NWT-built nano-satellite en route to International Space Station

A satellite that launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Tuesday was built partly by students from the Northwest Territories.

Aurora College’s AuroraSat nano-satellite will make its way to the International Space Station before being launched into a one year orbit around the Earth.

Nine high school students from the Inuvik Robotics Club took part in designing and building the satellite alongside the Aurora Research Institute.


The satellites are part of the Canadian CubeSat Project, which works with students from Aurora College, Yukon University and the University of Alberta to construct miniature satellites weighing less than two kilograms and incorporating off-the-shelf electronic components.

Although Aurora College has participated in the CubeSat project since 2018, this is the first time its satellite has launched into space.

Miniature satellites during production. Joanne Cai/University of Alberta

Joel McAlister, the college’s vice-president of research, said the project is a way to start conversations around science, technology, engineering and math (or Stem) in the North – and “spark the next generation of northern space explorers.”

“After many years of northern students being involved in the design and construction of AuroraSat, it is very exciting to have the payload launched from the International Space Station this month,” McAlister was quoted as saying in a press release.

Aurora College said it is using the arts, voice recordings and games as ways to connect its satellite mission with more people.


Northern Images features a camera mounted on the CubeSat that will capture images of NWT artwork displayed while the AuroraSat is in orbit, with the Earth’s horizon in the background. NWT youth are encouraged to continue submitting their artwork to be displayed during orbit.

Northern Images cameras, designed and assembled in the NWT, before incorporation into the satellite. Photo: Supplied

Northern Voices will transmit recordings of northern stories about space and the sky to radio stations across Canada, while Northern Games will transmit an interactive game for radio operators across the globe, sending specific data packages to different geographic zones. Cooperation between all receiving operators will be required to decode the game, which revolves around northern Indigenous histories and languages.

Patrick Gall, an engineering and technology projects technician at Aurora College, hopes the launch will spread awareness on the benefits of the college’s transformation into a polytechnic university.

Gall said the project offers “a unique opportunity to show that technical work, such as the construction of a satellite payload, can be done in the North.”


More information on the AuroraSat and its missions can be found on the Aurora College website.