LORIS’s Code is Going to the Arctic

Our LORIS cubesat mission is not only flying to space, but it’s also going to the Arctic. Earlier this year, we submitted the entirety of LORIS’s code to GitHub’s 2020 “Arctic Vault Program”, an initiative that plans to store open-source code in a specially-designed facility 250-metres below the permafrost of Svalbard near the North Pole. With only a select number of projects chosen to be placed in the vault, all of LORIS’s code will be preserved, ensuring its long existence for future generations.We sat down with LORIS’s Payload team lead, Liam Hebert, to speak more about the onboard software and what the Arctic Vault Program means to him.

Why did you choose to make LORIS’s code open source?

Liam Hebert: We chose to make LORIS’s software open-source because we believe that one of the core values of the CubeSat is educational outreach. As one of the only actively developed open source CubeSat projects out there, we believe that allowing people to peek into the magic under the hood can inspire future generations of CubeSats to be created. We also hope that our software can serve as an educational tool for students studying applications of software in space by looking into a satellite that will be in orbit. We hope that future CubeSats will be able to use our software as a starting point to create their own innovations, which we hope to benefit from as well. Seeing that the majority of our software is created on top of open source software,it only seemed fair to give back to the community that made this possible in the first place.

What is most exciting to you about the Arctic Vault Program?

LH: I’d say the most exciting part of the Arctic Vault Program is the longevity of the archive period. With the current standard set to be 500 years with goals to incorporate Microsoft’s Project Silica to extend the duration to 10,000 years, it is truly humbling to know that the efforts we produced with this project will last that long. It is crazy to think how much technology will probably have changed in that period of time and to have LORIS stand as an example of the technology of our time is amazing.

What is the job of the software and how does it work?

LH: My favorite question! The LORIS software collection consists of various independent modules that all share messages to each other. These modules include things such as the ADCS module (which ensures that we are always pointing at the Earth), the POWER module(bet you can’t guess what this one does) and my favorite module, the PAYLOAD module (which my team creates). These are all interconnected through a decentralized messaging system which allows one module to ask another module to do something and receive confirmation in return. An example of this would be the PAYLOAD module asking the ADCS module if we are pointed towards Nova Scotia and the POWER module to give power to the cameras that PAYLOAD requires. This cooperation between independent subsystems allows each module to run in parallel and allows for many fail safes if one system were to fail. Our messaging system was also custom made for our purposes through a partnership between the different software teams that compose the satellite, allowing us to create a slim and lean system thataccomplishes exactly our use case without making any compromises!Specifically, the PAYLOAD software coordinates the camera system that the LORIS satellitehas. This involves activating our cameras in the fastest way possible, taking the pixel values ofboth then compressing them on board the satellite for transmission. This all needs to happenwithout visual degradation, with tons of failsafes, and within 300 milliseconds! We do thisthrough speedy low-level optimizations and by using the OpenCV framework, thestate-of-the-art computer vision software library. We also need to seamlessly integrate with themessaging system above, which requires frequent partnership with the other systems onboard.

What is unique about LORIS’s code?

LH: In my own personal opinion, the unique nature of the satellite is that everything we mentioned above is open to the public. This allows the public to use our software to base their own future cubesats on. Additionally, we use a decentralized system filled with fail safes because space can be very uncertain at times, especially on computer hardware. Dalhousie Space Systems Labs is excited and thankful to Github for the opportunity to take part in this incredible project. Despite online challenges, thanks to volunteers like Liam Hebert and the rest of the LORIS mission team we continue to move forward towards assembling the LORIS prototype and Complete Design Review (CDR) scheduled in February of 2021.

Author: Sammy Goldberg – 21/09/2020


LORIS Pre-CDR With CSA (JUNE, 2020)

That’s a wrap!

Today the LORIS CubeSat team met with the Canadian Space Agency for the team’s Pre-Critical Design Review (pre-CDR). Our team leads, each in charge of a subsystem on-board LORIS, met virtually with experts from the CSA to review the current design of our satellite. Pre-CDR is the last review before presenting the final design of the spacecraft to the CSA, scheduled to take place in February 2021.

The current team leads, along with DSS President Arad Garaghozli and former leads on the project, presented an overview of each of LORIS’s critical systems, including the attitude system, chassis, payload, ground station, and power system. They also explained their design philosophies, testing results, as well as any problems the CubeSat might expect to encounter going forward. These reviews are critical to the success of LORIS when it eventually flies in space, now slated for launch in late 2021. The team fielded questions from the CSA representatives about each system, and the CSA provided advice in how to move forward in ensuring the LORIS launches successfully. With this early shakedown complete, teams will take the Agency’s feedback and implement it into the spacecraft before it is officially presented next year.

As LORIS moves closer to its prototyping and manufacturing phase, Dalhousie Space Systems Lab continues to look for new volunteers. As the only undergraduate-built and operated cubesat under CSA’s “Canadian Cubesat Project”, the lab is always seeking out talent from anyone interested in becoming part of this mission to space. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges and delays, the team continues to use this time to work on LORIS, as well as the Aeolus ventilator system that the was released to the public earlier last month. It is a testament to the incredible work of the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab that our volunteers are now being recognized by employers, with some members now securing lucrative engineering jobs after contributing to the Lab.

If you’re interested in becoming a part of Dalhousie Space Systems Labs, visit dalorbits.ca or contact us through our Facebook page.


October 2019 – DSS Monthly Update

October was a busy time for the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab. This month brought many exciting things including, but not limited to: An expansion of our staff, growth of interest in space at Dalhousie University, a new office, Preliminary Design Review and the STRATOS program.

LORIS Updates

First up: Our top project at the lab, the LORIS CubeSat. On October 8th, Arad and the rest of our team leads took part in the Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR) in Fredericton, NB. All subsystem teams gave in-depth presentations to the Canadian Space Agency. Feedback was then given by experts on how best the team can refine LORIS’s design to ensure each system works most effectively with one another and is safe to fly. During that time, we released a new animation showing off our BDOT attitude control system, which shows how LORIS will move around in space using a series of magnetorquers. The DSS has also been pushed to an 8-month schedule for delivery of LORIS. After subsystem construction is complete, DSS will begin building a “flat-sat”. A flat-sat involves the testing of all prototype subsystems on a piece of plywood. This allows us to test the spacecraft’s full operational capabilities without flying in space. This is a critical step in understanding how the subsystems are functioning and gives the team time to sort out any issues. At the latest, the flat-sat will be built by April 20, 2020, with all system documentation finalized by then as well. These will be submitted for the Critical Design Review (CDR) stage to ensure LORIS is ready to be manufactured and flown. 

Dalhousie Space Systems Labs joins the CSA and other Canadian Cubesat Project teams in Fredericton.

We also showed off our new home in Halifax at O’Brien Hall on Morris St. DSS will now be managed here in addition to our lab space for integrating, testing, assembling LORIS. We have also acquired a critical piece of hardware for the lab: a new coffee machine aptly named “Mr. BrewNo Mars”.

Several of our subsystem components have arrived and begun testing, including the camera suite and on-board computer. In the first week of November, the team will meet for an interface design meeting to make sure the subsystems best communicate with each other. The LORIS team is also hard at work on the communications subsystem, including approval for our ground station and software for packeting data to be sent to and from the spacecraft. We are in the beginning stages of deploying antennas in the Halifax area. Additionally, the electrical design for our attitude control system (ADCS) is almost completed and the solar cells are currently undergoing testing. Vibration testing is the critical next step in the prototyping phase and is a top priority for the Chassis team. 

The first of our solar cells begins testing. Here we are experimenting with the movement of the light source and the solar cells energy output. This will be critical when LORIS moves around in orbit.

InterTalk Critical Information Systems, who joined DSS for the Halifax Space Apps Challenge, has also shown interest in this project and will lend technical support. 

NASA Space Apps Challenge 

For the first time ever, NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge took place in Halifax at Dalhousie’s Goldberg Computer Science Building. Hosted at ShiftKey Labs in collaboration with Dalhousie Space Systems, SuperNOVA and Emera ideaHUB, students joined thousands of others around the world in creating technology and software which utilized real data acquired by CSA and NASA. The 60 students in attendance were joined by several prestigious sponsors including representatives from InterTalk Critical Information Systems, MDA and Lixar. 

Each of the student teams competed over a 48-hour period, developing a variety of applications in geomagnetic, orbital debris, interplanetary systems, and Earth/oceanography. Teams were assessed by judges from ShiftKey Labs, SuperNOVA, Emera ideaHub, and Dalhousie Space Systems Lab president Arad Gharagozli. The grand winners of Space Apps developed a system for ocean microplastic cleaning while others developed everything from power technology for venus to an eco-awareness video game. DSS also had two of its own staff members on a team that developed a rewritable, nonvolatile memory for operation in dangerous environments. The winners and runners-up received prizes ranging from brand-new Nintendo Switches to Raspberry Pis. 

For more information on Space Apps, please visit https://halifaxspaceapps.dalorbits.ca/ as well as https://twitter.com/SpaceAppsHfx


Finally, as part of CSA’s high-altitude balloon program “STRATOS”,  Dalhousie Space Systems is happy to announce that it will be providing engineering and technical support to students interested in participating. STRATOS allows universities to submit scientific payloads to fly on a weather balloon to the edge of space. DSS is reaching out to undergrads, just as it did for LORIS, to lead the project team. This initiative represents our ongoing commitment to providing Dalhousie undergraduates with the opportunity to engage in real space missions and the industry. 

For more information on STRATOS, head over to https://dalorbits.ca/index.php/stratospheric-balloon/


Sponsor Profiles: InterTalk Critical Information Systems

We’re proud to have InterTalk Critical Information Systems as our Sun-level sponsor! InterTalk, who graciously donated to help make the Halifax Space Apps Challenge a reality, is focused on providing the highest-quality emergency and information systems on the market. Since 1997, they have designed a variety of products to serve dispatchers, radio operators, the transport industry, nuclear and hydropower, and even the government. As our sun-level sponsor, InterTalk is invited to send five representatives to share their expertise with participants. And interest at the company in becoming a mentor is skyrocketing. Later this week, InterTalk will select representatives from their excited team of experts who look forward to collaborating with Dalhousie students and giving back to the community. 

For InterTalk, NASA Space Apps will be a learning experience where they will help guide students on their own paths to success and at the same time learn how they can best serve those in the province, a top priority for the company. As part of their goal of growing their own community interaction and engagement, NASA Space Apps for InterTalk best represented a chance for them to make a difference. Being the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, InterTalk will approach Space Apps with fresh eyes come October 18th. From specialists in radio, software design, physics and more, InterTalk is planning to send their “best and brightest” to help participants succeed. Not only does the company want to explore the space market, they also wish to expand their relationship with Dalhousie University. 

InterTalk has a flexible line of products including the InterTalk Radio Dispatch Console System, Encompass Mobile Dispatch Unit, the data analysis software Interstat, Transcript™ for complete communication logging, and more. With years of experience behind them, they work to merge complex communication systems together into stable and dependable platforms. And their commitment to reliability and performance is represented by their unique dual-ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certifications which, based on over 150 national standard bodies, marks them as a leading innovator in global solutions. 

In Space Apps, InterTalk sees themselves: an Atlantic Canadian technology incubator run by people eager to make a difference in the world. As established as the company is, InterTalk considers themselves as entering a growth phase in which not only do they seek to attract graduating students looking for work, but also to explore the variety of ways they can be more involved in public initiatives. 

Be sure to look out for InterTalk at the hackathon! To explore more about the company, please visit https://intertalksystems.com/.

Published September 26, 2019


Halifax SpaceApps Hackathon Overview

From October 18-20, Atlantic Canada for the first time will become part of the worldwide, student-borne think tank for space known as the “NASA International Space Apps Challenge”. At the challenge, students will have the opportunity to create technology using real data acquired by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. Dalhousie’s University’s Shiftkey Labs will host this free 48-hour “hackathon” together with the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab, SuperNOVA and Emera IdeaHub. The four presenters of the Space Apps Challenge during the weekend will be the directors and managers of these groups, all who bring with them experience in innovative technologies and environments. 

Over a two-day period, student teams work with mentors, spawning new and innovative applications from NASA and CSA data in nine different critical areas. These include asteroid data, RADARSAT-1 data, ocean/coastal data, exoplanets, and even the moon, amongst others. 

The event’s sponsors who call Nova Scotia their home include LIXAR, Engineers Nova Scotia, Intertalk, Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association, Dalhousie University, Digital Nova Scotia, Venture Canada, Nova Scotia Business Inc. and MDA. These prestigious sponsors aren’t just contributing financially to the hackathon, they will also provide mentorship to the students, crucial connections to the industry and serve as judges of each of the team’s final product. 

Although registration is currently full, those interested can enter onto the waitlist. To register, simply go to the Space Apps webpage, click register, and find Halifax, Nova Scotia on the NASA Space Apps location list. You will need to login or register in order to sign up. 

For your convenience and to find out more about the Halifax Space Apps Challenge, please visit https://halifaxspaceapps.dalorbits.ca/. They can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

Published September 17th, 2019


September 16th Information Session

On Monday evening, we had our first recruitment session of the year! We outlined the DSS itself, the wide variety of people we’re looking for, who works for us currently (all undergraduates) and of course, the LORIS mission itself! We’re always on the lookout to grow our expertise, so if you’re interested in any of the things we’re working on, please get in touch with us at https://dalorbits.ca/index.php/contact-us/. Thank you to everyone who came out and for all of your great questions. If you missed us, the DSS holds information sessions once a month. We hope to see you there!