It's a project of galactic potential, encapsulated in a compact square roughly the size of two Rubik's cubes.
A team of University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Polytechnic students has been tapped by the Canadian Space Agency to build and design a satellite.
The satellite, composed of the two cubes, will be part of a study looking at how materials degrade in space, the CSA announced Friday.
Simone Hagey, a student completing a dual degree in physics and mechanical engineering, said the project is aligning with her studies, giving her a chance not only to design but also build a project over the next four years.
"To me, this project is a great opportunity because it's the kind of thing you can't learn in the classroom and it's the kind of experience we really, really want students — and myself — to have before we graduate."
"Cube satellites are really opening up the space industry to students, because they're so small and accessible," she said.
She explained the students are examining different materials — from fabrics in space suits to ceramics — to see how they will hold up in space and exposure to huge temperature changes, cosmic rays and space debris.
Students putting Canada on the map, says dean
The group of students has been awarded $200,000 by the Canadian Space Agency, which will also cover the costs of launching the satellite, planned in 2021.
The students will also raise money to match the CSA's contribution and double the overall amount of cash available.
"This funding is transformative for a group of brilliant students who have done an exceptional job of multidisciplinary collaboration," said University of Saskatchewan college of engineering dean Suzanne Kresta in a release Friday.
"They truly have put Canada on the map among an elite international group of students and universities."
The Saskatchewan project is part of the space agency's CubeSat Project, which offered post-secondary institutions from across the country an opportunity to take part in a space mission by creating their own satellites. Fifteen proposals were selected.