The Yukon will be launching a satellite into orbit for the first time, as part of a Canadian Space Agency-led project.Yukon College students are in the conceptual stage of their first-ever space mission. “A Yukon satellite will expand the depth of knowledge we have in the territory and will hopefully lead to other space-related projects in the future,” said Alison Anderson, P.Eng. and principal investigator for the CubeSat project at Yukon College. According to the Canadian Space Agency, the Canadian CubeSat project lets students from each province and territory design, build, launch and operate their own miniature satellite. “The successful completion of this project will be another example of the amazing abilities of Yukoners,” said Anderson.She said that there is still room for people to sign up and benefit from the experience. “Don’t be afraid to get involved! No skills are required—just enthusiasm and the willingness to learn.” The wider community is invited to get involved, too. “We would love to see local businesses offer expertise to help guide the students and possibly offer the use of any specialty equipment,” said Anderson.Whitehorse resident Sam Finton, who is working on his Undergraduate Degree at Dalhousie University, jumped on the chance to get involved with the CubeSat project through Yukon College. Finton said that he’s getting a chance to share ideas and learn from professionals in the field through workshops and guest speakers. “Overall it’s just inspired me. Before this I hadn’t really thought at all about space or anything like that, and [I’m] just being able to see that I can actually have a part to play.”
Finton said that now is the time to get involved as access to these types of projects become more accessible to Yukoners. “My parents would never have had an opportunity like this.” He said it’s important to take advantage of chances like this when they come up and that people don’t need any kind of expertise to get involved. “Don’t be afraid to come show up to the meetings,” said Finton. “We’re really starting with the basics, so we’ve been doing tutorials and workshops for the people who are involved in the course, just to kind of get people all up to speed and learning about technology.”As the project gears up for the winter, Finton said that the team is working on conceptualizing a project that will showcase the Yukon. “It would be really cool to put a Yukon spin on space,” said Finton. He said that exactly how this is achieved this depends on factors like the orbit of the International Space Station and the payload of the satellite, “I think we have a lot of potential for creativity there.”Ripples are being felt in the community, and one local business has already jumped on-board with CubeSat. “I’ve had a passion for everything space-related since I was a youngster […] so when I read that the Yukon had its own CubeSat program, I looked for a way I could contribute,” said Glenn Piwowar, who sits on the board of directors at YuKonstruct. YuKonstruct is a community workspace that blends machine shops, workshops and studios as a way for Yukoners to share resources. Piwowar said that the workspace is developing a partnership with Yukon College, and when it became apparent some members of the CubeSat project team could use some technical training, they offered to pitch in with facilities and instructors.Workshops have included hands-on tutorials in basic soldering skills, an introduction to microcontrollers and more open-ended sessions. “The objective is to give team members an opportunity to learn some electronics skills and, at the same time, quickly learn to collaborate in solving problems or achieving an objective with what they have learned.” The YukonSat project is following a three-year timeline from start to launch, and students are welcome to join at any time throughout the project. The students are starting to work on their mission objective—what they want the satellite to do. Once they decide on an objective, they will move into the detailed design, assembly and testing phases. Local mentors, as well as the Canadian Space Agency and partners at University of Alberta and Aurora College are training the students to do this work. Anyone who wants to be involved in the YukonSat project can contact MissionControl@yukoncollege.yk.ca. High school and post-secondary students can join the team, community members can help out as mentors, and outreach activities can be organized through Yukon College in communities, schools or other groups that are interested.