In January 2014, a group of students launched University of Alberta's first crowdfunding campaign, and then three years later, Alberta's first Satellite.
Ex-Alta 1, a small cube satellite designed by U of A students, successfully launched aboard an Atlas V rocket in Cape Canaveral on April 18th.
Four days later, Ex-Alta 1 boarded the International Space Station.
Space physics professor at the University of Alberta, Ian Mann, shared his thoughts on the successful launch:
"The excitement is absolutely palpable. This is an absolutely fantastic achievement for our students, for the University of Alberta. This is the beginning of new opportunities to go even further beyond what we've done."
The team is excited and, of course, relieved that their multi-year effort has culminated in such a successful launch.
Part of a 50-satellite network
What's even more impressive is that this is not just a one-off satellite. In fact, this project is part of a network of 50 CubeSats (Cube Satellites), built and launched by University Teams around the world.
CubeSats are relatively low-cost vehicles, but they can perform first-class science. Therefore, these 50 CubeSats will do some serious investigation into the largely unexplored lower thermosphere, researching how space's weather impacts the earth's atmosphere.
On a macro level, the Ex-Alta 1 is going to help us learn so much more about how space affects the world we live in. But let's not forget how this project has changed the course of the lives of many students at U of A, as they had the unique opportunity to apply what they learned in their classrooms to real-world engineering problems.
The Ex-Alta 1 team's administrative lead and second-year mechanical engineering student, Casia McLeod, had this to share:
"[Projects like Ex-Alta 1] help bring interest to my courses. It makes me want to learn more in my classes so that I can help my team more."
USEED was founded on the principle that project-based learning is the best way to prepare for real-world challenges. Our founders also knew that project-based learning almost always requires funding - something of which students are often in short supply. It warms each of us to know that the students and education leaders are utilizing our technology and training to make incredible advances in our world through the art of experiential learning.
More CubeSats to come
So what's next for this team of trailblazers at U of A? Ex-Alta 2, of course!
Ex-Alta 2 will be another CubeSat, but this one will monitor Alberta's ground conditions to alert the team (and in turn, the rest of the community) when there is a high likelihood of forest fires.
We are so proud of this student group's hard work and dedication as they designed, built, and launched their first CubeSat, and we are thrilled to hear there is another planned for the near future. We are confident that even more students will get hands-on, real-world experience with the upcoming Ex-Alta project, which means we all get to look forward to an even brighter, more advanced future with richer knowledge of our planet!