Over 150 students and researchers at McMaster University have been involved in a satellite project over eight years in the making — and it finally launched into orbit tonight.
NEUDOSE, short for neutron dosimetry and exploration, is a radiation-detecting mini satellite currently on board a SpaceX rocket that launched Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EDT from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station (ISS).
“We have been working for eight long years … through ups and downs, heartbreaking delays, and a global pandemic,” said Patrick Chin, PhD student in mechanical engineering and a member of NEUDOSE’s mechanical team.
It’s primary purpose? To learn about the risks and effects of prolonged exposure to space radiation outside of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to make space travel safer for astronauts’ health. Researchers are also looking to determine the radiation dose that astronauts are receiving. It is McMaster’s first space mission.
The space exploration industry is “looking at longer deep-space missions and space radiation has a huge health risk for astronauts,” including cancer and damage to the central nervous system, among other things, operations team leader Taren Ginter told The Hamilton Spectator last week.
Larysa Duda is a fourth-year medical and biological physics student, and part of NEUDOSE’s payload instrument team, who says it’s “surreal” knowing her team’s work is “sitting on the Falcon 9 rocket” tonight.
After spending a month or two on the ISS, “astronauts will deploy the satellite into low Earth orbit and once it’s deployed, the satellite will be turned on and measurements will be transmitted to the ground station which is here at McMaster,” Ginter said.
“At that point we will have the operation of the satellite … collecting measurements and collecting data that will be coming in for analysis until the end of the satellite’s lifespan,” Ginter continued. A lifespan, she estimates, that could be as much as three years, but hopefully one year at least.
Described as a passion project by team members, they believe NEUDOSE will change the landscape of Canadian aerospace with the radiation instrument hopefully becoming a standard on future missions to the moon and Mars.
Also described by the university as a mission of “big dreams” and “bold ideas,” NEUDOSE’s secondary purpose was to train the next generation of engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
“Working on the NEUDOSE mission has taught me so much more than I ever could imagine learning in a classroom. This experience has taught me so many valuable skills and given me the background and confidence to pursue a further career in physics,” said Duda.
On top of its primary purpose, Chin hopes the satellite will also “show the way for new Canadian students to break into the space industry.”
NEUDOSE has been such a long time coming, McMaster Interdisciplinary Satellite Team were fundraising, seeking over $100,000, before funding arrived in 2018 with Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) CubeSat project.
The CSA project offered students and professors across Canada the opportunity to design and build their own standard-sized mini satellites to be sent into space for real missions.
“Ad Astra NEUDOSE!”
With files from The Hamilton Spectator
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