Tri-Region Student Helps Lead an Albertan Satellite Project

McLeod pictured on the left. Courtesy of AlbertaSat.

Casia McLeod, a third year mechanical engineering student is now the Mechanical Team Lead for the AlbertaSat team.

Everything is looking up for engineering student Casia McLeod, literally.

The University of Alberta student and Tri-Region native has recently become the Mechanical Team Lead of the new AlbertaSat project. In her own words, McLeod explains what AlbertaSat is saying, "AlbertaSat started three years ago, and it was a group of people that had a big interest for space". This group then entered a competition in which they designed a cube satellite and thus the Ex-Alta 1 satellite was born. This satellite was then launched from the International Space Station back in May 2017 and has since been transmitting data back to the group.

McLeod says she was not around for the creation of Ex-Alta 1, but joined the team just in time for the launch. When asked how she came into joining the group, McLeod explains, "I read about it in the engineering handbook and they have a list of all the student clubs and I saw one was the AlbertaSat and they were able to design and launch a cube satellite and I was just shocked that a group of undergraduates had an opportunity like that".

It was a journey for McLeod to get to the Mechanical Team Lead position though as she initially came on as a Public Relations Member helping out in administrative duties. Happy to be on the team, McLeod wanted to be more involved, "I didn't really want to continue administration tasks, my passion was for the technical side of things, so I finally got the opportunity to join the mechanical team and I was on that team for about two semesters and from there I became the Mechanical Team Lead".

Being on the mechanical team is no easy task either, as McLeod explains what her team oversees in the design of the satellite, "The mechanical team works mainly on the structure and thermo-model analysis, so we have to make sure the temperature of the satellite stays within the appropriate ranges for each board and we also do CAD modelling to make sure that the structure will meet the requirements and it will be able to withstand all the conditions in space".

Comparing Ex-Alta 1 to Ex-Alta 2, McLeod addresses their different missions and says Ex-Alta 2 will now be looking at forest fire prevention in Alberta. She further explains, "It has a multi-spectral imager that will be looking at the Earth and phenology and different hot spots and the way the environment changes after fires and before fires". They also hope to develop the satellite with more in-house components and get other students groups involved in the construction of cube satellites.

Now in her third year McLeod notes the work she is doing with AlbertaSat is starting to correlate with her schooling. She explains, "even some of my classes are starting to tie into what I'm doing so it makes things more applicable and helps me understand concepts, and then I can see them being applied to the real world".

The satellite which is roughly the size of a loaf of bread is well into the preliminary design stages involves the help of roughly 40 undergraduate students and 10 faculty members. McLeod says she hopes she can still stay around as an adviser after graduation and hopes to see the satellite launch. She also says the launch date has not been set yet due to the competitions the design has been entered in, but if all goes to plan her work will be orbiting the Earth in a year or two.


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