Saturday, June 28, 2014

Canadian Universities in Space

          by Chuck Black

While well known Canadian aerospace and space firms such as Bombardier (with 11.3% of its estimated 2013 revenue of approximately $17bln CDN being allocated towards R&D activities according to the latest Research Infosource (RI) listing of "Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders 2013," MacDonald Dettwiler (8.1% of $880Mln allocated in 2013) and others contribute useful amounts to developing innovation, this private sector money is normally tied to larger pots of government and academic funding.

Here's a preliminary listing of some of the better recognized academic institutions for space firms to collaborate with and hire graduates from.


Carleton University - The Carleton Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is the home of the CU3SAT micro-satellite project, which competed in the 2012 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). A second team from Carleton, also competed in the 2014 CSDC.

    Concordia University - Home of the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation (CIADI), which promotes "awareness and provide leading edge know-how among engineering students engaged in aerospace design and innovation." Also home to Space Concordia, a team of Concordia University engineering students which was an entrant in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

    Laurentian University – The 2011 Lunabotics Challenge (now known as the NASA Robotic Mining Competition) was awarded to a team from Laurentian University.

    McGill University - Home of the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law, focused on "training aviation and space focused lawyers to serve throughout the world." The faculty maintains close relationships with the American Bar Association (ABA) Forum Committee on Air and Space Law, organizes conference on the topic and publishes the Annals of Space Law Journal.

    Queens University - Home of the annual student run Queen's Space Conference (QSC), aimed at connecting university student-delegates with leading professionals in the space industry.

    The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics- A basic research centre dedicated to "exploring the world around us at its most fundamental level." The institute supports over 80 resident researchers and a vigorous visitor program of cross-disciplinary research in condensed matter, cosmology & gravitation, particle physics, quantum foundations, quantum gravity, quantum information theory, superstring theory and other related areas.

    Ryerson University - Possesses a well respected Engineering Graduate Program, which focuses on aerodynamics and propulsion, aerospace structures, manufacturing, avionics and aerospace systems and has some overlap in technologies, with the space industry.

    The University of Alberta - Home to both the Centre for Earth Observation Sciences (CEOS), which uses Earth observation and imaging technology monitor environmental changes, manage resources and formulate sustainable development policies, and the Institute for Space Science, Exploration and Technology (ISSET), a pioneering interdisciplinary centre for planetary and space research. The university also hosts the annual Canada-Norway Student Sounding Rocket (CaNoRock) exchange program along with the University AlbertaSat-1 team, which competed in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

    The University of British Columbia - Home of the UBC Orbit team which competed in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge and of Dr. Jaymie Matthews, who acts as chief scientist and principal investigator for the Microvariability & Oscillations of STars (MOST) micro-satellite.

    The University of Calgary - Home of the Institute for Space Research, which is part of the Department of Physics and focused on the areas of space plasma, aural imaging and analysis and modeling plus the Institute for Space Imaging Science which led the development of the Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e-POP), a scientific payload for CASSIOPE, the first, made-in-Canada multi-purpose small satellite mission from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). A team from the University of Calgary also competed in the 2014  Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

    The University of Guelph - Home to the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF). As part of Ontario Agricultural College, CESRF and its Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture program focus on plant research for space and other closed environment related activities. Has useful connections with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the strong support of NASA's Advanced Life Support (ALS) community.
    The University of Manitoba - Home of the University of Manitoba Space Applications and Technology Society (UMSATS), which competed in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

    The University of Saskatchewan - Home of the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST), a student run organization which dominated the 2011 NASA sponsored Space Elevator Games and competed in the 2012 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC), plus the University of Saskatchewan Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies (ISAS).  ISAS maintains strong links to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) through various contributions to the Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imager System (ODIN OSIRIS), the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission, the various Canadian Geo-space Monitoring (CGSM) programs and the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change (CANDAC) plus international research connections through the Climate And Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES) program, the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) and the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) program.

    The University of Toronto - Home to the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), the first Canadian academic institution able to build low cost spacecraft, micro-satellites and nano-satellites. As the "big boy" of academic space activities in Canada, the lab collaborates with business, government and academic institutions on the development of new space technologies and strengthening the Canadian skill base in space systems engineering. Recent UTIAS-SFL satellites have included the Brite Constellation of micro-satellites, AISSAT-2 (a follow-on from the very successful AISSAT-1) and the recently postponed Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat). The facility also has close relationships with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Bombardier, the NASA Ames Research Center, MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and multiple foreign governments.

    The University of Waterloo - Home of Canada's largest engineering faculty (divided up into several different schools and research centres, most notably Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering), the university faculty has contributed to a variety of space focused projects. These include the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory, the VASCULAR and BP-Reg medical experiments conducted in 2012-13 aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by Commander Chris Hadfield (who joined the Waterloo faculty in 2014) and a proposed micro-satellite mission (the Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite or QEYSSat) that would demonstrate long-distance quantum key distribution from space. The university also hosts the Waterloo Space Society (WSS), which organizes and promotes space-related events at Waterloo and within the larger community. WSS has two active engineering sub-teams: WatSat which is participated in the 2012 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge and UW Rocketry which is participated in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition.

    The University of Western Ontario (UWO) – Home to the Canadian Lunar Research Network (now a part of the new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute), the Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration (CPSX) and the co-host of the Canadian Astrobiology Network. UWO contains Canada's only graduate program in planetary science, with over 40 PhD and MSc students and has just rolled out a new undergraduate minor degree in planetary science and space exploration. The university can also boast of its role in development of the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSAT), the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the proposed 2016 ExoMars Orbiter and EDM mission, plus the proposed ExoMars 2018 mission and has a close relationships with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the NASA Ames Research Center, MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and multiple foreign governments.

    York University - The old Faculty of Science and Engineering split apart into the Faculty of Science and the Lassonde School of Engineering in 2012. The new Lassonde school includes the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering (which bills itself as the only accredited "space engineering" program in Canada) and the Earth and Space Science graduate program. It's expected that the new curriculum slowly being rolled out will also include student co-op placements (in co-operation with the Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School) plus an emphasis on business and law components considered relevant to high tech engineering firms. York scientists, engineers and students have contributed the Phoenix Scout Mission, SCISAT (the Canadian Space Agency mission to research the ozone layer) the Canadian WINDII instrument (on NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) and the Canadian OSIRIS instrument (for Sweden’s Odin satellite). York is also home of the York University Rover Team which competed in the 2011 University Rover Challenge, an annual event organized by the US based Mars Society.

    It's also worth noting that not all academic funding or partnerships derive from universities. For a beginners list of research colleges, its worth checking out the RI listing of "Canada's Top 50 Research Colleges List."



    1. You spelt Carleton wrong, twice.

    2. I've updated the post. Thanks for the heads up.

    3. Dear Chuck,

      Thanks for a useful list of Canadian universities relevant to Canadian space firms. It is important to recognize that in addition to the excellent work done by Rob Zee and UTIAS's SFL that you have described, there are several other professors at UTIAS conducting research and producing graduates relevant to space firms. These include Tim Barfoot, Gabriele D'Eleuterio, Chris Damaren, Angela Schoellig, and Jonathan Kelly.

      All the best,

      David Zingg, Director UTIAS

    4. Hey Chuck,
      Informative post.Thanks for sharing such a great list of institutions of space firms.This would be really helpful for students who want to make their career in space research.Keep updating!!

    5. Thanks Veronica,

      All the new information I've collected on the topic has been added to my page focused on the business & entrepreneurial focused organizations, educational facilities, government departments and a representative sampling of the growing advocates, activists and groups which are helping to connect those entrepreneurs, bureaucrats and academics to each other and to the rest of the country.

      Go to in order to learn more.


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