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Space Apps Challenge

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  • Type: Hackathon
  • Date: and
  • Duration: 48h
  • Location: In-person and virtual
  • Language: French and English
  • Target audience: Space enthusiasts, scientific or technologic community, students.


On and , participants will join students, programmers, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to tackle science, design, and communication challenges during NASA's 11th annual Space Apps Challenge.

Detailed description

On and , participants from Halifax, Inuvik, Mississauga, Vancouver, Hamilton, Ottawa and Calgary will join students, programmers, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to tackle science, design, and communication challenges during NASA's 11th annual Space Apps Challenge.

Participants will share ideas and use open data to solve real-world problems on Earth and in space.

The 48-hour hackathon will take place in-person and virtually in cities around the world, and will be hosted by 11 international space agencies. This is the sixth consecutive year that the CSA is participating in the Space Apps Challenge.

Everyone is welcome, regardless their age or level of technical expertise. If you have a passion for space, you're in the right place. Make a team with your friends, or meet your new teammates during the event.

Again this year, participants will be invited to tackle one of our challenges for the chance to win one of the prizes offered, including a personalized electronic certificate signed by a Canadian astronaut, CSA giveaways and a virtual mentoring session with CSA experts.

Participants are encouraged to join us on the official CSA Space Apps Discord server. CSA mentors will be available to help you throughout the weekend.

The CSA Space Apps kick-off event will be held on , from 6:30pm to 7:30pm ET. Join us on Microsoft Teams!

CSA challenges

Telescope icon 1. Exploring the distant universe with James Webb Space Telescope

Challenge description: Launched on , James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is now fully operational and producing some of the deepest images of the Universe. Several datasets are publicly available, from the commissioning phase and early release observations that are already pushing the limits of infrared astronomy. This challenge has to do with the search and detection of distant galaxies in images obtained with JWST.

Details about 1. Exploring the distant universe with James Webb Space Telescope challenge

Stargazer challenge (regular):

Write a poem, short story, or comic inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) images and data that have been released so far. How do they make you feel? What questions do they answer (or raise)?

Moonwalker challenge (advanced):

There are many free and open-source tools available to help you work with JWST data. Your mission is to create a code tutorial using jupyter notebooks (or something similar) to show people how to use the data. The tutorial must include the following at a minimum.

  • How to open and view an image from at least one of the sensors.
  • How to create and view a sky map that shows the region that the image covers
  • Indicate when the image was acquired.
  • How to apply a custom filter to enhance the image.
  • How to count the number of galaxies visible in the image using computer vision techniques.
  • At least one other feature of your choosing.

Potential considerations

JWST data is new, but it is available in a series of standard data formats (FITS, ASDF, etc…). Take advantage of the tools that already exist to manage these types of data.

Make sure you read the documentation provided, as it will help you better understand the data.


Key words

Astronomy, telescope, space, James Webb Space Telescope, computer vision, astropy.

Astronaut icon 2. Space Survival Adventure

Challenge description: Space may seem empty and peaceful, but it's a dangerous environment for humans and space systems like satellites and the International Space Station (ISS)! Space-based threats include cosmic radiation from the sun, signal interferences, meteoroids from near-Earth comets and asteroids, and space debris. Operators must measure and understand these threats as part of their space situational awareness, allowing them to minimize their impacts on our daily lives – from disabled satellites, power system failures, disturbed communications and GPS, rerouted or cancelled flights, and early satellite re-entry. Can you use Canadian data to find new ways to educate and raise awareness around these space-based challenges?

Details about 2. Space Survival Adventure challenge

Stargazer challenge (regular):

Flex your creativity to educate people about the hazards of space operations and impacts of space on Earth, inspired from CSA datasets. For example, design a board or card game in which the players must develop strategies to protect space assets or critical infrastructure on Earth from the dangers of space.

Moonwalker challenge (advanced):

Programmers unite! Integrate one or more CSA datasets in a creative new way to support education and outreach on space situational awareness (SSA). For example, create a new way to visualize the data or design a computer game in which the players must develop strategies to protect space assets or critical infrastructure on Earth from the dangers of space.

Some fun facts about SSA to consider:

  • The Earth's critical infrastructure, the electric power, planes, communications, satellites and GPS enable the economy and quality of life, but can be hampered by space weather and meteorites. For example, geomagnetic storms can disturb power systems as the Earth's magnetic field varies rapidly, increased friction in the upper atmosphere can cause early satellite re-entry and reduce the life of a satellite mission, and GPS scintillations can cause autonomous vehicles to lose GPS tracking.
  • Space weather is driven largely by the activity of the sun, by solar winds and how they react with Earth's magnetosphere and different segments of the atmosphere. Increased solar activity can result in a thicker atmosphere increasing the drag acting on satellites. It can also result in more radiation, increasing the chance for electrical components on satellites to be disrupted through what is commonly referred to as Single-Event Upsets (SEUs).
  • Other risks come from physical objects both artificial (satellites, debris) and natural (meteoroids, near-Earth asteroids/comets). Collisions in space are catastrophic due to the high speed at which the objects are travelling. Tracking objects can be a challenge, especially for smaller ones, but tracking data can be used by satellite operators to maneuver in order to avoid a collision with another satellite or piece of debris.

Your exciting project can encourage people to be more informed and aware of the potential effects space weather, space debris and near-Earth asteroids & comets can have on their daily lives as well as the various way organizations track and try to mitigate these effects. Check out the "resources" section to see the datasets that may be useful.

Potential considerations

Building a game? Think about building a game that is fun for all. It doesn't need to be exact but the concepts used to build it should be based on facts, making the game a great introduction to space weather, space debris or near-Earth asteroids. Think of ways to represent various space threats and how they will manifest in your game: from a card draw? A dice? A spinner? Based on actual statistics? Based on a real time history?

You could use the SCISAT, CASSIOPE and NEOSSat orbit tracking datasets in relationship to F10.7 data to estimate the impact of space weather on orbit decay. CHAIN data provides GPS scintillation and CARISMA data provides magnetic field variations. CELESTRAK offers satellite conjunction data as well as GPS outage messages.

Try to use as many open source data as possible to design the board, the pieces, the scenarios, and other elements of your game. Present your game and explain how SSA is different from other games and what makes it a good representation of actual space threats.


Key words

Space threats, space situational awareness, space weather, satellite debris, radiations

Cloud and polution symbol 3. Global Methane Pledge

Challenge description: Methane is a powerful but short-lived climate pollutant that accounts for about half of the net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era. Governments from around the world, including Canada, have signed on to the Global Methane Pledge at the latest UN Climate Change Conference (CoP26) in , aiming to curb global methane emissions by catalyzing global action and strengthening existing international methane emission reduction initiatives. Can you help raise awareness about methane emissions via an interactive game or create an integrated picture of global methane emissions using Canadian data?

Details about 3. Global Methane Pledge challenge

Stargazer challenge (regular):

Make a card, board, or video game to raise awareness around the issue of methane emissions and the Global Methane Pledge. The game should explore different strategies for limiting methane emissions. To be eligible for a prize, the project must reference some CSA materials, though you can use other materials as well.

Moonwalker challenge (advanced):

Using Canada's SCISAT, Europe's Sentinel-5P (S5P) methane data, help develop an integrated picture of global methane emissions. This can be done on a global, national, or regional level – it's up to you!

You can integrate SCISAT's vertical profile methane measurements with S5P's total column measurements. You could also provide recommendations on how to move forward with an integrated space-based methane dataset, in time for the annual review of the Methane Pledge in the Fall of .

Potential considerations

Make sure to explore the "resource" section of this challenge thoroughly. It includes several documents that will help you better understand the data, including some research papers showing how SCISAT data can be used to examine atmospheric methane.

On the CSA's Open Data and Information Portal page titled "Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment data of SCISAT", there is a specific CSV file for methane (titled "Methane"). You will also find the supporting documents to guide you in the process.


Background information
Data and data applications

Key words

Methane, methane emissions, greenhouse gases, climate change, SCISAT, ACE, vertical profiles, Sentinel-5P, atmospheric chemistry

Rocket icon 4. Asteroid Delivery Service

Challenge description: Launched in , OSIRIS-REx travelled to near-Earth asteroid Bennu, and is on its way home to deliver a sample (arrival Sept. 24, 2023). Since scientists believe that Bennu has remained mostly unchanged since formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago, this sample will help scientists shed light on how our solar system formed, and might help explain how water came to Earth. Can you help OSIRIS-REx navigate the surface of Bennu, and explore how the mission will inform scientific discoveries for decades to come?

Details about 4. Asteroid Delivery Service challenge

Stargazer challenge (regular):

OSIRIS-REx's Bennu asteroid sample is essentially a time capsule from the early days of our solar system. By studying it, scientists will be able to gain further insight into how our solar system and planets formed, how water came to Earth, and possibly even the building blocks of life! Complete one of the sub-challenge options below.

  • Option 1: Create a comic that tells the story of OSIRIS-REx's journey, and what might await the Bennu sample once it arrives on Earth. What types of things might we discover? How will this affect you and the world at large?
  • Option 2: Create your own time capsule, and fill it with things that you think you might find in an early solar system. Tell us the story of your solar system.
  • Option 3: If the Bennu sample is a time capsule, draw what you think it might contain. What types of mysteries might it help scientists solve? What does that look like for you?

Moonwalker challenge (advanced):

OSIRIS-REx carries a Canadian laser altimeter called OLA, which was used to create a 3D map of the surface of asteroid Bennu, allowing scientists to select the safest and most interesting spot for it to collect its sample. Using the OLA data and products provided and what you know about the mission's priorities, can you choose the best sampling site for OSIRIS-REx? Make sure to explain why you chose that site.

Potential considerations

OLA data might be novel, but it is essentially a lidar point cloud dataset. There are many free and open source tools that can help you work with lidar point clouds (see "resources"), so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

As always, make sure you read the documentation thoroughly.


Python libraries

Key words

OSIRIS-REx, lidar, 3D point cloud, digital elevation model, interpolation, space exploration

CSA prizes

If you complete a CSA challenge, register via our form for the chance to win one of the prizes offered by the CSA.

Individual prizes

A personalized electronic certificate for each participant.

National prizes

Challenges and prizes will be based on level of complexity: Stargazer (regular) or Moonwalker (advanced).

1st place: Space Apps Challenge Canada bag containing CSA merchandise & virtual mentoring with CSA experts

2nd and 3rd places: Space Apps Challenge Canada bag containing CSA merchandise

Previous Space Apps Challenge editions

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