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Launching LORIS: First Nova Scotia-made satellite heading to space


As space satellites go, the first one built in Nova Scotia may be small in size, but its impact is bigger than its scale.

The nanosatellite is called LORIS, which stands for Low Orbit Reconnaissance and Imagery Satellite, and weighs in at 3.2 kilograms.

Small enough to fit in a shoebox, LORIS looks like a rectangular cube with small solar panels on the side. Inside are a series of computer circuitry boards, stacked one upon the other.

“It's an entire ecosystem of technology and mechanical systems, electrical systems, that make this space craft work,” says Arad Gharazgozli, founder of the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab at the university’s Faculty of Engineering.

Gharazgozli is also President and CEO of Galaxia Mission Systems.

“It came out of a project funded by the Canadian Space Agency through a program called the Canadian CubeSat project,” he says.

The initiative provided funding to universities across the country for the development and construction of small satellites for launch.

Nova Scotia’s is now one of the first ready to go where no locally built satellite has gone before.

“It's really exciting. It's still a little bit surreal,” says Kristian Lethbridge-Hall, a Dalhousie University co-op student at Galaxia who worked on LORIS designing its solar power system.

He says it’s been a “dream come true” to work on a space satellite without having to leave his hometown of Halifax.

“A lot of my friends and family are already saying that they want to watch the launch with me,” laughs Lethbridge-Hall. “It's been a team effort and everyone here's really excited to see it go up.”

The launch of LORIS into orbit is scheduled for later this year, after the satellite is first sent to the Canadian Space Agency headquarters. It will then be shipped to NASA in Houston, Texas, to be launched into space, along with supplies for the International Space Station.

From there, LORIS will be launched into space, likely in November or December.

“They will use the Canadarm to manipulate a device that almost shoots these satellites into orbit,” explains Gharazgozli. “At that point, a pin will be pulled on the device (with a red tag labelled, “Remove Before Flight”) which will start a 30-minute countdown. At zero, LORIS will open its “wings” and deploy two antennae, to then begin orbiting the Earth.”

Each orbit will only take LORIS 91 minutes.

Once in space, the satellite’s onboard computer systems will send back data, along with images from two cameras, which the team will control and monitor from a control center in Halifax.

“She's tough enough to get a series of photos and telemetry from the satellite,” says Luke Charbonneau, Galaxia Mission Systems’ operations manager, “[and then] it’s going to last about a year or so before it deorbits.”

Therein lies some unfortunate news for Nova Scotia’s first satellite.

Without its own engines, LORIS will gradually lose orbit. Designed with a low melting point, the nanosatellite will completely burn up and disintegrate once it hits Earth’s atmosphere.

“It is sad, very sad,” laughs Gharazgozli. “We kind of look at it in the sense that it's going to pave the road for us to do amazing things in Nova Scotia, here in Canada, and export our technologies internationally. In that sense, she’s a champion for Canadian space industry.” Top Stories

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