Check Out Our GUNNs: UBC Co-Op, Palak!

November 1, 2023

UBC Co-Op, Palak Singh, has been with us since May 1. 

Palak works in our Vancouver office alongside Alvin Dong and Sam Hamze in our Maintenance and Inspections Department. Palak has been a pleasure to work with and has some inspiring projects on the go outside of GUNN. Last month we discovered that Palak’s UBC Orbit team have been selected for the ESA – Fly Your Satellite! program and invited to their test CubeSat in ESA’s testing facility, ESEC! Palak will finish her Co-Op at GUNN at the end of December, so we caught up with her to hear all about these opportunities …

Hi Palak, you’ve been at GUNN for seven months – time sure does fly! Now we know you’re completing your degree in Manufacturing Engineering at University of British Columbia, but what are you up to when you’re not studying?

Outside of work, I am part of two UBC Design teams which are essentially student-run engineering clubs each exceling in various fields. I am part of UBC Orbit where we’re making a satellite to launch in space! I am also part of the UBC Design League that does all the fun stuff with relation to design, CAD and engineering! The Design League has an annual CAD hackathon with great opportunities to win 3D printers, amazing recognition and develop design skills. The team also hosts free CAD workshops leading up to the main event, to help participants better prepare and expand their skillset.

Photographed here is Palak and the UBC Design League.

Awesome, sounds like you have a lot going on!
Tell us about the UBC Orbit Satellite Design Team…

UBC Orbit is a satellite design team that’s run by the students of the University of British Columbia, and it’s dedicated to the innovation, design and development of satellites. We are comprised of over 50 undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines and provide students with an opportunity to develop the skills they need for a career in the aerospace industry. The team prides itself in providing a safe learning environment for all members, of all disciplines and technical backgrounds, to gain hands-on experience in the development of a satellite for a harsh environment. UBC Orbit comprises of multiple sub-teams including Structure, Communications, Altitude Determination and Control Systems, Command & Data Handling, Electrical Power Systems, Hardware etc.

How cool! What have your team been working on?

Our most recent project is, the ALEASAT. It’s a tiny 1U (10cm x 10cm x 10cm) CubeSat, meaning it’s a mini-satellite that we plan to launch in space. Our payload is a camera with a fixed resolution due to regulations and a miniaturised centrifuge. Since this will be the team’s first launch, it will be exciting to see what design decisions work out in our favour, providing us with data and experience for further launches. ALEASAT, alongside a bunch of other University teams’ CubeSats, is going to be onboarded on a carrier rocket
and launched. The communications, ADCS and other teams will be responsible for deploying antennas and getting it into the desired orbit and maintain communications with it through various ground stations and retrieve data.

Wow, that sounds fantastic! Have you done any testing?

Yes we have! After working on this project for a while and making it through several selection rounds, this May, our team had the chance to go to the Canadian Space Agency’s spacecraft assembly, integration and testing centre – David Florida Laboratory! It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives to, have met all the engineers and staff and, watch our satellites get tested. At DFL, the CubeSats were put through the vibrational tests that mimic frequencies of in-space and at launch environments. We put accelerometers across various regions of our CubeSat and slid them up into a pod which was then bolted to the Shaker Equipment (used for actual and ginormous satellites and tested with Random and Sinusoidal) and gathered data for all different orientations with these tests. It was interesting to see what parts required more stabilization and were at highest risk for causing failures. One team had one of their solar cells fall out, and we had a bunch of our threads damaged and camera detached. With all this retrieved data, we are now working on our design revisions to get it tested again
and certified for launch!

Photographed here is Palak and the UBC Orbit team at the David Florida Lab.

On your trip to the Canadian Space Agency Lab, David Florida Lab,
what really stood out to you?

Everything about the trip to DFL was mind blowing, we saw their testing facilities – clean rooms, thermal vacuum chambers, radio frequency testing chambers and their equipment with such cool technology! We had a chance to meet with all the skilled and great engineers that had so much information and knowledge to share with us! But the highlight was meeting Harry Kowalik, the Integration and Test Engineer for the Alouette programme, Canada’s first satellite and also the first to be constructed by a country other than Soviet Union or USA, launched in 1962! All of us were fortunate enough to have a conversation with Harry. He reviewed every teams’ CubeSats and also watched our satellites get tested with us.

We love the sound of the CAD workshops! Who can attend?

Right! I have been interested in CAD ever since I found out about its existence in my first year of University. However, I had to teach it to myself, practice and run into a bunch of barriers, whilst figuring things out for myself. I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn. I absolutely cherish the idea of the CAD workshops that UBC Design League promote. As of now we have become a team that provides resources and a great platform for people who are interested but are unsure of where to begin. Sharing what I have learnt with others is what makes it special to me as these resources are what I had once hoped for as a beginner in 3D modelling. The team and I have hosted numerous workshops and events that are free and open to anyone who joins. There’s a bunch of fun based competitions too, to make CADing more applicable and interactive. So far, we’ve had university students from various years come to our workshops but they are open to all high-school students and young adults who are interested.

And last but not least, what do you do to unwind from all your studying/teamwork?

I like spending time out in nature, going for walks; chasing sunsets, starry skies, and the moon as well as
spending time with family and friends.

Thanks, Palak! Incredibly inspiring, and we cannot wait to hear how the UBC Orbit team
get on at the ESA Fly Your Satellite! program.
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