trip into low Earth orbit to begin monitoring space weather.
The launch will be streamed on NASA Live.
Ex-Alta 1 was funded through support from more than 600 crowd-funded donors and the Canadian Space Agency (as well as the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development).
It is part of the international QB50 project, which involves cube satellites designed and built at universities around the world, representing 15 countries from five continents. The cube satellites carry complementary science payloads that will study space weather and the lower thermosphere for a period of nine to 18 months.