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Western University mini satellite launched into space Monday

A satellite built by London, Ont.'s Western University has been successfully launched into space.

The micro CubeSat was on board a SpaceX Falcon rocket which left the pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly before noon on Monday.

The rocket will link with the International Space Station (ISS).

If the CubeSat survived the launch intact, it will be jettisoned into lower Earth orbit from the ISS within 30 days.

It is the first mini satellite built by 80 students under the leadership of their faculty at Western Space.

Six members of the team were in Florida for the launch. One team member, Hira Nadeem, shared her excitement with CTV News London in an online interview.

A team of Western University students who helped built a micro satellite are seen after its launch aboard at Space-X rocket at Florida's Kennedy Space Center in this capture from an online interview. (CTV London)

“So overcome with emotion. ‘There it goes!’ I said. I started crying. It was incredible,” she said.

Another team member, Kasia Wisniewski shared, “Just to see the thing that we worked on for so long and so hard go to space. I still couldn’t believe it was happening.”

The CubeSat’s primary purpose is education, said Sarah Gallagher. She is the director of the Institute for Earth & Space at Western.

“That was part of the vision of the program to get lots of hands in to experience a space mission,” she said from her faculty office in London.

Gallagher said the small stature of the CubeSat — which is as big as a Rubik's cube — meets multiple mission objectives, including size and weight restrictions.

Western University students Wen Bo, Alexis Pascal and Stephen Amey prepare Ukpik-1 for integration with Western engineering professor and principal investigator Jayshri Sabarinathan. (Source: Western University)

“And when you have a small satellite, they’re literally about this big, then you know it takes a lot less time to go from start to finish,” she said.

Western has been awarded the opportunity to build a second CubeSat. It will assist in determining bird migration patterns.

The first satellite will be used to send back data and images for the students to research. It will feature new 360-degree cameras.

“We’ll see what these brand new hemispherical cameras can do from space. They’ve never been in space before and to just see how they behave and what they can do for us,” stated Steffen Shaigec, the team’s science lead.

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)Construction of the CubeSat took several years.

Gallagher said the biggest challenge was ensuring it would survive the voyage into space.

“You have to build things that are small, light, robust. I mean you can’t fix them once they’re in space,” Gallagher said.

Monday’s launch had been scheduled for Saturday but was scrubbed twice.

The students’ lead faculty member, Professor Jayshri Sabarinathan, was with them but had to fly back to London just before Monday’s launch. 

Sarah Gallagher is the director of the Institute for Earth & Space at London, Ont.'s Western University. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) Top Stories

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