Con U Wants to Send Your Ideas Into Orbit

Space Concordia to Launch ‘Tiny Satellite’ Into Orbit in 2012

  • Graphic Clement Liu

Unlike many calls for submissions posted around the Concordia campus—whether it be for fiction, essays or art—only one promises to launch the winning proposal into space.

No technical know-how necessary—although it helps.

Space Concordia, a student-run astronautical engineering group formed this past November, is constructing Concordia’s first-ever student-built satellite. What the satellite will do once launched into orbit—currently slated for late 2012—is still being determined.

But rather than decide its use and function on their own, Space Concordia is requesting proposals from the larger student body and Montreal’s general public.

“Since this is Concordia’s first foray into space, we know that this project is not only important to us, but to our educational and provincial communities as well,” said computer engineering student and VP Communications for Space Concordia Nick Sweet. “We feel the Concordia community should have some say in what we launch.”
Just what that entails, says mechanical engineering student and Systems Team Leader Niccolo Cymbalist, is intentionally vague so as not to hamper student creativity.

But he cautions that the more outlandish the idea—ion cannons, death stars and laser-guided pork roasts belonging to that category—the less likely it is to be selected.

“The idea should be at least generally feasible,” said Cymbalist. “Just keep in mind that the satellite is small and low powered—generating about 1 W of power.

We don’t want to limit [people] though, so if you are not sure whether it is feasible or not, we might be able to come up with a way to make it happen.”

CubeSats, which have become the satellites of choice at universities all over the world because of their relatively cheap cost, have been used for various scientific studies, including early earthquake detection, field-tests for future launches and even genetic testing on bacterial cultures.

Because the satellite could potentially have multiple functions, depending on how much hardware can be squeezed into the satellite’s tiny 1,000 cubic centimetre frame, Cymbalist and Sweet have brainstormed some of their own ideas for how it could be used.

“One of the mounting problems with spaceflight is Space Junk,” said Sweet. 

“We have dead satellites and other debris orbiting our planet, crashing into each other and
creating hazards for new launches.

“We need legislation to prevent and handle these wrecks, but we also need to have the technology up there to clean up the debris.

I’d love to outfit our satellite with a tracking system and a small propulsion system and to find and push the debris off-course, making it burn up in the atmosphere.

“Not only are the environmental benefits huge—I’d rather explore space, not fill it with junk—but this would also make space safer, given the rise of private space flight and the mounting traffic out there.”

Which ideas ultimately end up getting used will be determined on one crucial factor above all others, said Cymbalist: “How excited would I be to do this project?”

The deadline for submissions is Feb. 18. Visit spaceconcordia.ca/payload to submit your proposal.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 20, published January 25, 2011.

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