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RASC Mississauga Centre Meeting Friday April 1, 2016

  • University of Toronto Mississauga 3359 Mississauga Road Mississauga, ON, L5L 1C6 Canada (map)

The April 1 meeting of the RASC Mississauga Centre will feature a talk on engineering tiny space satellites.

Talk Title:   Engineering Tiny Space Telescopes

Speaker:  Cordell Grant   University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS-SFL)

Launched in 2013 and 2014 and billed by Popular Science as one of the “Most Incredible Telescopes in Existence”, the six nanosatellites of the BRITE-Constellation mission are believed to be not only the world’s smallest space telescopes, but also the first satellite constellation dedicated to astronomy. Using 3cm-aperture refractive optics, BRITE is currently performing a two-colour photometric survey of the brightest stars in the Earth’s sky. Typically massive and short-lived, these luminous stars dominate the ecology of the Universe and have seeded the interstellar medium with elements critical for the formation of planetary systems and organic life.  

Surprisingly, in the push to observe ever fainter objects, bright stars have been rather poorly studied. Reversing that trend, BRITE-Constellation is now measuring brightness variations at the milli-magnitude level, a precision at least 10 times better than what is currently achievable from ground-based observations. Mr. Grant will discuss the unique challenges associated with designing, building and testing not just space telescopes but tiny space telescopes. He will also provide a unique glimpse into the world of “rocket science” by providing insight into the design of the spacecraft that support, power and point those telescopes through launch and in orbit.


Cordell Grant is the Manager of Satellite Systems at the University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS-SFL) and was project manager, systems engineer, opto-mechanical engineer and assembly/integration lead for the BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) Constellation of nanosatellites. Born and raised just outside of Sydney, Nova Scotia (where the skies were far darker than in Toronto) Cordell has always held a fascination with the night sky and the exploration of it, a passion which led him to pursue Aerospace Engineering as a career. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics (Cape Breton University) and mechanical engineering (Dalhousie). In 2005 he completed a Masters of Applied Science degree from UTIAS-SFL where his thesis focused on the mechanical and thermal design of the CanX-2 nanosatellite. Cordell would go on to lead the development of that spacecraft, which launched in 2008 and was awarded the CASI Allouette Award in 2010. Cordell enjoys public outreach and has given talks on Space and Spacecraft Engineering to groups aged 10 to 80+. Cordell currently spends most of his time designing and building spacecraft and space telescopes that look down, at Earth, instead of up.

The meeting will be held from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at The University of Toronto,Mississauga Campus, in lecture hall SE2082 in the William Davis Building. The meeting is open to the public and is free.  

Enter off of Mississauga Road. Park in lot 4 or the parkade, across from the fitness centre south of theDavis Building. Enter through the Fitness centre, walk up the stairs until you reach the main corridor then turn right. (If you need an elevator,follow the corridor to the right of the stairs, then go up to the mainfloor.) Look for the Mississauga Centre sign in front of the lecture room.

Post meeting plans: we usually continue the discussion post-meeting at a local bar – please join us!