AlbertaSat began as a student group in 2010 responding to the call of the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) – an innovative new Canada wide competition encouraging university students to cross the boundaries of what is considered a normal education and try their hand at spacecraft design. The first CSDC competition was a marvelous exercise in experimentation and curiosity as the students of AlbertaSat studied the dynamics of orbital control and considered the effects of free molecular friction on a spacecraft in the upper atmosphere.
After participating in the first few CSDC missions, AlbertaSat revitalized its efforts and crafted a dream – a dream of providing an aerospace education to Albertans along with a commercial space industry supporting the continued development of Alberta’s economy. This dream began with a few members and grew to encompass over 40 students from various disciplines and over 10 faculty members at the University of Alberta. Momentum grew, and from the initial dream, the idea and the design of the Experimental Albertan #1 (Ex-Alta 1) Satellite was created. The team spent the next two years building its first foray into space as a member of the QB50 mission. Eventually, it reached the launch pad in April 2017.
The Ex-Alta 1 satellite was the first fully Albertan satellite in the history of our province and a pioneering example of the capability of Albertans on the world aerospace stage. At the same time that Ex-Alta 1 launched, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the Canadian CubeSat Project (CCP), a new venture from the Canadian government to provide grants for University CubeSat missions. AlbertaSat proposed Ex-Alta 2, and set its sights on new missions and challenges.
The Ex-Alta 2 mission lasted 5 years, starting in 2018. AlbertaSat was larger than ever, regularly consisting of over 60 contributing members. Over the course of the mission, hundreds of students participated in the design, analysis, testing, validation, and assembly of the satellite. The team invested heavily in expanding and improving its facilities and in-house capabilities. Despite challenges with remote work and the monumental task of creating 3 CubeSats – Ex-Alta 2, AuroraSat, and YukonSat – simultaneously, the team again reached the launchpad in March 2023.
AlbertaSat is now working on its third major satellite mission – aptly named Ex-Alta 3 – which is part of the CUBICS initiative from the CSA. As the team continues to push the boundaries of the space industry in Alberta and Canada, we are move excited than ever to see just how far we can reach!