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An out of this world opportunity: Western students to launch mini satellite aboard SpaceX mission

Constructed by a team at London, Ont.’s Western University, a tiny satellite — roughly the size of a Rubik’s cube — will ride aboard a SpaceX mission bound for the International Space Station.

According to Western University, the first ever miniature satellite built by a team at Western, also known as CubeSat, is set for liftoff from Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch will provide students the opportunity to learn first-hand about space mission development.

The launch was initially slated for June 3 at 12:34 p.m. but was scrubbed, and is now rescheduled for June 5 at 11:47 a.m.

A ‘CubeSat’ is a cubical mini satellite measuring 10 cm X 10 cm X 10 cm and weighing 1 kg. It can be used alone or in groups, for a maximum of 24 units.

Referred to as “great equalizers” in terms of space exploration and Earth observation, CubeSats are small, modular and relatively inexpensive and easy to launch, according to Western.

Focusing on “delivering equitable opportunities to post-secondary students across the country,” the Canadian CubeSat Project (CCP) was launched by the Canadian Space Agency in 2017.

Ukpik-1, built by a team at London, Ont.'s Western University, being prepared for launch ahead of its June 2023 launch to the International Space Station. (Source: Western University)

Led by engineering professor Jayshri Sabarinathan, a team at Western has worked with the Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) since 2018 to develop a CubSat called Ukpik-1 — and it’s this mini satellite that has a one-way ticket to the International Space Station (ISS).

With Monday’s tentative launch date, Ukpik-1 will hitch a ride aboard SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship CRS-28. Upon arrival at the ISS, the mini satellite will be ejected through an airlock to begin its mission.

“Ukpik-1’s primary goal, which echoes the promise of CCP, is giving students at Western and NAC an out-of-this-world educational opportunity to learn about a space mission development from end to end (conception to operations) while working closely with academic, government and industry partners,” according to Western.  

The secondary goal of the mission is to allow students at Western and NAC and faculty the chance to operate an immersive virtual reality camera while in orbit in order to collect various images and data. Top Stories

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