(Edmonton) The University of Alberta has formally joined a space race of sorts. It�s not a race to another planet; it�s a race to get students onboard with careers in space science and technology. A delegation from the U of A just returned from Norway with a formal agreement to launch a rocketry program with the University of Oslo called the Canada-Norway Sounding Rocket Program, or CaNoRock.
Over the last year and a half, three groups of U of A students have made the trip to the And�ya Rocket Range in Norway, where the students built and then flew science experiments on super-sonic rockets. Dave Miles, a U of A graduate student in physics, has been to And�ya twice and says that it�s an unbelievable experience for people with their eye on space. �Now we have a fully funded three-year program that will see 60 Canadian students build scientific instruments and design missions for sounding rocket launches,� he said.�
Sounding rockets are commonly used for atmospheric monitoring, space science and as a proving ground for satellite instruments that are set to fly in space. �These rockets are re-purposed military missiles, about two metres in height that can reach an altitude of nine to 10 kilometres,� said Miles.�
Norway and Canada are good fit for a joint rocket training program, says Miles. �We are geographically similar; we�ve both got interest in the Arctic and we both need engineers who can design and build homegrown space-satellite programs.� The And�ya Rocket Range is on the coast of Norway overlooking the North Sea.
Organizers of the program say sounding rockets provide entry-level access to the high-risk, high-cost world of space satellite missions. �The undergraduate students can send a sounding rocket up for between $20,000 and $30,000 dollars,� said Miles, �but you have to prove yourself at that level before a space agency will let you anywhere near a satellite mission that costs tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.�
�Canada has the fourth-largest aerospace industry in the world,� says U of A professor Ian Mann and Canada Research Chair in space physics. Mann helped create the program and its focus. �CaNoRock aims to attract Canada�s best into careers that maintain and expand Canada�s place in space.�
Besides the U of A, the universities of Calgary and Saskatchewan will put students through the week in And�ya. Funders for the program include the U of A�s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, which contributed $120,000 over three years, and the Canadian Space Agency, which will contribute $300,000 over three years.
U of A�s part in the CaNoRock program was developed by the university�s Institute for Space Science Exploration. Miles says ISSET has one foot in engineering and the other in science, and both interests are represented in a new learning venture for U of A undergraduates. �We�re putting the curriculum together for an introductory space-science and instrumentation course that we hope to offer next year,� he said.
The expansion of the And�ya rocketry program could be the icing on the cake for that course, says Miles. �Those students would be in a great position to spend a week in Norway putting their new-found knowledge of rockets 10 kilometres up over the North Sea.���
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