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This article was published 4/5/2018 (1108 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of University of Manitoba students found out Friday their work someday will boldly go where few have gone before.
The U of M team is one of 15 groups of post-secondary students the Canadian Space Agency announced will receive funding to participate in the CubeSat project. A news release says grants range from $200,000 to $250,000.
CubeSat is a new national student space initiative in which teams of students from across Canada will design, build and operate their own mini-satellite (CubeSat) that will be launched into space. There’s at least one representative from each province and territory.
Canadian astronaut Jenni Sidey was the guest host of Friday’s announcement. Sidey, who has a PhD and was an assistant professor at the University of Cambridge in England, said she was impressed by the winners selected by the CSA.
Sidey later told reporters she read through all of the proposals — and each one takes a different approach.
"We have things that are measuring kind of unique agriculture initiatives in Canada. We have one that’s looking at novel quantum physics applications. We have climate change measurement. We even some cultural projects — which we’re really excited about launching," Sidey said.
Two masters students from the U of M science department will be led by Philip Ferguson, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Winnipeg school. They’ll also be collaborating with representatives from the University of Winnipeg, York University in Toronto, and the space club from École Stonewall Centennial School in the Interlake School Division.
Ferguson said collaborating with the space club — made up of Grade 8 students — was a natural fit, because he has previously worked with the teacher who runs the program, and because "children are never too young to think about a career in space."
The U of M team plans on placing mineral samples inside the satellite, studying how they age in space.
"That way, when we get them back on Earth, we have some idea of where they came from," Ferguson said, later adding the group had received lunar samples from NASA, which will also go in the pod.
They’ll study the rocks by placing them in a 10-centimetre square section of the CubeSat that will expose the minerals to the harsh vacuum of space. There are cameras inside the satellite to record the progression over time.
Ferguson said there are ground stations in Winnipeg and at York University which will receive data from the satellite as it passes over them. However, he said, those passes are for only a short period of time, meaning part of the team’s challenge will be finding ways to analyze data on the satellite itself.
Sidey told reporters the CSA also will be collecting the data from the 15 satellites.
"Data collection is really the bread and butter of science and exploration. We want to learn as much as we can, not only to improve space exploration, but also to improve life here on Earth," she said.
A CubeSat is slightly bigger than a Rubik’s Cube, and is battery-powered, but also uses solar panels. Every satellite is to be launched from the Japanese module of the International Space Station.
Ferguson said the U of M satellite will be in orbit "for a few years."
The satellites will take about two years to finish construction and testing. They’ll be launched in 2020-21.