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‘Surreal feeling’: Nanosatellite built in Nova Scotia set to go into space – Global News

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A tiny satellite built in Nova Scotia is ready to blast off into outer space.

LORIS, which stands for low-orbit reconnaissance imagery satellite, is a nanosatellite, designed and built by students at Dalhousie University’s Space Systems Lab. It’s 20 centimetres tall by 10 centimetres wide and weighs just under two kilograms.

Project lead and space lab founder Arad Gharagozli said it’s a “surreal feeling” seeing LORIS finished.

“It’s been four years that really encapsulated everyone’s life to some extent,” he said.

“We are obviously so excited and cannot wait for it to send us the first signal.”

The work was funded by the Canadian Space Agency as part of its CubeSat project, which was announced in 2017. LORIS is one of 15 CubeSats being built at post-secondary institutions across the country, but it’s among the first to be completed.

Read more:

University of Alberta space team receives funding to launch second satellite

LORIS will go on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, and once onboard, the plan is to launch it into orbit sometime in November.

Its main mission is to test new technologies that have yet to see the darkness of space.

“A lot of research has gone into LORIS, anywhere from battery research into material research and software and mechanical, so one of the things LORIS will do is it will bring that research into space and then we can see how it actually performs,” said Gharagozli, adding it’s also equipped with specialized cameras.


Gharagozli, who has since founded Galaxia, a space systems company in Halifax, said miniaturization is the new wave of space exploration.


Ashley Field/Global News

More than 250 students helped with the project — now-engineering graduate Lucas Rowlands worked on LORIS’s electronic power system for his final-year project.

“For our project we designed the deployment board, which is the burn wire circuitry that would cut the cables on the wire that would then release the solar panels once it’s out in space,” said Rowlands.

He said while he always knew LORIS was destined for the stars, it “hasn’t quite hit him” that it will soon be off to space.

“The whole time you’re working on it, in the back of your mind it’s like, ‘Oh, this is going to space.’ And then, that kind of dies down a bit while you’re focusing more on getting the actual work done,” he said. “But now that it’s done and we’re getting to the final stages of implementation, it’s exciting to know that it’s going to be launched and stuff that we worked on and touched is going to be orbiting the earth.”

Gharagozli, who has since founded Galaxia, a space systems company in Halifax, said miniaturization is the new wave of space exploration.

Read more:

‘Exceptional day’ — Canadian scientists rejoice successful launch of space telescope

“The ultimate goal is: how do you make these as small as possible and as light as possible so you don’t pay for that experiment up front? And nanosatellites can do that very effectively and efficiently,” he said, adding that LORIS is a perfect example of that.

“It’s about (the size) of a one-litre carton of milk, so it’s not big, and that’s one of the things about nanosatellites that makes it very appealing, because the cost of launch — it’s reduced significantly — but it’s still somewhere between $40,000 to $45,000 per kilo to launch.”

He applauds the Canadian Space Agency for backing the CubeSat project, allowing him and his team to focus on technology development without worrying about the finances.

“We really need in Canada to be competitive on a global landscape when it comes to space exploration or earth observation, so we are hoping that projects like this will continue, because without it, it would almost be impossible to do things like this on private funding,” he said.

“The more we can do of this, more we can learn and more technologies can come out of Canada that, again, we desperately need to be competitive on this landscape right now.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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NASA: Contact lost with spacecraft on way to test moon orbit – Hamilton Spectator

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WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA said Tuesday it has lost contact with a $32.7 million spacecraft headed to the moon to test out a lopsided lunar orbit, but agency engineers are hopeful they can fix the problem.

After one successful communication and a second partial one on Monday, the space agency said it could no longer communicate with the spacecraft called Capstone. Engineers are trying to find the cause of the communications drop-off and are optimistic they can fix it, NASA spokesperson Sarah Frazier said Tuesday.

The spacecraft, which launched from New Zealand on June 28, had spent nearly a week in Earth orbit and had been successfully kick-started on its way to the moon, when contact was lost, Frazier said.

The 55-pound satellite is the size of a microwave oven and will be the first spacecraft to try out this oval orbit, which is where NASA wants to stage its Gateway outpost. Gateway would serve as a staging point for astronauts before they descend to the lunar surface.

The orbit balances the gravities of Earth and the moon and so requires little maneuvering and therefore fuel and allows the satellite — or a space station — to stay in constant contact with Earth.

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My Thesis in 400 Words: Anne Boucher | Institute for Research on Exoplanets – News | Institute for Research on Exoplanets

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Anne Boucher, an iREx student at the Université de Montréal, submitted her doctoral thesis at the end of 2021. She summarises the research project she carried out as part of her Ph.D here.

During my Ph.D, I became interested in the atmosphere of gas giant exoplanets that orbit very close to their star. Thanks to a technique called transmission spectroscopy, I studied the chemical composition of their atmosphere, which gives a lot of information on their formation and evolution mechanisms. The detailed study of these exoplanets, which we sometimes call hot Jupiters or hot sub-Saturns, provides a better understanding of the physical, chemical, and dynamical processes that govern the atmosphere of these celestial objects.

I mainly used data from the SPIRou instrument, a high-resolution spectropolarimeter that operates in the near infrared and is installed at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. We first observed HD 189733 b, one of the most studied exoplanets, to build the analysis codes. By exploiting transit spectroscopy, we were able to confirm the presence of water and determine its abundance. The results obtained, consistent with previous studies, indicate that the atmosphere of HD 189733 b is relatively clear (free of clouds) and that the planet likely formed far from its star, where it is cold enough to find water in the form of ice. A strong blueshift of water absorption was observed, which could be a consequence of the presence of strong winds in the atmosphere.

Artistic representation of the exoplanet HD 189733 b, credit :  NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Next, we studied WASP-127 b, a less massive exoplanet, but much larger than Saturn. A recent study of data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Spitzer Space Telescope could not differentiate between two atmospheric scenarios: a low carbon-to-oxygen (C/O) ratio with little carbon monoxide (CO), or a high ratio with a lot of CO. As this ratio helps to determine how a planet was formed, we decided to use SPIRou, which makes it possible to observe a band of CO not observable with HST and Spitzer. We were able to determine that there was very little CO and a very low C/O, which has rarely been observed, but which is supported by some more realistic training scenarios that vary over time. The SPIRou data also confirmed the presence of water and suggests that, if confirmed, there could even be hydroxyl (OH): an unexpected detection since the exoplanet is so cold.

This work has allowed to develop the expertise of the Université de Montréal in high resolution near-infrared transit spectroscopy, in particular with SPIRou, allowing to explore the atmospheric conditions of hot Jupiters and sub-Saturns. This first joint analysis made on high and low resolution transmission data allowed to obtain better constraints on the atmospheric parameters. This method is proving to be a very powerful tool for the study of atmospheres and will be even more so with the revolutionary capabilities of JWST.

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Anne worked on her Ph.D. at the Université de Montréal between 2016 and 2022, under the supervision of David Lafrenière. Her thesis will soon be available.

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Nicolas Cowan, Finalist for the 2021 Relève scientifique Prize – News | Institute for Research on Exoplanets

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Nicholas Cowan. Credit: McGill University.

Nicolas Cowan, Professor at McGill University and a member of both iREx and the McGill Space Institute, is one of the finalists for the Relève Scientifique du Québec 2021 Prize, an award which aims to highlight the commitment and excellence in research of a person 40 years of age or younger.

Nick has been a Professor in the Departments of Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences at McGill University since 2015. He specialises in astrobiology and mainly studies the surface and atmosphere of exoplanets. He is particularly interested in the climate of these planets found outside of our Solar System.

The researcher mainly uses space- and ground-based telescopes to collect and analyse data which he uses to study the characteristics of various exoplanets. More specifically, the data seeks to measure the reflection of clouds, detect the presence of greenhouse gases via the infrared signature of the atmosphere, and heat transport, i.e. the winds. These data are used to create maps of the surface and the temperature of exoplanets, a method commonly referred to as exo-cartography. The study of the exoplanets’ climate also allows us to learn a lot about that of our planet, Earth.

Nick’s commitment to the research community is illustrated in particular by his participation in numerous NASA and Canadian Space Agency committees to promote the study of planetary climates and to contribute to the planning of future space missions to study exoplanets.

In addition to his work as a researcher, Nick is also involved in the Astronomy in Indigenous Communities program, which aims to attract Indigenous youth to pursue a career in STEM.

It is with pride that the iREx congratulates Nicolas Cowan for this distinction.

About the Relève scientifique du Québec Prize

The Relève scientifique du Québec prize is awarded to a person aged 40 or under who has distinguished themselves by the excellence of their research and who demonstrates the ability to establish and maintain constructive and lasting links with the research community. All disciplines are recognised for this award. Each year one recipient and two finalists are selected.

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