'An amazing moment,' says team leader as satellite built in Nova Scotia launches into space

The LORIS satellite was built by more than 300 Dalhousie University students over the last four years. It was launched into orbit by NASA from Houston on Dec. 29. (LORIS nano/Twitter - image credit)
The LORIS satellite was built by more than 300 Dalhousie University students over the last four years. It was launched into orbit by NASA from Houston on Dec. 29. (LORIS nano/Twitter - image credit)

After more than four years of work, a tiny satellite made by students with the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab has been launched into space.

LORIS, which stands for low-orbit reconnaissance imagery satellite, was sent into orbit by NASA in Houston on Thursday.

It was one of dozens of satellites that were part of the Canadian CubeSat Project and the first made in Atlantic Canada.

"It was just an amazing moment to see our work actually being, you know, put to orbit," said Arad Gharagozli, project manager.

"It's a very interesting feeling," he said. "I can't really describe it. There is nothing like it to be perfectly honest because, I mean, not a lot of people get to experience this."

LORIS's main purpose will be to test how different technologies like computers work while in space. The satellite is also equipped with cameras to take aerial images of earth and Halifax specifically.

CBC
CBC

More than 300 students with different types of expertise worked on the device that's only as big as a shoebox, Gharagozli said.

He says they built computers and other equipment themselves before sending the device to NASA.

"These are the things that traditionally are not part of the industry here in Nova Scotia or here in Atlantic Canada," he said. "A lot of these technologies are now in a space and part of LORIS's mission is to validate those designs and developments and hopefully we can improve on those designs down the road."

Gharagozli says students weren't paid for their work, so for many of them the satellite was a passion project they finally got to see fly into the sky.

"It's not an easy project for people to just kind of do on the side," he said. "We had a lot of dedicated people who really spent their weekends [and] their evenings working on this."

Work has just begun

As he watched the satellite soar into space, Gharagozli says that's when he started to think about how the work has really just begun.

LORIS will pass over Halifax three or four times a day as it orbits around the planet, he said.

When it's closest, Gharagozli and his team will try to communicate with the satellite and collect information.

CBC
CBC

They didn't have much luck immediately following the launch, however. Gharagozli says he and his team stayed up for hours, making several unsuccessful attempts to contact LORIS.

"The next phase is trying to troubleshoot and see where the issues are or how can we fix these?" he said.

"Is there a problem on the ground? Is there a problem with this spacecraft? So, hopefully over the next three to four days we can figure out some of those issues and then have a clear contact with it."

If all that goes well, Gharagozli says, they will be able to start analyzing the information the satellite sends to them and even take some pictures of Halifax from space.

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