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Concordia’s Cubesat Team, Led by UrtheCast Co-op, Clinches First Place in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge

Space is hard — a fact that the entire space industry can attest to. 

And like those already entrenched in the space sector, this young team of Concordia students recently overcame a string of critical challenges to nab top spot in 2016’s Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC).

The CSDC is a Canada-wide university competition that challenges students to design and build a small satellite or ‘cubesat’. Jan Dee, an UrtheCast co-op and Concordia University student, led his team, Space Concordia, while building their winning cubesat over the course of two years.

“We strove to become a mini space agency.”

— Jan Dee, UrtheCast co-op and head of ‘Space Concordia’

In total, eight university teams took part in the challenge, which culminated in launch vibration testing of seven satellites at the Canadian Space Agency’s David Florida Laboratory (DFL) in Ottawa.

“Although a few nuts, bolts, deployables, and solar cell chips came loose from several teams’ satellites during the testing, Concordia ‘kept it together,’ then successfully deployed the antenna and passed a functional test to prove that it had survived,” explained UrtheCast Senior Engineering Member and CSDC Board Member, Larry Reeves.

Scooping up second place was the University of Manitoba team, while the third place title went to the École Polytechnique de Montréal.

The École Polytechnique de Montréal team was also awarded the Educational Outreach Award — sponsored by UrtheCast — for their exceptional community outreach efforts, which included educational and inspirational presentations to pre-university students and the general public.

In total, seven designs were tested, which is a huge increase from previous years, explained Mr. Reeves. 

“What was so great is that the staff at DFL were incredibly accommodating and professional with the student teams. The teams got the same level of service that any space company would get, as well as some guidance and mentoring from the DFL staff. 

Every year, the CSDC competition gets stiffer.

“It is becoming evident that the participating universities are all increasing their capabilities from one competition to the next, and it is getting significantly more difficult to differentiate between first place and third place,” Mr. Reeves explained.

“Space Concordia was the highlight of my degree, without a doubt.”

— Jan Dee

“The best part of winning this competition, is that there were times where we thought we would not be able to complete the satellite. Many times where the end seemed very unclear and out of reach,” explained Jan, noting differing opinions among team members, absence of experience, strained schedules, and financial hurdles. “But even then, the team never gave up and, together, we ended up accomplishing something that goes way beyond anything we ever imagined.”

Now, isn’t that the perfect metaphor for the space industry?


Jan is currently working on UrtheCast’s OptiSAR™ Constellation team.

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