wf1_cubeThe University of Alberta has a crowd-funding campaign to help launch Alberta’s first satellite into space.

“We are looking for Albertans to help the U of A launch into the space race for the 21st century by donating to this project,” said Ian Mann, U of A physics professor.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for science and engineering students to be involved in the hands-on design, building and operation of a space mission.”

Mann’s team of 60 students will build and design Alberta’s first cube satellite. Their contribution will be part of a global effort in participation with the European Space Agency.

This isn’t your everyday weather satellite though. Instruments on the satellite will be observing space weather, something that has previously caused disruptive events here on Earth.

Space weather, sometimes referred to as geomagnetic storms, can affect orbiting satellites, expose airline passengers to radiation, and disrupt electrical infrastructure. For example, what was considered a small geomagnetic storm in 1989 still packed enough punch to take down Hydro Quebec’s electrical grid for nine hours, cause intermittent problems with the GOES weather satellite and NASA communication satellite, plus the space shuttle Discovery.

Modern society relies on an uninterrupted supply of electricity. Without it, much of the world would grind to a halt.

AlbertaSat will gather its data by observing plasma flow and how it interacts with the earth’s magnetosphere and lower ionosphere. The goal is to better understand how magnetic fields protect Earth from solar flares, and provide scientists with a better understanding of solar storms to develop better means of protection.

Launch dates for 50 cube satellites designed and built across the globe are planned for early 2015. The “constellation” of satellites will work in conjunction together to collect data.

To make a donation to the University of Alberta’s crowd-funding campaign, visit its website.

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