Welcome PCBWay!

We are excited to welcome our newest sponsor PCBWay! Their printed circuit boards are always impressively well made, meeting the tight aerospace grade tolerances we require. Another aspect that has made PCBWay and invaluable partner is the incredible speed with which they produce PCBs and get them to us, frequently less than a week from placing the order until arrival! If you ever need high quality PCBs in a very short time frame, PCBWay is the manufacturer for you. From all of us at UBC Orbit we would like to thank PCBWay for helping to make our dreams a reality, and look forward to the great things we will do together!




New members wanted, join now!

Hello everyone!

If you are new to UBC, or could not be a part of the team last year, now is your chance to become part of our exciting mission! To assure a strong team, we require that possible members (even those on the team last year) read the document in this folder.

There will be a test (so study the document!) on its content in Hebb 10 (behind Hebb 100) at 13:00 on September 19th 2015. Anyone who wishes to join our team this term must attend. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact pm@ubcorbit.com.

We look forward to seeing you there!

September 2015 CSDC Events

Hi all!

The Critical Design Review for UBC Orbit is scheduled for Friday, September 18th. There, Orbit will present its satellite design and receive whatever feedback necessary to make the satellite space-ready in time for the final judging in May next year.

There will be a couple of events happening that week open to all members of the CSDC. There will be a tour of MDA on Monday, September 14th, and radiation testing at TRIUMF happening on Tuesday, September 15th. Please fill out the following survey if you have interest in attending either of the events.


Space is limited, so respond quickly!

End of Year Update and Highlight Reel

Hello again everyone! Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season; here are some updates to how UBC Orbit is doing 🙂

Our Satellite:

The semester has gone by really fast and it’s exam season already (yikes). Good news is that Orbit reached our goal for this semester! We managed to build our first proto-sat (pictured below) and it’s looking really spiffy. We like to call it Orbit-1.


Orbit-1; UBC Orbit’s first proto-sat

Although not fully functional (yet) and definitely not space-ready, Orbit-1 served as an amazing learning experience for many of Orbit’s members. Not only did we learn the technical skills required to achieve such a feat, we were able to build friendships and worked as a team to get things done.

Since Orbit-1 is the first iteration of proto-sats, Orbit is going to continue growing and learning for the future.


On November 29, 2014, UBC Orbit attended the UBC Engineering Open House and showed off our newly-built proto-sat. We presented our story, our mission and our progress to many eager high school students in the hopes that it will peak their interests! Many people came to hear what we had to say and it was great publicity for us as well.


Our table at the Engineering Open House on November 29, 2014

End of Year Highlight Reel

We’ve come a long way since the start of semester so it’s time to get a little nostalgic!

September 2, 2014: It all started with just two members of Orbit who stood in the rain to recruit members on Imagine Day (Shout out to Hyun and Angela Cho for your hard work)

September 16, 2014: Dr. Michelson invited members of Orbit to attend the Vehicular Technology Conference where they got to meet D. Dean Brickerd, JR who is the Vice Presidnt of Technical Services in ORBCOMM!

October 1 – 4, 2014: 4 Members of Orbit went to the International Astronautical Conference in Toronto


The International Astronautical Conference 2014

October 8, 2014: UBC Orbit UBC Outreach! We set up a table in Kaiser to show off all our cool stuff.


Our table in Kaiser at UBC

October 10, 2014: Had a meeting with the head of IGEN department at UBC!

October 16, 2014: MDA Trip. A group of members went to check out the MDA office in Richmond where we learned a lot!


A group of UBC Orbit members got to talk with the professionals at MDA Richmond

October 23, 2014: Got funding from MECH department at UBC!

October 29, 2014: Altium provided us a software sponsorship!!!

November 10, 2014: Received funding from the EECE department at UBC!

November 24, 2014: Visit to the TRIUMF Particle Accelerator Chamber

2014-11-24 15.40.18

Tour of TRIUMF

November 27, 2014: Intersteller Movie night (with free tickets sponsored by Microsoft)

November 27, 2014: Submitted a Project Management Plan application for the CSDC! As the first step of the competition, teams are required to submit a document of approximately 15 pages, explaining how to manage their satellite project for CSDC 2014 to 2016.

November 29, 2014: Engineering Open House Outreach and we reached more than 300 people!

2014-11-28 21.48.28

Inside of Orbit-1

Thanks to everyone’s great work, Orbit has grown tremendously in the past 4 months. We’re grateful to all the commitment that our members have shown and look forward to creating even more great things together in the near future!

Shoot for the stars everyone,

– UBC Orbit


Our satellite building is under way and it’s looking so great! Our subteams have been working really hard the last couple of weeks; we have all had individual tasks to work on. Today was a milestone because it was the first time we put components from different subteams together! The executives worked hard tonight assembling the tentative prototype.

Here are some photos from all our hard work!

2014-11-14 18.20.26

The tentative body of our prototype satellite. Isn’t she a beauty? Currently the body is made of cardboard because, sadly, the materials we want to use have not arrived yet. Not to worry, they’re coming soon!

2014-11-14 19.53.29

The wonderful group of admins that spent their Friday evening putting together the satellite!


Measuring the specs of the satellite’s dipole antenna


One of the satellite’s dipole antennas


The antenna met our frequency requirements of 435 – 438 MHz resonance

Get excited everyone, we’re SO close to finishing!! 

See you all next week; love from the stars,

– UBC Orbit


Over the past few months, the executives at Orbit have been working hard to secure funding for our two year satellite project. As some of you may know, the team was faced with a major problem at the beginning of this year because most of the students who were on the team in the past had either graduated or left the team to pursue other interests. This left our Project Manager with two tough jobs on his hands: recruitment and funding.

Needless to say, Orbit is climbing at a very fast pace! We now have almost 70 members, and we’re working extra hard to secure funding. Here’s where the good news comes in. Evan, our vice-president and PR representative, has been Orbit’s liaison when it comes to sponsorship, and he has recently secured us sponsors from SolidWorks, ORBCOMM and Altium! [All our sponsors are listed here. We at Orbit would like to thank each and every one of our sponsors. Thank you for supporting our project!]


SolidWorks has generously provided our whole team with licences for the SolidWorks program, which we will use to design various parts of our satellite (like the structure, for example.)

ORBCOMM has generously provided the team with various hardware components that will be a part of our finished product.

And last but not least, Altium has provided us with licences for their EDA (Electronic Design Automation) Software. We are super excited, as this is the same software that many industry professionals also use! (Particle Physics Laboratory, TRIUMF, uses this exact same software).

We can’t wait to build something great for everyone to see!

– UBC Orbit

MDA Corporation

Hey Orbiters,

UBC Orbit had another event/trip this week that went amazingly! The people at MDA Corporation (one of Canada’s biggest satellite companies) were nice enough to give us a little tour of the company.

The whole group was first brought into the operations office for the SAPPHIRE Satellite. SAPPHIRE is Canada’s first military satellite. It was launched back in 2013, and it’s designed to monitor space debris in orbit within a certain distance from the earth. We were shown pictures of the satellite as well as how day-to-day operations were being done (it’s surprisingly very automated!). Regrettably, photos weren’t allowed due to the sensitive information that was being dealt with.

After touring the operations office, we were brought down into the Jakarta meeting room, where we were shown a presentation about satellites and given some pointers on how to start with ours. This went by pretty quickly, however, and then it was Q&A time. Our project manager Hyun, as well as a bunch of other members were very prepared with a lot of questions! The people at MDA were amazing, and answered all of our questions with little hesitation. It was very helpful for our team to grab pointers from these professionals. We now have a list of questions and answers that Hyun took note of, so everyone on our team can access the information.

1902848_10154695955010591_3913718202634430340_n  UBC Orbit with 2 of the MDA Engineers that answered all our questions [Photo Edited by Sahba El Shawa]

We can’t wait until our next event! Until next time…

– UBC Orbit Team

October is the Month to Get Busy!

For UBC Orbit at least.

I have no doubt that it’s going to an exciting month. There’s designing to do, things to buy, and satellites to put together. (Okay, maybe we haven’t gotten to that last part yet… but soon enough, I swear!) Here’s a little update on what we’ve been doing:

Our Project Manager Hyun and Executive Officer Bryan are super busy (which engineering student isn’t?!) but just today they met with the head of Integrated Engineering to discuss a sponsorship, and, due to the abundant number of IGEN students that are involved with Orbit, we’ve gained a new sponsor!

We’d like to take the time to thank all of our sponsors, thank you so much for your support, we can’t do it without you!

An exciting event was held by Orbit this past week: our Satellite (and Structure) release event. It was very successful and many curious students stopped by to see what we were up to.

IMG_20141010_220856Some of the beautiful members and passerby’s that stopped by. Featuring a Yagi-Uda antenna in the middle

The exhibition showcased some of the equipment that the first generation Orbit Team bought and built for the competition. By holding this event, we were able to show team members, as well as interested passerby’s what UBC Orbit is really aiming towards!

IMG_20141010_221134The giant group of people interested in UBC Orbit.

It was an awesome event, and we’re definitely going to hold more. Big thanks to everyone who stopped by; your interest fuels our passion and makes us work even harder.

Let’s go Orbit, T-Minus 9 weeks, we can do it!

The 2014 International Astronautical Congress

The 2014 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) was held from this past Wednesday (October 1st, 2014) to Friday (October 3rd, 2014). A few Orbit members were in attendance:

20141002_180206[1]From left to right: Evan, Obada, Sebastian, Hyun

IAC  is one of the world’s largest aerospace conferences, and it was an amazing opportunity for all the attendees to meet and network with industry professionals. Some topics discussed at the conference include:

  • Space exploration

  • Space science

  • Space life sciences

  • Space debris

  • Applications and operations

  • and many MANY more.

Since I myself was not there (I wish I was, but midterms are too brutal!), Evan was kind enough to share his experience.

Hyun and I finished class on Wednesday evening.  I worked on some applications to the PAF for sponsorship and then headed directly to the airport.  Our flight left at 10:30pm and landed in Toronto at 6:00am.  I took the metro to my hostel, checked in and headed directly to the IAC, where we met Obada and Sebastian.  Sebastian had let no time go to waste: he had already discussed the potential for an internship with 3 different companies who had been enthusiastic about having him next Summer.
I slept for about 2 hours on the plane, but that was it.  I’d slept for 2 hours of the past 26 and counting, but I couldn’t let time go to waste.  It was precious and it was ticking.  The first discussion I went to was about Robotics and the role of robots in our achieving human objectives.  I listened to a speaker from Japan talk about a set of robotic arms that would function like Dr. Octopus from Spiderman and a scientist who gave a solid presentation about tires that were designed to function under the gravity and terrain conditions of the moon.  The presentation was impressive.  But when one of the old timers – like, veteran, expert scientists – came up and asked him a question “did you consider the force that would be applied to the wheel when the vehicle is turning” the speaker sheepishly responded “no, I did not consider that”.  Ouch.  All that time and energy invested into research and an industry expert spots a big flaw upon first hearing about the project.  One of the hosts tried to defend the speaker by suggesting the turning point was insignificant, but the older Italian man said that it was indeed significant, because mass is the main factor at low gravity, a vehicle travelling at 10 mph jumps around like a race car travelling at 200 mph.
A few other questions were asked by representatives from big name companies like Lockheed Martin, and the old Italian man gave a very cool presentation on a vehicle he and a team of young students were working on. I then moved on to another topic: Space Law.
I was fascinated by how unregulated global laws are for information sharing form satellite technology.  I shouldn’t be that surprised, with all the leaks of celebrity nudes on the internet photos, it’s quite clear that nothing is ‘safe’.  But what’s amazing about data-like communication technologies is that they’re so powerful.  Just like international law, there’s no one to enforce decisions that are made.  But it’s surprisingly difficult for space committees and organizations to come to a collective agreement.
After hearing about law, the guys and I went out for lunch, collected our bearings, laughed a lot, and went back for round two.  Obada and I watched a few lectures of people outlining missions they were designing to explore neighbouring moons and planets.  It was like hearing about the wild west: we are surrounded by unexplored space – jam packed with mystery. For example, we can hardly understand the geological compositions of our neighbouring planets and respective moons.  Some of the presentations involved a scientist saying things like “we think that this moon on our neighbouring planet might have water.  If we land on its surface and drill, then we will know” or “if we land on Venus and run tests, we will know more about its geological composition, then better understand earth”.  I was just thinking, in 50 years, we’re going to be looking back and laughing at how much of our knowledge about space was just a guess – and how many of those guesses were ‘wrong’.  Talk about opportunity.
At the end of the day, the four of us had dinner, laughed a lot, and talked about the future.  We were within walking distance to the hostel I was staying at, and the places that the guys were staying at, so we walked home.  I worked on more applications for sponsorship/funding, then went to sleep, so I could balance out the absurd ratio of hours I’d been awake to hours I’d been asleep.  I’d slept 2 hours of the past 40.  Falling asleep when my head hit the pillow was a dream come true.  Literally.
After passing out and sleeping through 2 alarms, I woke up and repeated it again.  Except today, instead of attending two or three different seminars, Hyun and I attended 9.  We learned a little bit about as many things as we could, and we would discuss what we had heard on our walks from lecture to lecture.  I was thankful, because his understanding of the subject matter helped him a lot more from each presentation than I did.  But he would share his perspective and teach me about the bigger picture of every single one of them.
We met up with Obada at lunch time; we went to the same restaurant and decided to make a video for the club instead of attending lectures for the final segment of time.  When Hyun first pitched the idea the thought that ran through my mind was simple: “Fuck”.  We were so sleep deprived and I was afraid that I wouldn’t do a good job in sharing our experience.  But Hyun had been working harder and sleeping less than any of us.  He was leading by example, and it was a perfect example of why I respect him enough to follow.  It would be far from perfect, but it would be a whole lot better than no video.  We took a few minutes to map out how we’d film it and went to work.  We had no rehearsal or practice run throughs.  When the camera man said “action”, he meant it.  We didn’t have sleep or preparation.  What we did have, was fun. If we’d hesitated, we would have missed our opportunity.  People were literally rolling up carpets as we finishing up the video.
When I realized how narrow the window of opportunity was, but that we had succeeded I was so relieved.  We were going to this event on behalf of the club.  It didn’t matter how sleep deprived we were, if we didn’t make the video because we were lazy or “didn’t feel like it” the information and atmosphere would be lost.  We succeeded, watched one final lecture, and the event was over.
What an experience.

 Written by Evan Parrish

Edited by Angela Cheng


The New (and Improved!) UBC Orbit

It’s the start of a new school year and the start of yet another CDSC! This year, UBC Orbit has gone through a massive change in members as well as executives and we have amazing (and very different) things planned.

First things first, let’s meet the new Executive team:

IMG_20140925_122014UBC Orbit Executives 2014 

Don’t we look lovely? We’re working hard to create an incredible experience for all new (and returning) members!

This year UBC Orbit’s main goal is recruitment. We are doing our best to get our name out to the UBC community and the Vancouver aerospace community. How do we plan to do this? By building a prototype satellite by December 2014. (Yes, that’s in 10 weeks!!!) Since our prototype satellite does not have to conform to CDSC specifications, we will be able to have more freedom while learning the specifics of how to build a satellite. This will not only provide members with actual experience, it will result in a tangible product that we can show off to the community! Once the prototype satellite has been built, the UBC Orbit team will be more experienced and ready to build a CDSC-worthy satellite.

Currently, more than half of UBC Orbit’s members are 1st year Engineering students. Because they have yet to dive into their “real” engineering studies, many are not familiar with the tools that UBC Orbit will be using in order to construct the prototype. Is that a problem for us? NOPE. For the first few weeks, the first years are being taught how to use SolidWorks as well as some simple arduino and C programming skills!

DSC_0043First Year Students learning about arduino in a tutorial

Remember, we welcome all kinds of commitment, whether it be large or small. If you or a friend would like to join, just pop by Hebb 10 on Saturdays at 10:30 am and see what we’re up to. UBC Orbit is off to a great start this year with lots of energy from all the new members and we’re going to keep it that way and create an amazing prototype satellite in the process!

Shoot for the stars,

– The Orbit Team

Education Post #3: We’ve Got Attitude

Hi everyone,

It’s educational post o’clock! This week, we thought we’d talk about Attitude Control. People often talk about Attitude Determination and Control as one entity, but it’s a large topic, so we’ll break it down into two posts. One will talk about Attitude Determination and the other about Attitude Control.

Attitude Determination and Control systems largely have one or both of two goals. First, to keep the satellite stably pointing in a single direction without excessive tumbling. Second, to point the satellite as needed for the function of other systems (e.g. solar cells must be pointed towards sun when not in eclipse, directional antennas must be pointed towards their target during communications.)

The first goal is mainly a fight against disturbance torques. These are generally very small torques that act to give the satellite angular momentum; over time they build up and case the satellite to rotate. Accepted models generally consider four sources of disturbance torques:

1) The magnetic field of the Earth 

This effect results from the tendency of satellites to build up charged particles across their surfaces in solar wind. These charges often give the satellite a net magnetic dipole, like a compass needle. As a result, the Earth’s magnetic field will exert a torque that acts to align the satellite’s dipole with the magnetic field direction. Since the magnetic field strength decreases sharply further from Earth (1/r^2), the effect is more pronounced for satellites in low earth orbit like ours. It’s also more of an issue for smaller satellites.

2) Solar radiation pressure

A satellite in orbit is subjected to a great deal of illumination from the Sun. This, of course, is crucial for generating power with solar panels, but it also creates disturbance torques.

Photons carry momentum proportional to their frequency. Therefore, when they strike the satellite they transfer some or all of that momentum to it. If they don’t hit the centre of mass it will produce some torque and thus cause some tumble. With our design, in particular the antenna, is more susceptible to solar radiation pressure.

3) Atmospheric drag

As the satellite travels through its orbit, the Earth’s atmosphere exerts a drag force on it. This drag force is very unlikely to be even across the entire satellite, so net forces will be applied to different parts of the satellite. This creates torques which attempt to line up the satellite so as to minimize the drag force applied to the satellite.

Atmospheric drag is particularly of concern if there are any deployable components, such as solar panels and in our case our payload antenna.

4) Gravity Gradient

Because the gravitiational field of the Earth, like the magnetic field, falls off as 1/r^2, the minimum energy state of a satellite is to point its long axis towards the Earth. Further, if it has a large weight concentration, that  point of concentration would rotate to a position to as close to the Earth as possible.

With our deployable antenna, it will double the length the long axis of the satellite, forming a gravity boom as it will move the center of gravity.

2nd Star to the Right, and Straight on ‘Till Morning,

-The Orbit Team.

Education Post #2: Power, Power Everywhere

Hello everyone,

It’s time for another Educational Post, and since our last newspost focused on the great work being done by our Power Team, we thought it’d be great to give you some info about satellite power systems! It’s the most critical system on a satellite: there are very few ways to try to work around power failure, and many satellites have failed in space due to power system problems. There is a ton of information available on these kinds of systems, but we’ll try to provide solid overview without getting too bogged down in details. Here we go!

Satellite Power Systems:

Essentially the goal of a power system on a satellite is to ensure  that every electronic component onboard receives enough current at the correct voltage to do its job. This includes the processors, antennas, heaters and more, so it’s a big job!  This is accomplished by four major components working together:

1) Primary Power Source: This component converts some form of fuel into electrical energy for the satellite. This fuel could be solar energy from the sun, nuclear, chemical energy like a hydrogen fuel cell, and many others. Sometimes there is no primary source and the satellite relies entirely on a battery it brings with it to space, but this limits the satellite’s lifespan and performance as the battery runs down.

2) Secondary Power Source: This component is generally a battery. Its purpose is to store energy so that it can provide energy to the satellite when the primary source isn’t enough. An example of when you’d need this are when the short-term power you require is greater than the maximum the Primary Source can provide. As mentioned above, sometimes there will be no primary source and all of the satellite’s power will come from a battery, but it is very rarely the reverse. There are a lot of choices for battery type, and the choice is made by a combination of weight, cost, reliability, and capacity.

3) Battery Management System: This component controls and protects the battery. Its most important responsibility is to ensure that the battery doesn’t overcharge. Overcharging is when you try to deliver more energy to a battery that is at its maximum charge already. This can damage a battery, and in space you can’t replace a satellite’s battery, so it’s very important to avoid this! It also includes thermal systems to keep the battery at its correct operating temperature for proper performance.

4) Regulation & Distribution Harness: This component is responsible for distributing power to the other subsystems at regulated (consistent) voltages. Each subsystem has a different requirement for what voltage they run at. These voltages are usually 3.3V, 5V, and 12V. However, the battery itself can only provide one voltage, which depends on its charge level. To provide the different voltages needed,  this system takes the battery voltages and boosts(increases) or bucks (decreases) it to the required voltages. The distribution system then delivers the power at the regulated voltages to the subsystems.

Still with us? Great! As always, we hope you had fun and maybe learned a little something, too. Check back in with us soon for our next Educational Post: Attitude Determination and Control, or ‘Where Are We Pointing and How Do We Point Where We Want’?

Keep on circlin’ the sun,

The Orbit Team

Circuits are Fun!

Hello Orbit fans,

All is well in the world of satellites! We had our weekly work party today, and things went great. Our Power Team was hard at work prototyping and testing the circuits that make up our satellite’s electrical system. Once that’s done, we’ll be able to design them in permanent Printed Circuit Board (PCB) versions, which we’ll be able to fabricate ourselves with UBC Engineering Physics Department’s PCB milling machine! It’s access to resources like this that allow us to flourish as a team, learn as individuals, and gain practical experience that sets us up well for whatever we might like to do. Thanks Eng Phys!

Amit and Lucas from the Power Team, applying heat to seal an electrical connection.

These circuits include Buck and Boost Converters to convert voltage levels to what we’ll need for our various subsystems, circuit sensors to allow the satellite to gauge its power usage and temperature sensors to ensure that our battery doesn’t get too hot or cold (which really affects its performance!) I’ll include more information about satellite Power Systems in our next Educational post. For now, here’s a closeup of the circuit board in all its glory:

Our prototype circuits.

We’re coming up fast on the final deadline of the inaugural Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, and it’s been quite a ride so far. We’ve come far as a team and learned more than we ever imagined! We’ll be working right up until then, so stay tuned for more updates and Orbit news!

Stay charged,

-The Orbit Team

Education Post #1: Who’s UBC Orbit, and what do we do?

Well, O Reader, I’m glad you asked! We’re a team of students at the University of British Columbia in lovely Canada. We formed in 2009 so we could compete in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, a competition where teams of students design and build satellites (more on that later). We’re made up mostly of Engineering students from a variety of disciplines, but over the years we’ve been around we’ve had student members from Earth & Ocean Sciences to Business to Physics! Everyone’s been welcome to contribute however they could, and we’re proud to say everyone who’s been a part of the team has made their mark.



Some of the UBC Orbit Team, past and present.

So, what’s the Canadian Satellite Design Challange (CSDC)? It’s a competition for teams from Canadian universities. They’re competing over the course of two years to design and build a satellite using freely available (also known as off-the-shelf) parts. The important part is to create a worthy payload for the satellite to carry into space; we’re very proud of ours! Our payload is an antenna that can be used to calibrate a huge radiotelescope array. The radiotelescope is part of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (also known as CHIME). The purpose of CHIME is to exploit a phenomenon known as redshift to allow us to determine the distribution of neutral hydrogen of over half the sky! This will provide us with invaluable information to allow us to study the early expansion of the universe. The calibration provided by our satellite allows the CHIME team to make their data even more accurate, improving its scientific worth.

We’re coming up on the end of the competition now (final testing is at the end of September!) and it has been a blast so far. However, the team is far from finished! We’ve still got a ton going on, from technology development, outreach programs to local schools, and gearing up for the next iteration of the competition; it’ll be starting soon after this one ends. Come by again soon and check us out! Feel free to drop us a line on our ‘Contact Us‘ page.

Keep watching the skies,

– The Orbit Team

Hello From Orbit!

We here at UBC Orbit are excited about our brand new website, and thought we’d chronicle our design adventures with a series of blog posts. Right now we’re hard at work to make our milestones at the end of September, but expect a new post at least once a week! We’ll be updating you on the team’s progress, news and events. In addition, every week there will be an educational post describing some subsystem of our satellite, design considerations for space missions, or anything else that seems like you’d want to know about space and satellites.  We hope you have fun and learn a lot with us! See you around!