The Experimental Albertan #2 Satellite
The scientific purpose of Ex-Alta 2 is to demonstrate the capabilities possessed by a cube satellite platform for predicting, tracking, and assessing the after effects of wildfires. Ex-Alta 2 will also significantly drive forward the open source model being developed at the University of Alberta, taking steps towards the long-term goal of a fully open sourced cube satellite. Ex-Alta 2 is part of the Canadian CubeSat Project, an initiative from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) designed to support student interest in space and provide valuable hands-on experience in the space industry. As such, Ex-Alta 2 is part of a team of Canadian-built satellites, each with their own mission and team of contributors.
As part of the Canadian CubeSat Project, AlbertaSat is also partnering with Aurora College in the Northwest Territories and Yukon College to develop their respective cube satellites, dubbed AuroraSat and YukonSat. While our partners develop the payloads that will be flying on the satellites, AlbertaSat will be developing the 2U bus (the structure the payload flies on). Be sure to check out the awesome work they’re doing on their web page!
Credit: Canadian Space Agency
How Ex-Alta 2 Will Study Wildfires
Wildfires dramatically affect not only residents of Alberta, but many communities around the globe. Canada-wide, an average of 2.5 million hectares of land are burned annually and the impact on the communities in rural areas at risk of wildfire damage is massive. Additionally, rising global temperatures mean that the number and intensity of wildfires is increasing every year.
With this in mind, AlbertaSat is developing an in-house built multispectral imager named Iris to be flown on-board Ex-Alta 2. Iris will be able to capture the forests in visible and invisible (infrared) light, providing scientists with the data to study wildfires and help protect us from their impact. Images taken of high risk zones will highlight vegetation growth which can provide clues as to when and where a wildfire will start. Many active wildfires produce huge amounts of aerosolized particles (smoke). Images of these smoke plumes can inform firefighters and scientists to where wildfires are occurring. Scorched and burnt earth as well as vegetation regrowth can be monitored over time using Iris. This is done to learn more about post fire recovery and the effects wildfires have on forest ecosystems. Ex-Alta 2 serve as a proof of concept for a constellation of cubesats that can accurately predict and monitor wildfires with the information being relayed to emergency services in a timely manner.
Our Commitment to Open-Source
In order to support initiatives like ours all around the world, AlbertaSat is commited to developing open source components in our projects. The computer that flies on-board Ex-Alta 1 and 2, called Athena, is one such product of AlbertaSat that can be shared to help fellow space-bound groups grow their projects without having to develop a computer suited for their work, increasing the likelihood that they will be successful. From there we can grow a collaborative community that drives down the cost barrier of creating a satellite. The aim is to support more groups around the world, sharing the invaluable hands-on experience that students involved in AlbertaSat have had.