On Thursday March 16th, 2017 voting concluded in the UTSU spring election period. In addition to many executive positions voted annually this year's ballot also included a binding referendum for the students of St George Campus on whether or not to establish a $2.77 levy on tuition each semester from September 2017 to April 2019.
This levy, the UTAT Innovation Fund, directly supports the University of Toronto Aerospace team in one of its stated objectives of enhancing opportunities for students at the University of Toronto in applied learning in science and engineering. For the 2017 to 2019 collection period of the levy that objective will be pursued by funding the development and launch of the Space Systems Division's HERON MK II project, an ambitious undertaking to develop the first student-designed student-constructed microbiology satellite for launch in 2019.
HERON MK II is a 3U cubesat, a small satellite constructed to standard dimensions of approximately 30 by 10 by 10 centimeters. Cubesats have been in use for a number of years by space agencies and research laboratories and recently universities notably including the University of Toronto which has launched multiple cubesats in recent years from the Space Flight Laboratory at the Institute for Aerospace Studies.
HERON MK II's mission aims to change the way that scientific experimentation is done in space in three ways:
Reduce costs associated with using astronauts in research by experimenting remotely.
Create opportunity for new scientific discoveries on a variety of potentially dangerous organisms without the risks associated with having astronauts present.
Allow student teams and scientists to adapt HERON MK II's open source blueprints to avoid the long and complex design period necessary with most satellites.
UTAT's Space Systems Division originally developed HERON MK I from the ground up over the course of two years in preparation for the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). Following CSDC in 2016 the Space Systems Division returned to the university with the dream of launching the next iteration of their satellite into space.
The University of Toronto Aerospace Team would like to extend its most sincere gratitude to the undergraduate students of the University of Toronto's St George Campus.
Today, their dream is just steps away from becoming a reality. The UTAT Innovation Fund passed with a 54.8% "Yes" response. With this result HERON MK II is now funded to launch and is slated to become the first ever student-funded microsatellite in space.
The funds of the levy will be distributed into two categories: development and launch. With the past development of HERON MK I the Space Systems Division already has the basic design of the new iteration of the satellite. As such the development costs which encompass both design and construction of the craft will total approximately a quarter of the levy funding. The remaining three quarters of funding will be allocated to the launch of HERON MK II.
The current launch window for the satellite is summer 2019. Mark your calendar.