The satellite Ex-Alta 2, a miniature satellite about the size of a loaf of bread and weighing about two kilograms, launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre aboard the Falcon 9 SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft on 14 March.
“The moment it launched there was a pin-drop silence,” Thomas Ganley, lead manager on the AlbertaSat’s project, told CBC’s Edmonton AM. The atmosphere was celebratory and he and his teammates were there to watch the countless years of their hard work blast off into space as part of a resupply mission to the International Space Station.
“Everyone was in awe and just jaw dropped looking at the amazing marvel happening in front of us.” The satellite, known as a cubesat, is a small, light and affordable device that will burn upon re-entry, meaning it doesn’t leave behind space debris. Each mission could take up to a year to complete.
AlbertaSat builds cubesats composed of three units. Ex-Alta 2 includes a multispectral camera, called an Iris, to take the images they need. “We’re going to be studying active wildfires post-burn, the effect on vegetation to hopefully enable wildfire scientists to make some conclusions that will help us mitigate wildfires in the future,” Ganley said.
“It’s quite impressive the amount of technology that you can pack into there and the really valuable science that you can still do with such a small size,” he said. Both satellites are part of the Canadian Space Agency’s Canadian CubeSat Project and the Northern Space Program for Innovative Research and Integrated Training (Northern SPIRIT), which aim to give students the opportunity to experience a real space mission.
Photo: A rendering of Ex-Alta 2 orbiting the Earth. (Nick Sorensen/AlbertaSat, background Samantha Cristoforetti/NASA)