Image by NASA


Command and Data Handling

The Command and Data Handling (CDH) system is responsible for designing the On Board Computer (main microcontroller), as well as both the software and electrical interfaces between the various subsystems. The team works with tools such as FreeRTOS and languages such as C to develop the main operating modes for the satellite. Hardware work on the team involves using Altium to design boards, and assembly + testing with equipment such as soldering irons, oscilloscopes, and more.

Attitude Determination and Control System

The ADCS subsystem is responsible for orientation control of the satellite within space through actuators such as magnetorquers and reaction wheels, as well as sensors (IMUs, sun sensors, GPS) that determine the location and pointing direction of the satellite. The team develops custom controls algorithms like B-dot, PID, and EKF, designs and builds the main Flight Controller board with Altium, is working on a custom magnetorquer design, and works with industry-standard orbital mechanics simulation software like AGI Systems Tool Kit.

Image by Kent Pilcher
Image by Scott Evans


The communications subsystem handles the interface between the ground station and CubeSat. Major components relevant to this subsystem include the antenna, transceiver, and ground station equipment. The team is currently developing its own transceiver board from scratch, performing board design in Altium, assembling PCBs, testing with tools like Vector Network Analyzers, and developing a firmware driver for the transceiver. Other projects on the team include web development on an app for the Mission Control Centre, and orbital mechanics simulations with STK.

Electrical Power Systems

The EPS subsystem is responsible for power production, distribution, and management. Major components of this subsystem involve the solar panels and batteries. The team is heavily hardware focused, developing PCBs for an MPPT charging circuit, a Battery Management System, in-house solar panels, and more. Learn about board design in Altium and gain hands-on experience with PCB assembly.

Image by Chelsea
Image by Bill Jelen


The Payload subsystem is responsible for developing the Selfie-Sat camera, relevant optics assembly, and software design (including image processing algorithms and firmware interfaces). The team is developing a novel pointing algorithm for the secondary payload that involves detecting an uplinked laser to hone in on a ground station to 0.1 degree accuracy.


The mechanical subsystem is responsible or designing the bus (frame) of the CubeSat, and any other relevant mechanical systems, such as a battery holder. The mechanical team is also responsible for Finite Element Modelling (FEM) of all these components and thermal analysis to ensure the CubeSat can sustain the forces of launch and harsh space environment. The team performs 3D printing, prototyping in the University of Waterloo's Student Machine Shop, and uses tools such as Siemenx NX for CAD and analysis.

Image by Bernard Hermant
Image by Sigmund


The business subteam is responsible for many behind the scenes tasks of UW Orbital. This includes securing funding, reaching out to sponsors, and keeping track of finance and budgeting. The business subteam also manages marketing and brand creation, social media, organizing outreach events, content creation and technical writing, and recruiting students.

Weather Balloon Project

The weather balloon project team is outfitting a high-altitude weather balloon with 2 cameras, a GPS, and a 3D-printed goose to be sent into near-space in order to capture the Earth's curvature and test out some equipment which will be used on the CubeSat.

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