Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment Design Challenge

Canada’s first microgravity research competition for students, in collaboration with the National Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment Design Challenge (CAN-RGX) is a competition for Canadian post-secondary students to design and test a small scientific experiment on board the National Research Council (NRC) Falcon-20, which has been modified for reduced gravity flight in association with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Any student team at a Canadian university or college can submit a proposal for their experiment, after which, 4 teams will be selected to fully design, build and fly their experiments. Two members of each team will fly their experiments on board the Falcon-20 which simulates microgravity conditions by flying in consecutive parabolas.

We seek to create tangible student-led impact in space exploration and development. This is a unique opportunity for students to develop skills in STEM, to fly on board a parabolic aircraft, and conduct research in an environment that is unparalleled here on Earth.

The 2017-2018 handbook is now available here!

Faculty Endorsement Letter Template

4 teams have been selected for CAN-RGX 2018! Read the press release for more information.

Team FAM (University of Toronto)

Fluids Affected by Magnetism (FAM)’s primary goal is to investigate the effectiveness of heat transfer mechanisms of a paramagnetic fluid (PM) in microgravity. The PM will be manipulated using varying external magnetic fields which will be modulated by altering the current supplied to the coils. On Earth, convection occurs in a fluid cell due to gravity acting on density gradients. In a microgravity environment, however, density gradients are absent. The magnetic field can be used to excite certain motion patterns in the parafluid that are akin to artificial convection. These phenomena have important implications for heat and mass transfer on spacecraft, however, they remain poorly understood. Therefore, this experiment will provide a better understanding of microgravity heat and mass transport properties which could potentially improve spacecraft efficiency, sustainability, and the lifespan of its hardware.

Team Astroplastic (University of Calgary)

As part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, the University of Calgary iGEM team (iGEM Calgary) developed a process to produce polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a bioplastic, which can be used in a selective laser sintering 3D printer to produce useful items for astronauts, using genetically engineered bacteria and solid human waste as a feedstock. With this project, our team aimed to address two major challenges for future manned Mars missions: transporting materials to Mars and recycling of human waste. Since waste management will also be an issue on the way to Mars, our goal now is to adapt our system for microgravity environments. In particular, our goal is to test a dissolved air flotation (DAF) method to extract PHB nanoparticles from liquid.

Team QVIP (Queen’s University)

The Queen’s Vorticity Innovation Project (QVIP) addresses the fundamentals of vortex formation and dynamics in unsteady fluid flows, which are currently poorly understood in microgravity. The team proposes the Observation of Ring Vortex Evolution in Liquids (ORVEL) project to extend the study of vortices in two-phase flows to microgravity. The proposed experiment involves the generation of a vortex ring of ferrofluid through a tank of water. The ferrofluid will be injected into the water using a piston cylinder assembly, and the vortex ring that develops will be observed. The images of the developing vortex ring will be processed and analyzed using image correlation and post-processing techniques. Furthermore, growth and separation of the shear layer will be determined using the camera’s frame-by-frame images. Vortex ring formation in two-phase flows can be related to flood flow in the human heart. Having a better understanding of blood flow in microgravity could help explain the negative effects on the cardiovascular system of astronauts.

Team QRGX (Queen’s University)

Maintaining DNA sequence integrity may be a substantial concern when considering the viability of long term space travel. Extensive research has been conducted examining the effects of ionizing radiation and microgravity on DNA damage and repair. Additionally, gene expression in microgravity has been a subject of intense research. Few studies, however, have assessed the function of DNA polymerases, the enzymes responsible for DNA replication and repair, in a microgravity environment. If DNA polymerases display altered function in this setting, such results may prove critical when considering the survivability of organisms in periods of extended microgravity. The Queen’s Reduced Gravity eXperiment Design Team (QRGX) proposes an experiment assessing the impact of microgravity on the DNA polymerase I replication rate and error rate. This study will specifically analyze derivatives of the DNA polymerase I enzyme, the Klenow fragment (exonuclease +) and Klenow fragment (exonuclease -), allowing for a direct characterization of both the polymerase function and the 3’-5’ exonuclease proofreading function in μG in comparison to a 1G environment.

We will compile a list of answers here to your questions. If you don’t find an answer below, feel free to contact us at canrgx@seds.ca.

Who can I ask for help if I have a technical question related to my experiment design?

  • Selected teams will have access to a group of Subject Matter Experts (SME) who have extensive knowledge on parabolic flight science.These SMEs will be available to answer your technical questions during the competition. Send us your questions to the e-mail address above.

Can my experiment involve flammable material if it is properly contained?

  • No. The ‘Experiment Constraints’ outlined in the Call for Proposals prohibits the use of high-pressure, toxic, corrosive, explosive and flammable materials, regardless of the level of containment.

Can I alter my experiment idea after submitting my Letter of Intent?

  • Absolutely! You are welcome to tweak your experiment or completely change topic when writing your Proposal. The Proposal is the only document that will be evaluated for selection.

Will lab space or equipment be provided to build our experiment?

  • No. Teams are responsible for securing access to proper facilities/equipment needed to design and build their experiment.

Will we receive training before the parabolic flight?

  • Yes. Selected teams will undergo a pre-flight briefing where they will be coached by flight officers and guided through emergency procedures.

Will we be allowed to bring our own tools on board the aircraft?

  • Yes, given that the tools are deemed safe for use in parabolic flight. Note that all tools will need to be contained or tethered during parabolas.

Can we perform experiments on humans, animals or living cells?

  • No. These types of experiments will not be possible for this year’s competition.

Can my team have more than one faculty advisor?

  • Yes, but you must identify one primary faculty advisor who must also be affiliated with your team’s academic institution.

Can I apply if I am an international student?

  • Yes! Any student enrolled at a Canadian post-secondary institution can apply, regardless of residency status.

Can I participate if I am enrolled part time?

  • Yes! As long as you can provide proof of enrollment at your academic institution, you can enter into the competition.

Do you accept unofficial proof of enrollment?

  • Yes, however official proof must be submitted with the team’s Proposal.

Is there a limit on how many members can be in my team?

  • No, however your team can only be associated with one ‘primary Canadian institution’. This means that any team members who are not enrolled at the primary Canadian institution will be listed as ‘collaborating institutions/members’.

Any biological or physical process that depends on gravity on Earth can be studied in microgravity to observe changes. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds can perform experiments; these include, but are not limited to:

  • Material Sciences
  • Fluid, Heat and Mass Dynamics
  • Mechanics and Structures
  • Sensors, Control Systems and Robotics
  • Chemistry
  • Geological Processes
  • Astroparticle and Radiation Sciences
  • Kinesiology, Biophysics and Biomechanical Engineering
  • Biology and Biochemistry
  • Plant, Animal and Human Physiology
  • Nutrition Sciences
  • Pharmacology and Medicine

For inspiration, here is a list of abstract titles from the 2014 NASA Reduced Gravity Flight Opportunities Program, which cover several research topics:

  • Dust Coagulation in Microgravity
  • Electrodynamic Dust Mitigation for NEO Missions
  • Flow Boiling Bubble Detachment in Microgravity
  • Canfield Joint Attitude Control
  • Zero Gravity Mass Inventory Gauge System
  • Frontal Polymerization in Microgravity
  • Fiber Supported Droplet Combustion of Biofuels
  • Still Deployment Mechanism for Small Satellite Platforms
  • Moisture Transport Systems for Wearable Applications
  • Vectran Combustion in Microgravity
  • Low-Velocity Regolith Ejecta
  • Alteration of Actin’s Critical Concentration in Microgravity
  • Miniaturized cardiac monitoring systems in microgravity
  • Noninvasive Biosensing for Long Distance Space Flights
  • Peristaltic Flow in Zero Gravity
  • Automated Microgravity Fluids Testing for Advanced Plant Habitat
  • A reporter system to assess the effects of microgravity on UV-induced DNA damage
  • Measuring and Interpreting the Effects of Gravity on Human Biochemical Processes
  • CPR in a microgravity environment
  • HTEE (Hemodynamic Transesophageal Echocardiography) Evaluation and Analysis Research Team (HEART)

Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment

The Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment Design Challenge (CAN-SBX) is a competition for Canadian post-secondary students to design and test a small scientific experiment to fly on board a High-Altitude Balloon provided by the Canadian Space Agency. The CAN-SBX program allows post-secondary students to develop different experiments in areas such as astrophysics, Earth atmosphere, Earth magnetic field, biology, remote sensing and technology demonstrations.

Any student team at a Canadian university or college may submit a proposal for their experiment, after careful consideration, 2 teams will be selected to fully design, build and fly their experiments. Three to Six students from each team will attend the 2018 launch campaign in Timmins Ontario.

SEDS Canada strives to create a tangible student-led impact in space exploration and development. This is a unique opportunity allows students to develop skills in STEM and conduct research in an environment that is unparalleled here on Earth.

Read the full Request for Proposals

Addendum to the RFP

2nd Addendum to the RFP

Template Letter of Intent

Template Faculty Endorsement Letter

Proposal Guidelines

Proposal Sample Mass Power Budget

Power Clarifications

The flight campaign will be held in early August of 2018. The flight will span the duration of approximately 10 hours, however flight campaigns can last on the order of serval days, depending on weather dependent launch windows. Historically, most of the launch opportunities at the Timmins base have been between 4 pm and 8 am as winds are weaker at evening and night. The flight campaign will occur tentatively over the period of two weeks and will include the following:

  • Registration
  • Pre-flight briefings
  • Experiment-gondola integration
  • Flights
  • Payload/gondola recapture
  • Data analysis
  • Reception

All students at secondary and post-secondary institutions in Canada are eligible to enter this competition, however, the team leader and no less than 80% of the team must be enrolled at a post-secondary institution. Funding for travel and lodging will only be provided for students currently enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary institution. The two teams selected by SEDS-Canada and the Canadian Space Agency to access this flight will be eligible to apply for a grant to cover travel and accommodation expenses for the student team members and shipping costs for their experiment, tools and other ground support equipment. The selected teams will apply for the CSA grant provided they have a professor-advisor that can manage the grant. Expenses associated with experiment development, testing and integration cannot be included in the budget of the applicant’s proposal. It is the responsibility of the recipient to comply with all of the safety procedures, and to ensure that the payload will be ready on time and meets safety and interface requirements, which are outlined in the SEDS STRATOS 2018 Handbook.

Students must adhere to the following timeline and requirements in order to qualify for the selection process:

  • October 13th 2017, 11:59 p.m. - Submit your Letter of Intent with the following information:
    • Team information - names, emails, majors, proof of enrolment.
    • Endorsement of at least one faculty advisor at your institution.
    • Brief summary of the proposed experiment.
    • A $50 security deposit which will be returned upon submission of your team proposal.
  • December 1st 2017, 11:59 p.m. - Submit team Proposal.
  • December 22 2017 - Teams will be notified of their selection and feedback will be provided by SMEs.
  • For selected teams:
    • February 9th 2018, 11:59 p.m. - Submit your Preliminary Design Review (PDR)
    • March 30th 2018, 11:59 p.m. - Submit your Critical Design Review (CDR)
    • May 25th 2018, 11:59 p.m. - Submit your Test Equipment Data Package (TEDP)
    • August 2018- Flight campaign, dates TBA

The PDR, CDR and TEDP are documents that are required to complete milestones in a standard design process. These documents will be evaluated by SMEs throughout the experiment design phases.

Act In Space

Act In Space is a business competition started by CNES (Centre Nationale des Etudes Spatiale)

SEDS Canada is honoured to be organizing the inagural Canadian national stage of the competition. People will compete at national hackathons around the world on May 25th and 26th 2018 working to solve one of a number of challenges set out by the planning/sponsoring organizations. The top team from each national competitiong will be sent to France to compete in the international final in June of 2018! Let us know you're interested by filling out the form below and you'll be the first to know when registration opens on the main site! (This also helps us with logistics to make sure you have the best time possible!)

Satellites Around Mars: What Will it Take

A competition sponsored by the Society of Satellite Professionals International

The colonization of Mars has become a much-talked-about topic, from Elon Musk’s stated desire to end his days on the red planet to the Mars One campaign to send astronauts on a one-way journey there. One of the first steps required for successful colonization will be to put communication relay satellites into orbit to support robot landers and ultimately human settlements. Satellites are a well-established technology – but the challenges of getting them to another planet and operating them there will be vast.

Project Specifications

Your assignment is to create a satellite communications capability to support exploration, colonization and early development of Mars, including both surface-to-space communications and Mars-to-Earth communications.

Mission Description

Initial exploration of Mars will be conducted robotically to assess environmental conditions, availability of resources and potential colonization sites. Supporting the robotic mission will be a fleet of small satellites in low Mars orbit, which provide a minimum of 6 hours of connectivity per robotic lander or about 25% of the sidereal day. Because smallsats will lack sufficient power for Earth-Mars communication, they will network with a larger satellite in middle or synchronous orbit positioned for a maximum duration of line of site with Earth.

The robotic exploration mission(s) will be followed by the dispatch of habitat units assembled in Earth orbit, flown robotically to Mars orbit and landed on Mars. Once operation of the habits is confirmed, the first human colonists will make the journey from Earth to Mars. By the time human colonists reach the surface, the communications system will need to provide surface-Mars orbit-Earth connectivity for 98% of the sidereal day.

The mission will be developed and funded by multiple nations, which will also contribute terrestrial communications infrastructure to maintain the link with Mars. The mission plan should include testing in Earth orbit before deployment to Mars.

Read the full mission specifications and competition guidelines here.