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PolyOrbite enters Canadian Satellite Design Challenge

July 30, 2013  - Source : NEWS

The second annual Canadian Satellite Design Challenge national competition finals take place in May 2014. Teams from various Canadian universities will design, build, test and launch a nanosatellite into space.

PolyOrbite, a Polytechnique-accredited technical society, was created in 2012. Today, it is made up mainly of Polytechnique Montréal students. The society's members created PolyOrbite in order to broaden their knowledge of space technologies. The engineering specialties represented in the group include computer and software engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering and engineering physics. Some 30 students are taking part in the competition project.

In total, 10 universities are entered in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, a competition that stretches over two years. Participants must design and build a nanosatellite, meaning a satellite weighing between 1 and 10 kg. Specifically, the technical society must design and build a CubeSat-type satellite (a free-access design standard) weighing a maximum of 4 kg and measuring 30 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. Polytechnique and Concordia University, winner of the first competition, are the only Québec competitors. The universities themselves choose their satellites' mission.

The PolyOrbite project will take place in two parts. The nanosatellite's main mission will be carried out in collaboration with a team of students from University of Bologna, Italy. The latter team is affiliated with Polytechnique Montréal for the purpose of developing and implementing an experimental de-orbiting system. The project's goal: to shorten the lifespan of a satellite in the context of increasing space debris. After one or two years in orbit, a 50-cm-x-50-cm sail will be deployed. The increased surface contact will boost the atmospheric drag, which could shift the satellite's orbit. The system aims to reduce the time the satellite spends in low orbit (700-km altitude) to 25 years from 75. The technique is low-cost and, if it proves to be conclusive, could become a model for orbiting spacecraft.

The second part of the satellite's mission will be to photograph a 1,000-square-km area in Canada's Baffin Island in order to support the research being done at Université de Montréal's Geocryolab (Laboratoire de géomorphologie et géotechnique des régions froides), which studies geomorphology and geotechnics in cold regions.

In September, the members of PolyOrbite will present their satellite design at MDA Montréal in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, to earn the right to move to the assembly phase. In May 2014, the final step takes place: the finalist nanosatellites will be subjected to three tests in Ottawa: a three-axis vibration test, an extreme temperature circuit test and a diagnostics test. The jury, made up of space sector representatives including employees of the Canadian Space Agency, will also look for originality in design. The teams are expected to give presentations throughout the two preparatory years in order to promote science and aerospace to various audiences.  

The winning team's space launch will be financed so that it can carry out its mission. The nanosatellite will be added to a rocket to be used for a commercial satellite launch. The rocket will eject the nanosatellite once it reaches the desired altitude.

The project is being carried out under the supervision of Giovanni Beltrame, adjunct professor in the Department of Computer Engineering at Polytechnique. Professor Beltrame is an expert in the design, simulation and testing of onboard systems for space applications.

PolyOrbite is still recruiting members. For more information or to join the team, click here.

See also:
PolyOrbite website
Professor Beltrame's expertise
Canadian Satellite Design Challenge website

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