About Us

The University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST) is a student and alumni group on campus that’s dedicated to the development of next generation space technologies. We’ve been working on a variety of space design projects for over six years, and it is through these projects that our team has achieved a  history of international success.

The team strives to provide an experiential learning environment to students across the U of S campus including, but not limited to those from the College of Engineering, Edwards School of Business and computer science. This environment provides an opportunity for students to gain experience in fields that they choose in an innovative, self driven work space. They gain experience in design, management, leadership and self led learning through their participation in the USST.

Since forming in 2005, the USST has created a name for itself as a world leader in power-beaming technologies. That’s the result of participating four times in the Elevator: 2010 Competition, a NASA Centennial Challenge. It’s the result of wirelessly powering a robotic Space Elevator to three first place finishes, and setting several world records—including the most power wirelessly beamed, and fastest power beamed climbs—along the way.

In 2010, we took our NASA experience overseas to Japan where we set the fastest climb with our battery powered climber – having a power to weight ratio greater than a Formula 1 race car – in the 2nd Annual Japan Space Elevator Technology and Engineering Competition. Over the years, the USST has earned a reputation of excellence and innovation through dominating a variety of space technology competitions around the globe.

From September 2010 to September 2012 the team designed a nanosatellite. We are proud of the experience and knowledge that all the team members gained through this project.

Now that this project is over the team is moving on to another exciting project. The team is moving to work on the design and construction of a Mars Rover. Please see the project page for more information.

Team Members

We’re constantly adding new teammates to our group, but, as of right now, we currently have a team of about thirty-five members. All of our members come from a variety of different disciplines including engineering, physics, computer science, and commerce. Having such a unique blend of skill sets has always been crucial to our success because it allows us to face challenges from a multitude of different angles.

Past Projects

Ever since day one, we’ve been working on a multitude of successful projects and have been involved in a handful of exciting competitions. In doing so, we’ve been able to establish a name for the USST as being a world leader in power-beaming technologies. Here’s a brief introduction to some of the things we’ve done in the past.

The Space Elevator

The Space Elevator is a system based on a super-strong ribbon going from the surface of the Earth to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit. The tether is held in place by a counterweight in orbit; as the Earth rotates, the tether is held taut. The idea behind a Space Elevator is that vehicles would then climb the ribbon powered by a beam of energy projected from the surface of the Earth.

What is a space elevator?

This short video gives a brief, easy-to-understand introduction to the idea of space elevator technology. It discusses some of the vast benefits of manufacturing this structure including cost-effective space travel for the average citizen.

Space Elevator Competition: USST’s First Place Climb

This brief video provides up close and personal footage of the USST’s winning climb in the competition.

The 2nd Annual Japan Space Elevator Technology and Engineering Competition

In 2005, 2006, and 2007 the USST placed first in the NASA Space Elevator competition. However, our last year participating in the NASA competition would be 2009 due to the fact US congress had ruled that non-American teams could only compete as exhibition teams in the final round of the competition (which was never even held). As a result, we instead took up an invitation from the Japanese Space Elevator Association (JSEA) to participate in their 2nd Annual Japan Space Elevator Technical and Engineering Competition. We are proud to say that we set another first place finish for the fastest climber at this competition!

The challenge was to build a battery powered climber weighing no more than 15 kg without exceeding dimensions of 2m. The climbers had to climb up and down a 300m vertical tether suspended by huge helium balloons. There were two tether types; the primary tether was a 50mm wide polyester belt (the same material as a seat belt). We climbed on a newly introduced 10mm polyethylene rope because our NASA climbers were designed for cables. The winning climber was the one to ascend the tether the fastest, and then descend safely. Climbers were also judged on factors like control, safety, and durability.

We reached speeds of over 13m/s during our first climb, which unfortunately ended in a dramatic crash. After some frantic repairs and fine-tuning, we posted three consecutive climbs the next day. We were the only team to post consecutive climbs during the competition. Our official climb time was a mere 38s, while the next fastest climber completed the challenge in 2min 38s! For the Japanese competition, our unofficial motto became “crashing the hardest, going the farthest.”


The Canadian Satellite Design Challenge

In September 2010 the USST announced its intentions to participate in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) hosted by Vancouver-based Geocentrix Technologies. The challenge which began in January of 2012 cumulated at the end of September 2012. The team completely designed a triple cubist, this falls into the classification of a nanosatellite. The satellite was to weight no more than 4 kg and no larger than 10x10x34 cm. Its purpose was to perform a unique scientific payload. The USST’s scientific payload was to measure the total electron content (TEC) of the ionosphere using a method developed by the USST team. This is more commonly called measuring and mapping the plasma densities in the Earth’s ionosphere. The method to measure the TEC had not been used before and was endorsed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory.

During this time period not only was the team learning valuable knowledge and gaining experience, so were many elementary and high school students across Saskatoon. The USST visited almost thirty classrooms at ten different schools sharing our excitement of space, science and engineering.


(Photo courtesy of Myles Penner)