By: Tony Davis
Alex Montgomery is a fourth year engineering student at UPEI and is one of the students working on a cube shaped optical satellite in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency. (Tony Davis)
Alex Montgomery has been working on the CubeSat project every weekday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. alongside other UPEI students.
“We actually have three hours set aside for design class for CubeSat,” he said.
CubeSat is a three-year project in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency in which multiple student teams work together to design, build and launch a miniature satellite. UPEI was one of 15 schools chosen for the project and started building the satellite in September.
The project at UPEI is a little different than others. The satellite is being worked on primarily by undergraduate students, said dean of engineering, Nicholas Krouglicof.
“We are doing it primarily with the undergraduate students through our design clinic program.”
The current prototype structure of CubeSat during manufacturing. (Submitted by Alex Montgomery)
Satellite will collect agricultural data for the Island
The satellite being built by UPEI engineering students called SpudNik-1 will be used for precision agriculture on the Island. It will be able to detect a small area to distribute pesticides, instead of just spraying a large area. It will be able to determine if crops need more water and detect changes in overall landscape.
Montgomery was born in Kensington, P.E.I. and thinks it is an ‘honourable opportunity’ to be working on a project with the CSA that will have implications at home, he said.
There are several teams working on the satellite, such as command and control, payload and structure and power and communication. Montgomery is a fourth year engineering student working on the payload and structure aspect of the project.
The payload and structure team looks at the overall structure, the aluminum frame of satellite that everything sits inside.
“Every satellite depending on its mission has a different payload,” Montgomery said.
A render from engineering design software of the current version of the satellite structure. (Submitted by Alex Montgomery)
The CubeSat at UPEI is an optical satellite with the difficult task of grabbing high resolution images from space.
“Since ours is an optical satellite, our payload is essentially a camera. So, we are designing a telescope that’s going to be up in space taking pictures of P.E.I.”
Working with CSA an ‘eyeopener’ for students
Montgomery is intimidated working with the CSA. They are qualified professionals who have already launched things into space and know what materials to use which can withstand the atmosphere, he said.
“Thankfully, they’ve been really helpful throughout the process.”
Krouglicof says working with the CSA is a real eye opener for those working on the project, he said
“It really has been a fantastic experience and the space agency is really good if you want clients, they’ve got webinars, there is a lot of training they do. They are inviting some of the students to the space agency in May for some workshops.”
Most projects engineering students work on are delivered to the client by the end of the semester, but the CubeSat is set to be launched between 2020 and 2021.
Montgomery thinks it will be interesting to see what parts he created made it to orbit, he said.
“It’ll be really interesting to see when it does launch, to kind of see the changes. It is definitely cool to have my fingerprints all over the design that goes into space.”
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