Do You Know?

On Saturday was the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) Space Systems Division’s Preliminary Design Review.  It was a six hour day where each subsystem presented their piece of the project and slowly the image of the fully designed satellite came together.  I didn’t present but I have a part in that project too - more on that later.

So we're trying to put a satellite in space.

Immediately it's important to note that satellites are not as hard to put in space as they used to be. As such a team of forty-or-so students can (with a little base knowhow, good management, and a lot of time) put together something reasonably space worthy. Of course this is still a monstrous task, but standardization and process iteration can enable almost anyone to do anything. In fact our Space Systems Division has done it before.  Nevermind that the prototype they built was a few tenths of a millimeter too wide.  That wasn’t anything a few hours of dremeling in a hotel room couldn’t resolve. The point is, they had a satellite.  It just never left the earth.

The thing is, for students, space is prohibitively expensive.

That’s where I come in.  As the Business Development Director at UTAT I help make sure the money doesn’t run out, or, in this case, make sure that it can come in.  To fund this project we’re asking the students of UofT to pay a small amount each year.  It’s effectively democratic crowdsourcing.  You vote for the fee and the majority rules.  

I've spent the last few weeks developing a campaign to support that effort. The poster is a piece of that campaign.  And in the past few weeks we’ve been winning small victories. Just one more hurdle--the vote--and we’ll be home-free.  But as the day we’re fully funded draws nearer I find myself wondering how my contribution compares to the contributions of the subsystems.  

Every part is integral to the project.  Without the structures team the satellite is just a pile of wires.  Without the thermal team the whole thing will either burn or freeze in space.  Without the biology team rather than doing science it’s just a box that can surf the internet. Similarly, without funding, it doesn’t go into space.  But whereas the subsystems each are doing real engineering and science, I’m not.  Without funding they still have a satellite, but without a satellite the project’s nothing at all.  

For the cost of a cup of coffee for every student, I alone could launch a masonry brick into space.  But with the Space Systems team, we can do something really special.  


If you have any comments or questions about the above or anything else click here and I'd be happy to chat.

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