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The CAN-SBX 2020-2021 Challenge: PolyOrbite’s experiments will take to the skies in a stratospheric balloon

January 6, 2021 - Source : NEWS

Two experiments developed by PolyOrbite, a technical group at Polytechnique Montréal, will be performed this summer using a Canadian Space Agency balloon that can reach 30 kilometres altitude.

L’été prochain, les membres de la société technique PolyOrbite (à gauche) verront leurs dispositifs prendre leur envol sous un ballon stratosphérique de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (à droite). (Photos : PolyOrbite; Agence spatiale canadienne)

This upcoming summer, members of the PolyOrbite technical society (left) will see their devices take flight under a Canadian Space Agency stratospheric balloon (right). (Photos: PolyOrbite; Canadian Space Agency)

The PolyOrbite technical society, which fosters knowledge expansion about space technologies, is one of the finalists of the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiments Design Challenge (CAN-SBX) 2020-2021, an initiative of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-Canada). The competition is open to students in Canadian post-secondary institutions, and seeks to design and test an experimental, small-sized scientific project, made to fly at high altitudes, under a Canadian Space Agency balloon. The SEDS organization announced the finalists, who were selected in December in 2020.

The PolyOrbite payload will consist of devices to be used for two experiments. The first experiment will consist of testing an optical sensor which will be used to detect atmospheric gases. Developed at Polytechnique by Professor Yves-Alain Peter (Department of Engineering Physics), this so-called “optical nose” will be used to precisely determine atmospheric composition – namely the content of carbon dioxide (CO2), oxygen (O2), ethylene (C2H4) and water (H2O), at various altitudes. The experiment will also be used to determine such a sensor’s potential use in the space domain; testing it under extreme conditions – like those present in the stratosphere – will help researchers identify the sensor’s strengths and weaknesses.

The second experiment comprises the validation of the autonomous plant incubator concept – dedicated to the germination of the Arabidopsis Thaliana plant, commonly called “mouse ear cress” or “thahl cress.” Designed by PolyOrbite’s SpaceBean division, the incubator will ultimately be used aboard a 3U CubeSat nanosatellite that the latter tech company intends to launch into space soon.

Les écussons de la troisième édition du Défi CAN-SBX et de la société technique PolyOrbite. (Images : Étudiants pour l’exploration et le développement spatial; PolyOrbite)

Crests from the third edition of the CAN-SBX Challenge and the PolyOrbite Technical Society. (Images: Students for Exploration and Development of Space; PolyOrbite)

Ioana Bruj, Director of the CubeSat Department at PolyOrbite, notes that: “Being accepted into the CAN-SBX competition is a wonderful opportunity to develop our technical knowledge, and is a major step forward in terms of the CubeSat department. Payload development for a stratospheric balloon will enable our various teams to design, manufacture, and test modules similar to those that will be on the nanosatellite. Thanks to our partnership with Polytechnique’s Microphontonics Lab, we will be able to integrate the optical nose (currently in development under the direction of Professor Peter) into our payload, which will permit us not only to learn more, but also to be able to contribute to the development of cutting-edge technology.”

“We’re very happy with the progress that was made during the Autumn 2020 semester, and our success is entirely due to the perseverance and passion of our team members,” adds Bruj, a student herself. “New members, combined with the expertise of our alumni, truly represent our strengths, and we’re always ready to welcome anyone who wishes to leave their mark with PolyOrbite!”

In addition to the design, manufacture, and testing of the devices that constitute the payload, PolyOrbite members will also participate in the launch, the flight, and the recovery operations for the stratospheric balloon, used to perform student experiments.

Alongside space engineering teams from Queen’s University, other CAN-SBX 2020-2021 finalists will take part in balloon launch activities this upcoming July with NEUDOSE-HAB (McMaster University), Western U Balloon Team (Western University), and the Institute for Earth and Space Exploration. The latter group were finalists in the 2019-2020 SEDS Challenge, but who were unable to participate in the competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congratulations to the team at PolyOrbite!

Learn More

PolyOrbite Facebook page 
Canadian Space Agency website
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space website
Professor Yves-Alain Peter expertise
Microphotonic Lab website

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