Home Satellite Launches, Moon Landings and Station in Lunar Orbit: Exciting Times Loom in the 21st Century Space Race – Dal News
Satellites that weigh less than a sack of potatoes. Low cost reusable rockets. A new generation of on-board computers in space. The planned return of humans to the moon.
Put it all together and you have a new space race — one in which Canadian researchers and companies are poised to play an important role.
“You can go online now and buy components to build your own CubeSat (miniature satellite),” says engineer Tony Pellerin of the Canadian Space Agency’s Space Science and Technology Branch. “You drag and drop them into a shopping cart, pay with your credit card, and they ship it to your house. So you can build your own spaceship. Accessibility is there, which it was not 10 years ago.
Pellerin and his fellow engineer Arad Gharagozli (MASc’22) will be panelists at the next Dalhousie Open Dialogue Live event, The space race of the 21st century. The panel takes place online and in person as part of Graduate days May 26 at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to all members of the Dal community as well as the general public.
There are currently some 5,000 satellites in orbit, but according to UCS Satellite Database this number could reach 100,000 by the end of the decade. The explosion of the satellite, says Astronomy.comis driven by a constellation of factors, including smaller spacecraft that can be launched inexpensively into low orbits.
Dalhousie will launch the CubeSat satellite later this year
CubeSats are the smallest of these satellites, weighing around 3 to 5 kg, says Pellerin. (Compare that to the once standard 500kg satellites.) He is currently working with universities across the country, including Dalhousie, on 15 CubeSat projects launching later this year. They are designed for a range of applications, including monitoring potato growth in Prince Edward Island and using lasers to calibrate ground-based telescopes. The Dalhousie team’s contribution is LORIS — a satellite that will extract more information from images by overlaying infrared and visible data.
LORIS comes from the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab, founded in 2017 by space entrepreneur Gharagozli who founded the Halifax-based firm GALAXIA. “Aerospace is a very conservative industry in its nature,” he says, “but you can see a new trend of companies emerging, and all they want to do is take risks.”
GALAXIA, says Gharagozli, “builds satellites that can process information in space and are also able to ask other people to create applications for use in space.” Advances in technology and lower cost missions have made the small on-board computers that GALAXIA builds feasible.
A changing playing field
In the past, says Gharagozli, “If you were building a computer for a satellite, it would have been for a $2 billion mission, for example. Now you’re looking at a mission that would cost between $200,000 and $400,000, which is really a game-changer.”
Pellerin agrees, saying advances in science and technology have “opened the door to many newcomers.” Combine that with the excitement generated by the Artemis programwhich will see the return of humans to the moon, and the planned Lunar Gateway orbital station, and you have a lot of “excitement in the [space] community.”
Dalhousie’s Open Dialogue Live series brings the community together for thought-provoking conversation and supports Dal’s vital role in sparking dialogue around important issues. All Open Dialogue Live conversations are free, but registration is required for live and in-person participants.
Register to attend: The space race of the 21st century
The conference will take place on May 26 in the McInnes Room of the Dalhousie Student Union Building, 6136 University Ave. The live stream will be available via Dalhousie Alumni and Friends Facebook Live and Dalhousie YouTube.
- Tony Pellerin has worked at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) since 1994. An electrical engineer with degrees from the University of Ottawa and Polytechnique Montréal, Pellerin is the manager of the mechanical and thermal engineering group of the Space Science and Technology Directorate of the CSA, responsible for supporting CSA space missions, including Canadarm3 and Gateway, which will provide support for future manned missions to the Moon.
- Arad Gharagozli (MASc’22) is an electronic engineering technologist and electrical engineer. In 2017, he founded the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab (DSS), which aims to develop electrical and mechanical systems for space applications. The DSS team included over 200 students working on the CSA-funded LORIS project – the first satellite designed and built in Nova Scotia. In 2020, Arad launched GALAXIA, a space hardware and software company providing shared access to a series of smart Earth observation satellites on a pay-as-you-go basis using the MÖBIUS Constellation platform of the society.