Call for Letters of Interest – Canadian CubeSat Project

Do you teach or do research at a Canadian post-secondary institution? Would you and students from your institution like to build and send your own small satellite into space? The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is presently working on an initiative that would allow you to do just that. The Canadian CubeSat Project (CCP) will provide professors in post-secondary institutions with an opportunity to engage their students in a real space mission. Through this unique hands-on experience, students will learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), stimulating their interest in STEM education and careers. This initiative falls under the CSA's mandate to foster the continuing development of a critical mass of researchers and highly qualified people in Canada.

The CCP also aims to ensure equitable opportunities for students across Canada, and will award up to 13 grants, one for each province and territory. This may include inter-provincial/territorial collaboration among CubeSat teams to facilitate the participation of all provinces and territories. Each grant will be worth about $200,000. The CSA will also make arrangements for the CubeSats' launches from the International Space Station (ISS) and cover the associated costs.

We invite you to respond to this Call for Letters of Interest (LOI). The CSA will use your response to evaluate your level of interest in developing a CubeSat and training students in this endeavour as well as to identify the resources the CSA will require to make the CCP a success. The information you share will enable the CCP organizers to develop a national network of faculty members in post-secondary institutions who are enthusiastic about CubeSats and to foster potential inter-provincial/territorial collaboration among participating team members.

Considerations

  • In early , an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is planned to be published on the CSA website. Post-secondary institutions will then have two months to submit their applications to the CSA.
  • Once the AO is published, all questions from potential applicants and answers from the CSA will be made available on the AO webpage.
  • Institutions selected for a grant will have between 24 and 36 months to develop their small satellite, commonly called a CubeSat.
  • The CSA plans to support three sizes of CubeSats: 1 unit (1U) (10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm and 2.4 kg), 2U (10 cm × 10 cm × 20 cm and 3.6 kg) and 3U (10 cm × 10 cm × 30 cm and 4.8 kg). Priority will be given to 1U and 2U.
  • Collaboration among institutions is strongly encouraged, since the goal is to consider for selection one proposal per province/territory.
  • Each CubeSat project would be proposed by a post-secondary institution in a province or territory and led by one or more faculty members from that institution.
  • The faculty member(s) would be responsible for supervising a team of students to ensure transfer of knowledge and timely progress of the project.
  • Inter-provincial/territorial collaboration among CubeSat teams would be encouraged, particularly for those with limited experience in developing CubeSats or satellite instruments and technologies.
  • The CSA may award up to 13 grants, each worth about $200,000. The CSA will provide the launch services for the CubeSats at no cost to the grantees.

Sending your LOI

Since this LOI is aimed at faculty members in post-secondary institutions, you should consider the following:

  1. Your proposed project should have the objectives of attracting students and faculty in space research; providing students with training opportunities to develop new knowledge and skills; and encouraging the participation of underrepresented students in STEM, as well as business and communications disciplines.
  2. Your project shall be managed with clearly defined tasks, milestones and schedule.
  3. Your project shall require multiple disciplinary skillsets.
  4. The faculty members shall be responsible for assembling and supervising a multidisciplinary team of students for the duration of the development.
  5. Collaboration with industry and other organizations will be encouraged.
  6. In general, the complexity and cost of the CubeSat increase with its size. On the other hand, a larger CubeSat offers more capability due to the increased volume and mass for the payload. You will have to seek a balance between cost/complexity and capability.

Elements to be addressed in your letter, taking into account the previously mentioned considerations:

  1. Your motivation to participate in the CubeSat Project.
  2. A description of your knowledge and experience with satellites and space missions.
  3. Your project management experience in projects similar in scope to building a CubeSat and/or a satellite component/instrument.
  4. Your likelihood of obtaining monetary and technical support from sources other than the CSA, such as from academic institution(s) (including your own), industry, provincial/territorial government.
  5. Your interest in collaborating with other professors and/or with industry in your province/territory or another province/territory.
  6. Your interest in having your name shared with other interested professors. The CSA will compile the names and contact information of all interested respondents and generate a list to be shared among them. The list will serve to encourage discussion and collaboration.

LOI format:

  1. Maximum of 2 pages or 500 words.
  2. Microsoft Word or PDF.

Please send your LOI, along with any additional inquiries you may have, to asc.projetcubesatasc-csacubesatproject.csa@canada.ca.

Webinars were hosted by CSA experts in order to provide interested professors with general information on CubeSat design and the CCP.

Webinars' calendar
Date
Language CCP Webinar in English CCP Webinar in French CCP Webinar in English
Time to  EDT to  EDT to  EDT
Registration Closed Closed Closed
Target Audience Professors from post-secondary institutions

Please note that this LOI shall not be interpreted as any form of commitment between the CSA and the respondent. Further, this LOI shall in no way be considered as authorization by the Crown for respondents to undertake any work, which would result in costs to either the respondent or the Crown.

Respondents shall not be bound by any aspect of their response to this LOI, and the responses will not be used for screening purposes. All responses to this LOI will be held by the Crown on a confidential basis (subject to applicable legislation) unless explicitly expressed otherwise by the respondent as above. Not responding to this LOI will not penalize a post-secondary institution should the initiative take place.

For your response to be considered, you need to provide your input by . To expedite the compilation of the above-mentioned list, respondents are encouraged to submit their LOI as soon as possible.

Additional information:

This initiative falls under the CSA's mandate to contribute to Canadian space expertise and proficiency. It has four principal objectives:

  1. Provide a unique opportunity for post-secondary institutions from each province and territory and their staff and students to be involved in the development and operation of a CubeSat. This initiative also provides the opportunity to develop business and communications skills required for the jobs of tomorrow.
  2. Increase the level of technical and/or scientific knowledge of the students.
  3. Encourage innovation through payload development and experiments in a real space environment.
  4. Stimulate interest in STEM, as well as business and communications, among young people across Canada.

What's a CubeSat?

In , California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University launched the CubeSat concept. The concept was immediately adopted by several academic institutions worldwide. In less than a decade, hundreds of post-secondary institutions in over 40 countries have developed or are in the process of developing CubeSats. As the capability of microelectronics improves, CubeSat popularity has spread to government agencies, research organizations and private enterprises. CubeSats have proven to be capable of carrying out missions for scientific research, Earth observation, meteorological measurements, and imaging.

In , the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report entitled Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box. The report provides a comprehensive review of CubeSat missions in the US and elsewhere. More information on CubeSat standards and some past missions.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

For any questions related to this LOI, applicants shall use the following generic email address: asc.projetcubesatasc-csacubesatproject.csa@canada.ca.

Question 1: Can the orbit be selected? Is a polar/northern orbit available from the ISS launch? If not, if a team can raise launch costs for an alternate launch provider, would CSA consider this? In this case, would the CSA consider providing an equivalent launch cost as they would have provided for a NanoRacks ISS launch?

Answer 1: The orbit cannot be selected, and the polar/northern orbit is not available from the ISS launch. It is possible to launch the CubeSat on an alternate launch provider, but you will need to prove in the proposal that you have the funding and that you have a confirmation of the launch. Please note that CSA will not provide an equivalent amount of funds as it would have internally committed for a NanoRacks ISS launch.

Question 2: Is it possible to start students at the senior undergraduate level and then transition into a Master of Engineering program during the project?

Answer 2: Yes. The level of student is not a requirement of the CCP, as long as they are at a college or university.

Question 3: How innovative does the CubeSat need to be; does it have to be unique?

Answer 3: CSA will evaluate the proposals and the proposed CubeSat to be developed based on the criteria which will be specified in the AO. Innovation includes also new idea/application of using the CubeSat.

Question 4: Can institutions from multiple provinces submit a joint proposal? If so, can they access or pool the funds from multiple grants?

Answer 4: Institutions from multiple provinces can submit a joint proposal, but the proposal should be linked to a specific province. If the proposal is chosen following the evaluation, one grant of up to $200,000 will be awarded to the team. It will not be possible to combine funds from multiple CCP grants for one CubeSat to be developed.

Question 5: Are there any stacking limits for leveraging CSA funding with other sources? Is there a requirement for matching funds? Is $200K enough to do a CubeSat mission?

Answer 5: Leveraging of CSA funds with other funding is allowed and encouraged, but not mandatory. From our own assessment, $200,000 is enough to develop a 2U CubeSat considering that CSA is responsible for the launch cost.

Question 6: Can funds be used to build a ground station or to purchase hardware from international entities?

Answer 6: Yes, to both questions.

Question 7: Will the grant be awarded after the activity for building the CubeSat is completed or before? Will grant be sent in one installment?

Answer 7: The grant award is planned a few months after the AO closing date to allow the transfer of funds in one installment to selected institutions before , prior to the start of the grantee's project.

Question 8: Are indirect costs eligible costs for this grant? If there were any costs associated to collaborate with non-university members, would those costs be eligible for reimbursement?

Answer 8: The list of all eligible costs will be provided in the AO. Eligible expenses will be similar but not identical to previous AO such as the Flights and Fieldwork for the Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) AO . For example, launcher services will be excluded.

Question 9: Does CSA envision the CCP be an ongoing opportunity? Will there be future AOs for CubeSat missions?

Answer 9: The CCP is a pilot project. We do not know at this moment if other similar initiatives will take place in the future but the CSA supports the development of CubeSat through the FAST AO.

Question 10: Can a CubeSat be recovered?

Answer 10: No, there are currently no plans to recover any CubeSats.

Question 11 : The CSA plans to support 13 CubeSats, one per province and territory. Can a proposal from an institution located in province "A" be presented by a PI from a province "B", with a Co-PI from the province "A"?

Answer 11: Inter-provincial cooperation is encouraged, but to submit a proposal for a specific province, the principal investigator (PI) should be a faculty member (professor, instructor) of the institution presenting the application.

Question 12: Can a professor submit more than one proposal, or be a Co-PI on multiple proposals? Are students encouraged to work on proposals?

Answer 12: Yes, a professor can be co-principal investigator (Co-PI) on multiple proposals, but not PI on more than one. Students are allowed to work on proposals in support to a professor.

Question 13: Can a PI or another team member be an employee of a company or government, or do all team members have to be university professors and students? How can a group of students participate?

Answer 13: The PI must be a faculty member (professor or instructor) from a post-secondary institution. This PI could decide which other members could be part of the institution's team. They may come from other organizations in industry, academia and/or government within the institution's province or from another province or territory or even country. If a group of students would like to participate, it would need to join a project led by a PI from a post-secondary institution.

Question 14: Can a science advisor from a non-academic institution be a PI on this project? If not, how can a non-academic institution get involved? Can graduate students be involved in the project?

Answer 14: The PI must be from a post-secondary institution, but collaboration with non-academic institution and the participation of graduate students are allowed and strongly encouraged.

Question 15: Is it possible to have a collaborator from CSA?

Answer 15: No, it is not possible.

Question 16: Will the participation of community colleges in Canada be accepted?

Answer 16: All post-secondary institutions will be eligible to the CCP.

Question 17: You indicate that the CSA plans to award one grant per province and territory. Does this imply that an application that is the only one from a particular province, would be selected for a grant?

Answer 17: If only one proposal is submitted in a province or territory and if such proposal meets all the mandatory criteria and minimum rated criteria, then the proposal would be selected for a grant.

Question 18: Who will be evaluating the proposals? What are the evaluation criteria?

Answer 18: The proposals will be evaluated by CSA experts and possibly external evaluators. The evaluation criteria will be specified in the AO.

Question 19: What sizes of CubeSats are considered under this initiative?

Answer 19: Two units (2U) CubeSats will be funded.

Question 20: What is the typical altitude of the CubeSat?

Answer 20: The typical altitude of a cubsat launched from the ISS is approximately 350-400 km.

Question 21 : You mentioned that biology CubeSat projects would be eligible. Is it possible to have CubeSats that remain on the ISS for the duration of the project? If not, could the CubeSat remains on the ISS for one or two weeks?

Answer 21: It is not possible to have CubeSats remain on the ISS for the duration of the project. Moreover, CubeSats will remain "turned off" until 30 minutes after deployment from ISS. However, it is likely that the CubeSat will be onboard ISS for a week to a few months before deployment into space. CSA has no control over the timing and order of CubeSats deployment from the ISS.

Question 22: Is there requirement stating that the CubeSat should be off until the launch on the ISS is completed?

Answer 22: Yes, a CubeSat should be turned off until 30 minutes after launch from ISS is completed. Other safety requirements will be specified by the service launch provider.

Question 23: Is a CubeSat allowed to extend items after deployment, items such as solar panels, and antennas? Is a CubeSat allowed to try techniques to maintain its orbit?

Answer 23: Yes. During the safety reviews, NanoRacks will review the hold and deployment mechanism carefully for all proposed deployment items such as antenna and solar panels. The PI will have to prove that such mechanism will not be released prematurely and the CubeSat size will fit within the volume of the deployer. Once the CubeSat is in orbit, technique to maintain the CubeSat could be tested. However, no propulsion mechanism will be allowed on CubeSats.

Question 24: What will CSA's requirements be in terms of quality? Will this be dictated by Nanoracks safety requirements or will there be additional reliability requirements?

Answer 24: If a CubeSat meets Nanoracks safety requirements and CSA AO requirements, all requirements will have been met.

Question 25: Can CSA help with CubeSats verification? Can we use CSA test utility for the CubeSats tests? Is a clean room required?

Answer 25: Currently, the CSA is planning the level and the type of support that can be provided when the grants will be awarded. Details will be provided in the AO which is planned to be published in . A clean environment will be required, but not a standard clean room.

Question 26: Aside from NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) integration, are there any components or instruments that the design will need to accommodate? Does the CSA have any specific instruments that will be required to be incorporated into the design?

Answer 26: There are no other components or instruments that the CubeSat design will need to accommodate. The NRCSD Safety Reviews cover all the integration. No, CSA does not have any specific instruments that will be required to be incorporated into the design.

Question 27: What are the requirements on the operational timeline of the spacecraft once a selected CubeSat has been deployed?

Answer 27: There are no requirements on the operational timeline for the CubeSat once in orbit. From experience, the CubeSats will be in orbit for between 6 to 12 months.

Question 28: Do you expect a "project" proposing a whole CubeSat or a "project" addressing some of its challenges such as power management, sensors resolution, etc.?

Answer 28: It is CSA's intent to select proposals that will include the development of a whole CubeSat and not just a sub-system of a CubeSat.

Question 29: Will CSA help on contacting other provinces to use their ground station?

Answer 29: Following the Call for LOI, CSA will provide a list of people who have shown an interest in collaborating. It may include a list of ground station operators. This list will be posted on the CCP Web site.

Question 30: Is the project open to international collaborations?

Answer 30: Yes.

Question 31: Are there any industrial partners interested in participating in this project? Have you already selected any of them to help CCP teams?

Answer 31: We are considering a mechanism for industry to express their interest in collaborating with post-secondary institutions.

Question 32: Will ideas proposed in LOIs and proposals remain confidential?

Answer 32: Yes.

Question 33: If we are unable to submit a LOI, does that eliminate us from being able to submit a proposal?

Answer 33: No, submission of a response to the LOI is not a requirement to submit a proposal in response to the AO.

Question 34: Do researchers need to apply to the LOI with their entire research team already established? Is it ok for researchers to submit an LOI while still making the necessary connections and with the CSA being able to help facilitate collaboration? Can a scientist with a really interesting idea could draft a proposal citing a lack of expertise in engineering and acknowledging that collaboration would be necessary to realise the project?

Answer 34: In response to the Call for LOI, a team doesn't need to be established. It is possible to submit a LOI that only covers the proposed scientific experiments or an instrument of the CubeSat. However, in response of the AO scheduled for , you will need to present a full proposal which will include information on your project team and all components of your proposed CubeSat. Feasibility of your project will need to be demonstrated. The CSA doesn't plan to help building project teams.

Question 35: Are CubeSats developed through the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) eligible for the making of this new 2U CubeSat? How much does success in CSDC influence acceptance of a proposal following the CCP AO?

Answer 35: Yes, a CubeSat or any CubeSat components developed under the CSDC or other competitions or initiatives could be a used in a project proposed by a post-secondary institution. Success in the CSDC does not influence acceptance of a proposal in response of the CCP AO.