Liftoff: University of Alberta satellite rockets into orbit
The Ex-Alta 1 will orbit Earth for signs of space weather
With an explosion of rocket fuel and plume of smoke, a tiny satellite made by a group of Edmonton students has begun its journey, while propelling Alberta into the space industry.
The Ex-Alta 1 — the first-ever made-in-Alberta satellite — launched from NASA's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The satellite, no larger than a bread box, will soon orbit Earth at an altitude of 400 kilometres.
'The excitement is really high'
"The excitement is really high," said Charles Nokes, a University of Alberta masters student in space physics who has been working on the satellite since he was an undergraduate in 2013.
"It's going to be quite the event."
Designed by a team of students and faculty members at the U of A over the past four years, the spacecraft will record space weather data.
Starting 10 minutes prior to liftoff, watch the world’s first-ever live-streamed 360° launch: <a href="https://t.co/EOjsrRp0zp">https://t.co/EOjsrRp0zp</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/ulalaunch">@ulalaunch</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/OrbitalATK">@OrbitalATK</a> <a href="https://t.co/bbAg1uXeWP">pic.twitter.com/bbAg1uXeWP</a>—@NASAKennedy
Measurements will be transmitted to the rooftop ground station located at the U of A which is operated by the AlbertaSat team and shared with other research hubs around the globe.
"On the ground, we have weather stations all over the place. We can track hurricanes with really, really high precision and really get an understanding of what the effect is," Nokes said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM, an hour before liftoff.
The Ex-Alta 1 is among dozens of other little satellites from other teams that are part of the QB50 research mission. Fifty cube satellites built by university students from 28 countries were deployed Tuesday.
It's part of what makes these small spacecraft so effective, said Nokes.
Typically, satellites are heavy, expensive and unable to operate in low orbit. Cube satellites, however, are lightweight, inexpensive to build, and can be launched in "swarms."
The satellite will remain in orbit for up to two years, but it will eventually perish in the harsh conditions.
"That's what's really unique and awesome about this new form of spacecraft, these cube satellites, they're very small and a lot cheaper and a lot faster to build and launch into space," said Nokes.
LIVE NOW: Watch coverage leading up to today’s 11:11am ET cargo launch to <a href="https://twitter.com/Space_Station">@Space_Station</a>: <a href="https://t.co/xb3hu5q83w">https://t.co/xb3hu5q83w</a> <a href="https://t.co/2oOXpppUvI">pic.twitter.com/2oOXpppUvI</a>—@NASAKennedy