Project STARFOX studies the dynamics of mineral processing in zero gravity.
The project placed in the top four of 29 teams from across Canada entered into the Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment Design Challenge (Can-RGX) created by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space Canada in collaboration with the National Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency.
The Spinning Terrestrial Analog Regolith Filtering Operation eXperiment (STARFOX) will be tested in micro-gravity on a Falcon 20 research aircraft operated by the National Research Council in the summer of 2017.
This project is generously supported by APEGS (the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan), Keys Welding Service, Mitchinson Flight Centre, and Lt Col John Parish (USAF Ret.)
The Can-RGX (Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment) Design Challenge was organized by SEDS Canada (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) to allow post-secondary students an opportunity to test student-lead research projects in micro-gravity.
All 29 teams submitted a research proposal to be reviewed by SEDS Canada. The four teams selected completed Preliminary and Critical Deign Reviews and presented them to representatives from the Canadian Space Agency and National Research Council.
The top 4 research proposals are flown on National Research Council (NRC) Falcon 20 research aircraft which has been modified for reduced gravity flight in association with the Canadian Space Agency.
The Spinning Terrestrial Analog Regolith Filtering Operation eXperiment (STARFOX) was created to test the adaptability of standard mineral screening and filtering methods to micro-gravity.
A cylindrical chamber is accelerated to preset angular velocities to exert centrifugal force on the asteroid regolith (unconsolidated rock material found on asteroids) simulant. A specially designed batch release mechanism releases the simulant into the centrifuge chamber where its is screened and sorted into a collection tray. The cylindrical centrifuge chamber was manufactured by Keys Welding Service in Saskatoon, SK.
The below YouTube video shows simulations of our apparatus under normal gravity (1G) and in micro-gravity (~0G) created using Solidworks and LIGGGHTS, then rendered using Paraview.
Lt Col John Parish has generously donated flight suits for training and conducting our experiment.
The members of our flight crew and their backups will be completing unusual attitude flights at Mitchonson Flight Centre in Saskatoon to prepare for the flight campaign in Ottawa this coming July.
The NRC’s Falcon 20 Research aircraft will be flown in a series of parabolic arcs, as shown to the right. These arcs will produce around 20 seconds of micro gravity as the plane levels off and begins to dive, followed by a period of increased G-force (approximately 2G’s) as the aircraft eases out of the dive and begins to climb.
A key portion of the competition is growing public and academic interest in space technology and STEM research. The STARFOX team has given presentations to the Space Resources Round Table at the Canadian Institute of Mining conference, multiple events around the University of Saskatchewan, and presentations at multiple elementary and high schools.