Chris Robson: Co-founder of Wyvern

Chris Robson: Co-founder and CEO of Wyvern Canada

Chris Robson was a member of the first cohort of ISM CREATE students during his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alberta.  He became a space enthusiast during his tenure as the first project manager of AlbertaSat, a team launching Alberta’s first cube satellite (CubeSat) called Ex-Alta1.  His interest in space and his entrepreneurial spirit led him to start Promethean Labs during his masters but he departed the business in order to concentrate on his Master’s degree. In the last year of his Master’s, the ISM CREATE program funded Chris to attend the Small Satellite symposium in Toronto in 2018.  There he reconnected with Kristen Cote, a friend and alumni of AlbertaSat, and discussed their mutual ideas related to deployable optics and hyperspectral imagery. James Slifierz, CEO of Skywatch, encouraged the pair to pursue their concept combining these two ideas.

Together, with Callie Lissinna from AlbertaSat’s Ex-Alta 2 CubeSat project, and Kurtis Broda from the University of Alberta’s Mechanical Engineering Masters Program, they formed Wyvern with the vision of bringing the Space Industry to Alberta and using hyperspectral imagery to build a sustainable future for humanity.  Chris Robson and Kurtis Broda joined the team full-time with a GreenSTEM grant from the Government of Alberta.  They were accepted into a 9-month program with Creative Destruction Labs (CDL), a nonprofit organization that provides an objectives-based program for seed-stage science and technology companies. CDL startups work with mentors to sharpen objectives, prioritize time and resources, raise capital, build networks and engage with experts.

The group has two advisory boards, one focused on the business and one providing guidance on the science and technology.  Chris’ advice for success to young entrepreneurs is to ask for advice from multiple perspectives, but don’t be afraid to make decisions that may seem to go against some of the advice you receive. Leverage your network to find partners, mentors, advisors, investors, and customers. He says, “My special skill is convincing others to join my crazy adventures.” His enthusiasm and persistence are contagious and he has built a broad network of mentors and supporters. Chris is very optimistic about Wyvern’s future, envisioning a 100+ constellation of satellites delivering earth observation imagery that will support planet wide sustainability. He hopes to contribute the promise of space industry growth in Alberta and in Canada.

We look forward to future announcements from Wyvern and wish Chris and his team every success.

Congratulations to Devin Huyghebaert: CREATE PostDoctoral Fellow wins Living Planet Fellowship with the European Space Agency

What details can we uncover about the Farley-Buneman, also known as the two-stream, plasma density instability in the auroral E-region ionosphere through utilization o the Swarm satellie constellation and gournd based instrumentation?

Devin Huyghebaert

Devin is a postdoctoral fellow in Space Physics at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.  He obtained his B.Eng. (2010), M.Sc. (2013), and Ph.D. (2019) at the University of Saskatchewan, with his Ph.D. focused on the design, construction, and operation of a novel coherent scatter radar system to measure plasma density irregularities in the E-region ionosphere.  The radar is named ICEBEAR and will be utilized in conjunction with the instruments onboard the Swarm satellites and the Saskatoon SuperDARN radar for the studies to be performed as part of his Living Planet Fellowship project.  Devin is a part of the NSERC CREATE International Space Mission Training Program in Canada, as well as a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan, the American Geophysical Union, and the European Geosciences Union.

Research objectives

  • Create software to map and compare Swarm measurements with ground based instrumentation
  • Investigate the Farley-Buneman instability in the E-region ionosphere using Swarm measurements and ground based coherent scatter radars
  • Determine if there is a relationship between locations of E-region plasma density irregularities and ion upflow
  • Investigate potential Alfvén wave signatures in co-located E-region coherent scatter radar and Swarm measurements

Welcome to Canada Daniel – NSERC CREATE Post-Doctoral Fellow

Daniel Billet, Post-doctoral Fellow

Daniel Billet joined the NSERC CREATE international space mission training program as a Post-doctoral Fellow in November 2019, coming to the University of Saskatchewan from the UK. Daniel’s focus is the interaction between ionospheric plasma and the neutral atmosphere. This involves the SuperDARN to measure ionospheric plasma velocities, and an array of supplementary instruments such as Fabry-Perot Interferometers and satellite accelerometers to determine local neutral wind conditions.

Daniel completed an MPhys in Astrophysics (Honours) in 2015 at Aberystwyth University in Wales. He then attended Lancaster University, UK and completed his PhD in Space Physics in 2019. Daniel’s PhD involved working with SuperDARN data and other instruments to examine space weather interactions with the Earth’s atmosphere. He was also the recipient of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) fellowship at the University of Electrocommunications in Tokyo. The work in Japan involved incorporating auroral camera data into his PhD work to improve it’s accuracy.

Welcome to ISAS, Space Mission Training and SuperDARN Daniel.

Alex Chang: Internship with SED Systems and CSA Satellite control in Saint-Hubert Quebec

Alex Chang is an ISM CREATE Master’s student at the Unversity of Saskatchewan. He was hired as an intern with SED Systems to join the team tracking the Radarsat Constellation Mission(RCM) less than a month after it’s launch.

The Canadian Space Agency facilities at Saint-Hubert Quebec are the headquarters of Satellite control in Canada. Alex drove to Saint-Hubert from Saskatoon in early July 2019 and started RCM SCT training in order to acquire the skills and knowledge required to execute the mission tasks including:

1.       Routine control and operation of the RCM satellites.
·         Pre-pass configuration
·         Pass (TTCS equipment operations, table uploads, telemetry verification, on-orbit telemetry and science data dumps, etc)
·         Equipment deconfiguration and event logging

2.       Verification for unexpected RCM satellite state and limit violations.
·         Real-time contacts
·         On-orbit stored telemetry data

3.       Review of RCM routine and contingency operational products.

The team at Saint-Hubert were very impressed with Alex ability and willingness to aid the team:

Alex was well appreciated and respected by his colleagues and was always available to support shift schedule requirements. Despite the fact that he had very limited operational experience, he performed extremely well.

Integrating three new satellites into our multi-mission operation was a complex activity that created a significant increase to our workload. Since launch was scheduled in June, it also introduced additional constraints related to the summer vacation plans. Having an internship allowed us to reduce the impact of the increased workload on the vacation schedules.

When conducting recruitment campaigns, candidates are usually surprised to know that technicians and engineers are conducting satellite control activities from the Canadian Space Agency at Saint-Hubert. They are also surprised to know that they could join this team even if they are not working as a federal public servant. Having an internship provided us the opportunity to increase our visibility and might help us in future recruitment campaigns.

Desjardins, Stéphane JDS (ASC/CSA)

Alex enjoyed the internship at Saint-Hubert and interviewed a number of his colleagues in order to share the various roles involved and career opportunities in satallite operations in Canada. You can find Alex’s interviews here.

Kassi Klepper – Fulbright Scholar

Kassi Klepper is an ISM CREATE student from the University of Tromsø in Norway. She attended the Space Mission Design and High Altitude Balloon launch field school at the University of Saskatchewan in the summer of 2019. She continued on to the United States to take up her Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Hawai’i. Kassi spent 2 semesters at Hilo – the University of Hawai’i at Hilo Mauna Kea. There she took graduate level courses in astrophysics, distant space and abstract concepts of relativity as well as the history and culture of Hawai’i

Although her last semester was cut short by the COVID-19 global pandemic she was able to successfully complete all the coursework toward her Masters degree. Congratulations Kassi!

Heather Taylor launches her bid to row solo from California to Hawai’i

Heather Taylor Launch – May 26, 2020

And she’s off! Heather, an ISM CREATE student from Royal Military College, has officially begun the 3890km journey rowing solo across the Pacific Ocean from Monterey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii!✨ Make sure to follow along with the link to her website here. Heather’s row is to raise funds for two charities close to her heart – @tearaustralia and Emmanuel International. Safe journey Heather! Next stop… Hawaii ! ✨😊

Professional Skills in a COVID-19 world

The ISM CREATE students have scattered to their homes and are staying safe by staying home. Learning continues with the on-line nature of RMC 547 and our regular Professional Skills sessions. Unfortunately we have had to postpone the 2020 summer Space Mission Design field school and balloon launch. Current students will be given the opportunity to complete the field school in summer 2021.

We adapted our last professional skills session to share strategies for working from home and dealing with the stress of isolation. We also discussed leadership under great pressure, using the movie Apollo 13 as a study in effective leadership, communication and teamwork.

We are committed to supporting students through these difficult conditions. Stay home, stay safe.


Ten current and former ISM CREATE students attended the Division of Atmospheric and Space Physics (DASP) conference held at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton over the reading week break. In addition, 5 of the ISM CREATE faculty were in attendance.

DASP 2020 Attendees

Students participated in the first student workshop held at DASP. The workshop was organized and led by students. It was an excellent opportunity to network and meet fellow HQP in the field. The workshop introduced students to the various fields of study in the near-Earth Solar-Terrestrial environment and the techniques and instruments used in research. During the main conference, a student paper competition was held and once again ISM CREATE students came away with honours. Leonid Olifer of the University of Alberta repeated his first place showing in the competition, while Victoria Foss of the University of Calgary took 3rd place and Draven Galeschuck of the University of Saskatchewan was 1st runner up.

Student Paper Competition Winners: Kyle Reiter, Leonid Olifer, Victoria Foss

ESA’s Concurrent Engineering Workshop a great opportunity for Matthew Bowen of RMC

Concurrent engineering is a method of designing and developing products for the space sector. Contrary to traditional design methods, in concurrent engineering all subsystems are designed simultaneously. This is a far more efficient way of working, but comes with its own unique challenge: solutions in one area that could impact the design of another subsystem must be instantly identified and communicated between teams. Although concurrent engineering is a more complicated process to begin with, in effect it allows mistakes to be identified – and rectified – earlier, therefore reducing the overall design time. 

Matt was recently selected to participate in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Academy’s Concurrent Engineering Workshop of January 2020 alongside 29 other students. Here is his account of the experience:

My peers originated from 12 different European countries and ranged in experience from just beginning their Master’s degree to nearly completing their PhD. We congregated in the south of Belgium for a week to analyze and design a CubeSat mission to Neptune and the heliopause.

The cohort was divided into 8 subteams: Attitude & Orbit Control, Thermal, Power, Communications, Instruments & Optics, Configuration, Structures, Trajectory, and Propulsion. I was selected for the Instruments & Optics team; our task was to implement a scientific suite to fulfill the mission’s goals. The mission, titled the Extrasolar Deepspace Gas giant Explorer (EDGE), intends to image the outer planets and measure the magnetic environment at the edge of the solar system and beyond. The space segment of the EDGE mission was constrained to a 12U cubesat form factor, and the use of radioisotope thermoelectric generators was not permitted.

The requirements imposed significant constrictions on our final design; namely our solutions for power generation and communications at distances greater than 120 AU from the Earth. The limitations of data throughput at large distances affected the design choice of the Instruments & Optics team as well.

Ultimately, I gained valuable experience in concurrent satellite design and made new connections to the European space industry. I’d like to thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the European Space Agency for the opportunity to participate and I look forward to working with ESA again in the future.

Interested in ESA Academy’s opportunities? check out

Matthew Bowen attends Canadian Space Summit

Matthew Bowen is an ISM CREATE student at Royal Military College. He is in the second year of his Masters degree.

With the support of the NSERC-CREATE travel funding I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Canadian Space Summit, a conference on the current state of the Canadian space industry and steps forward; including lunar exploration, New Space, and more. I attended 12 sessions over 3 days, however I’m going to write about 2 that really caught my attention. 

The first session of Wednesday afternoon was a roundtable discussion on the future of the Canadian commercial space sector. Prashant Shukle, Director General of the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, had a lot to say about value-added data processing to create new insights from geospatial data. He spoke of Canada as a global leader in the past in geospatial services, and that the current geospatial industry is highly segmented into specialists. We need to think more on how we can derive social and ecological insights from geospatial data, with the motivation being “why does this data matter to humanity?” Afterwards, I spoke to Prashant briefly about how Canada can become a global geospatial leader, and he gave me a few ideas to ponder regarding my own research.

Thursday morning featured a presentation by Dr. Hilding Nielson, a professor of astronomy at the University of Toronto. Dr. Nielson spoke of the western exploration of space as another form of colonization against the first nations and indigenous people of North America. He opened his presentation with the Mi’kmaw story of Muin, a bear represented by what we now call Ursa Major. The story describes the importance of celestial objects to indigenous cultures and ways of life, often being used as axioms to perform time-keeping, meteorology, and navigation. The advancement of Western culture has impacted these customs in unexpected ways; light pollution from cities makes it ever more difficult to discern night sky objects, while more recently LEO constellations of satellites have disrupted both amateur and scientific astronomy. 

A before and after representation of light pollution on the constellation Orion. Image credit: Jeremy Stanley –

I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Nielson after his presentation about the effectiveness of using what he calls Two-Eyed Seeing to teach modern astronomy: the usage of indigenous axioms to explain space phenomena can be a powerful teaching tool for higher education. Indeed, I can see great value to students to learn about both indigenous culture and astronomy simultaneously by implementing Two-Eyed Seeing.

Throughout the conference, I was confronted with the fact that the Canadian space industry is small, with few well established players. I also got the sense that this is a close knit community, and the overall theme this year was of cooperation instead of competition. Representatives from many different organizations echoed the same sentiment: together, we can grow the industry instead of fighting over the current market share.