img_5563Last week was a busy one for the teams participating in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge. Representatives from the eight University teams – as well as two students from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – were in Vancouver for a radiation testing workshop, professional visits, and their Critical Design Reviews.

The week started on Monday morning with a tour of TRIUMF, the nuclear science facility located at the University of British Columbia, and the world’s largest cyclotron. The teams had a tour of the facility in preparation for the space radiation environment testing that they would be doing there the next day.

In the afternoon, the students visited MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) in Richmond, and were treated to a series of presentations about MDA’s diverse experience in space missions, space robotics, and Earth Observation ground stations. They were also given a tour of the Sapphire mission control room (Sapphire is a Canadian Department of National Defence satellite that tracks man-made space objects in Earth’s orbit between 6,000 and 40,000 km in altitude), and an Earth Observation Direct Access Facility (satellite ground receiving station) operations room. Many thanks to MDA’s Corporate Communications Manager Wendy Keyzer for arranging the visit and presentations. The CSDCMS also would like to thank MDA for their recent generous financial contribution to the CSDC. MDA has been a strong supporter since the inception of the CSDC.

On Tuesday the teams spent the day at TRIUMF, simulating the radiation exposure that electronics receive in space during their missions, in some cases up to 7 years in duration. Several teams were able to test more than one component (including a Nokia cell phone camera), and the results were, in some cases, surprising: while some components survived their exposure with minimal effects, others failed after a simulated time of less than a month (e.g., a Raspberry Pi processor board). We are extremely grateful to Drs. Reiner Kruecken, Michael Trinczek, and Ewart Blackmore for their outstanding support for the workshop.

On Wednesday, the Critical Design Reviews began. Each team had 2½ hours to present their mission and spacecraft design at the Urthecast office in front of a panel consisting of Andrew Woronko and Maarten Meerman from MDA, and Liliana Barrios and Larry Reeves from Urthecast. The panel members were impressed by the innovative mission ideas that were proposed, the amount of work that the teams have done to this point, and how professionally they gave their presentations.

In many cases, the proposed missions incorporated experiments based on research conducted at their universities, including: a camera to detect “airglow”, a reddish light in the atmosphere which may be a precursor to earthquakes; testing the effects of microgravity and the cold vacuum of space on biological samples; tiny propulsion systems to help satellites maintain their orbits during their missions, and to help them de-orbit following the conclusion of their missions.

During their time here, some of the students also took some time to visit the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, with tours being offered by Programme Director Michael Unger.