New Brunswick

N.B. university, college students collaborate to launch cube satellite into space

A collaboration between three post-secondary schools across New Brunswick will help launch the province's first satellite into space.

GPS-focused project will be launched in 2021

New Brunswick university and college students have been working on the Canadian Space Agency’s Canadian CubeSat Project. (UNB/Submitted)

A collaboration between three post-secondary schools across New Brunswick will help launch the province's first satellite into space. 

The Cube Satellite project is supposed to provide new insights on the Earth's ionosphere, which is part of the upper atmosphere. The satellite is part of the Canadian Space Agency's Canadian CubeSat Project. 

The team, called CubeSat NB, is a collaboration between the University of New Brunswick, University of Moncton and New Brunswick Community College. It's one of 15 teams across Canada that are working on the project that they hope to launch by 2021.

Dr. Brent Petersen, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UNB, described the cube satellite as an electronic device the size of a loaf of a bread. 

"It's for a particular purpose or mission," he said. "Ours is to make a GPS better and to take pictures of New Brunswick." 

Petersen said they will look at ways to try and improve GPS systems so they don't stop working. 

"The other part of the cube satellite is to take pictures of agriculture and forestry or the environment," he said. "It's a huge emerging industry." 

Unique partnership

The professor described the partnership between the three institutions as amazing. 

"I've been in New Brunswick 25 years and I don't know if the organizations have partnered like this," he said. "And it's a fantastic opportunity for students and the training they'll receive." 

Petersen said each institution will be tasked with designing and building a different component of the cube satellite. 

Students from the University of New Brunswick (pictured), University of Moncton and New Brunswick Community Colleges will collaborate on a three-year cube satellite project. (Submitted by UNB)

UNB will be responsible for designing the hardware, University of Moncton will be designing the software and NBCC will be fabricating and testing. 

"All the institutions can do all of those, but in this particular project we're dividing it up in that manner because of the expertise," he said.

Petersen told Shift New Brunswick there is a diverse number of topics and so much to learn to make a project like this work. 

"The students get exposed to all those aspects — the electronics, the software, the embedded systems," he said.

'Shake and bake'

Petersen said over the next three years they will design, build and fabricate the cube satellite. 

"We will hold it in our hands and then we have to say goodbye to it," he said. "The students will ship it off to the Canadian Space Agency, who will test it." 

Petersen said it will go through process he described as a "shake and bake." 

Pictured is NBCC Saint John. The project was initiated by a call from a NBCC Saint John student. (Google Street View)

"They put the satellites on vibration tables and they put the heat lamps on them and put them in vacuum chambers and if it passes all the tests, they all get sent to a launch facility, some rocket base somewhere which will send it up to the space station and then when they're in the space station, they can launch them," he said.

Petersen said it's been a great pleasure to work on the project that was a initiated by a phone call from a NBCC student in Saint John. 

"I thought it was great that a young student with a vision to do this and the energy noticed this and persuaded the institutions to get on board," he said.

Petersen said there will be many short-term and long-term benefits from the project for all the institutions and the students participating.

With files from Shift New Brunswick