Call for Canadian participation on the JAXA ASTRO-H mission Science Working Group

Announcement of Opportunity

Application deadline: April 26, 2011

1. Introduction

This is a specific Announcement of Opportunity (AO) under the terms and conditions of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Class Grant and Contribution (G&C) Program to Support Research in Space Science and Technology. The Applicant is encouraged to read the description of the Program (Research Component) at www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/resources/gc/default.asp. The objectives, eligibility and funding of this AO are more specific than described the general G&C Program, as detailed below.

It is the CSA's intention to provide funding by way of a Grant Agreement to Canadian universities for scientific participation on the Japanese ASTRO-H mission.

1.1 Background

ASTRO-H is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) X-ray space observatory scheduled for launch in early 2014 with a planned operation phase of three (3) years. It is the sixth in a series of successful X-ray missions initiated by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) in Japan, which began with the launch of the Hakucho mission in 1979 through to the currently operating Suzaku mission.

ASTRO-H will investigate the physics of the high-energy universe using high-resolution, high-throughput imaging and spectroscopy from 0.3 to 600 keV. The payload will carry two Hard X-ray Telescopes (HXT), and two Soft X-ray Telescopes (SXT) and four (4) scientific instruments: a Hard X-ray Imager (HXI) with an energy range of 5-80 keV, a Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS) with a resolution of 7 eV between 0.3 to 12 keV, a Soft X-ray Imager (SXI) below 10 keV with 35x35 sq arcmin FOV and a non-focusing Soft Gamma-ray Detector (SGD) in the 10-600 keV range.

With dramatic increase in sensitivity over Suzaku, the scientific objectives of the mission are to study the dynamic universe and understand its structure and evolution, including: the evolution of obscured supermassive black holes in AGN; the growth of large scale structures; insight into the behaviour of matter in extreme gravity; the study of particle acceleration in clusters of galaxies, SNRs and jets.

Further information about the mission may be found on the JAXA's ASTRO-H website: http://astro-h.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

1.2 The CSA's Contribution

To achieve high imaging resolution, the HXI will require a focal length of twelve (12) metres. Once ASTRO-H is in orbit, the Extensible Optical Bench (EOB) will be extended by approximately six (6) metres to realize the twelve (12) metres focal length of the HXI.

Given possible mechanical distortion induced in the EOB associated with day-night transitions of the spacecraft and spacecraft attitude maneuvers, the ASTRO-H mission will include a metrology system, to measure the lateral displacement of the HXI plate relative to the spacecraft. Canada, through the CSA, is collaborating with JAXA to provide this metrology system. This is an opportunity made possible due to the existing technical expertise and heritage of space optical metrology technology available in Canadian industry. The system is referred to as the Canadian ASTRO-H Metrology System (CAMS).

A Phase 0 study (Opportunity Assessment & Concept Studies) produced a baseline Concept Design for the CAMS, one which convincingly meets the design requirements while minimizing the technical, costs and schedule risks. A contract was recently awarded to proceed with Phase A, and appropriate approvals are required before proceeding to subsequent phases of development. Should a decision be made to not proceed, for whatever reason, the CSA reserves the right to terminate the funding allocated to this AO, pursuant to terms set out in the Grant Agreement.

1.3 Objectives of the AO: Canadian Science Participation

The general objectives of the Program to Support Research are described in the CSA G&C Program.

An important element in the decision to collaborate on this important High Energy Astrophysics (HEA) mission is the recognition of the excellence in astronomical research and particularly in the growing expertise of HEA in Canada, as elaborated in the Space Astronomy Discipline Working Group (DWG 2009) report and further endorsement in the CASCA Long Range Plan (LRP) 2010 and Mid Term Report (MTR 2005).

Canada's contribution to ASTRO-H provides an opportunity for a maximum of three (3) Canadian scientists to be members of the Japanese ASTRO-H Science Working Group (SWG). One of the three (3) positions is nominated and partially financed by JAXA. Two (2) other positions fall under the purview of the CSA for nominations.

Applicants are eligible to apply for one of the two positions and/or for funding to support research activities related to the ASTRO-H mission.

These Canadian scientists will be expected to participate to the SWG activities, chaired by the ASTRO-H Principal investigator (PI)/Project Manager, Dr. Tadayuki Takahashi, and contribute scientific and/or technical expertise to the mission, including but not be limited to support of Canada's contribution. A series of meetings are held throughout the year at various locations, notably the bi-annual SWG meetings and ASTRO-H Hardware Design Team meetings.

It is offered by JAXA that the Canadian scientists on the SWG will have access to the science data during specific time period, which should include Performance Verification (PV) Phase, and will retain exclusive data rights for a certain time periods in the same manner as all other SWG members. For other specific time periods, appropriate observing time will be allocated to the Guest Observation Program through JAXA's competitive AO process open to any scientists affiliated to institutions located in Canada.

2. Criteria for Eligibility

2.1 Eligible Initiatives

For this AO, the initiatives include the participation to ASTRO-H science as described in the above paragraph and scientific activities, research and development related to maximizing the impact of the investigations to be carried out under this mission and to the performance of Canada's CAMS contribution.

2.2 Eligible Recipients

Eligible recipients consist of Canadian universities. Given the limited number of scientists permitted on the SWG, an application should identify a unique Lead Scientist that would be the SWG member. Candidates from other Canadian organizations may apply for the positions however they will not be eligible for CSA funding and applications must include a letter confirming that funding for the activities will be covered by another source of funds.

3. Funding

3.1. Available Funding and Duration

The total available funding for this scientific support at this time is $75,000 per year, beginning in 2011/12, over the duration of the mission's planned operational phase.

The applicant must include a detail budget identifying, by fiscal year, the expenses related to the activities planned. Activities requesting CSA funding must be in accordance to the eligible expenses listed in this AO (section 3.3).

Selected applications might not necessarily receive the full amount requested; the grant value awarded may be adjusted according to the level and merits of the tasks and the CSA budget availability.

Before each annual installment, the eligibility of the recipient will be reassessed. Grant agreements may be amended following a careful review of progress reports, proposal for project continuation and risks analysis to reflect the any new requested termination date and additional funds required, if any.

3.2 Confirmed Funding

Applicants may consider in-kind contributions or contributions from outside sources. Each applicant is required to identify in their application confirmed funds from all sources of funding other than the CSA. For projects requesting funding from other organizations, a letter of support from that organization to identify the level of support must be included in the application.

3.3 Eligible Expenses

Eligible costs are direct expenses associated with the delivery of the approved project and which are required to achieve the expected results of the project. Expenses will be covered subject to the Applicant signing a Grant Agreement with the CSA.

Examples of eligible expenses under the G&C Program include:

  • Travel, accommodation and meal allowances;
  • Salaries and benefits;
  • Publication and communication services;
  • Participation fees at conferences, committees and events;
  • Translation services;
  • Overhead (administrative) costs (not to exceed 20% of eligible costs for universities);
  • PST, HST and GST net of any rebate to which the recipient is entitled to and the reimbursement of any taxes for goods and services acquired in a foreign country net of any rebate or reimbursement received in the foreign country.

4. Application Process

Applicants must include with the Application the following documentation:

  • A completed typed original application form signed by the Duly Authorized Representative;
    • The application form requests a separately attached proposed research plan, which must address the evaluation criteria (limit to 5 pages or approximately 2500 words);
    • Supporting material required will include, but not be limited to, the following: a description of the initiative; funding requested under the Program; an implementation schedule; an itemized, balanced budget for the initiative, indicating projected expenditures, cash flow requirements, and confirmed and potential revenues and other sources of funds; and the names, titles and telephone numbers of persons responsible for managing the initiative;
    • For academics, their Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Form 100 is requested;
  • One original and one copy of the document(s) confirming the legal name of the Applicant organization;
  • One copy of the application (identical to the signed paper copy) on a standard electronic media (USB flash drive, CD or DVD);
  • Letters from other funding contributors confirming their contributions (if applicable);
  • Declaration on Confidentiality, Access to Information and Privacy Act form signed by the Duly Authorized Representative;
  • Environment Assessment Checklist completed and signed by the Duly Authorized Representative; and
  • For organizations in Québec, M-30 Supporting documentation form completed and signed by the Duly Authorized Representative.

Any missing supporting document or any incoherence between the requested documents and the information provided within the documents may lead to the rejection of the proposal on that sole basis. Applications must be mailed by post to the CSA at the address below:

Grant & Contribution Centre of Expertise
c/o ASTRO-H Science Support
Canadian Space Agency
6767 Route de l'Aéroport,
Saint-Hubert
, Quebec J3Y 8Y9

Note: Applications sent by e-mail will not be accepted.

Completed application including all requested forms must be received at CSA by: 17:00 EDT April 26, 2011

It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application complies with all relevant federal, provincial/territorial and municipal laws.

Contact Information

To obtain further information or any questions about the AO please contact the G&C Program via email, with "ASTRO-H" in the subject field: sc-gc.centre.expertise@asc-csa.gc.ca

5. Selection Process

5.1 Screening Criteria

Applications must meet the screening criteria. The screening process will determine if the application:

  • Represents an eligible initiative/project as defined in Section 2.1;
  • Represents an eligible recipient as defined in Section 2.2;
  • Meets program funding provisions (see Section 3.1);
  • Includes the required documentation and declarations (see Section 4); and
  • Has been completed and signed by the Duly Authorized Representative.

5.2 Evaluation

The CSA will assess screened-in applications according to the following criteria:

  • Benefits to Canada
  • Feasibility
  • Resources
  • Risk and mitigation measures

Specific evaluation of the criteria for this AO is detailed under "Evaluation Criteria". CSA program managers may ask for clarification from Applicants or seek input and advice from others, including, but not limited to academia, federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government agencies, etc.

5.3 Notification and Announcement

Applicants will be notified in writing regarding the decisions related to their application. Successful applications will be announced and posted on the CSA website.

5.4 Evaluation Criteria

The evaluation criteria listed below are a subset of the general criteria for project selection under the G&C Program to Support Research in Space Science and Technology. Applications should address these criteria. Each criterion will be evaluated based on the content of the application.

Benefits to Canada
  • Potential to perform investigations and advance new scientific knowledge and/or technology and disseminate the results. (Weight: 1.0)
  • Enhancement of Canada's world-class expertise, capabilities or leadership in this area. (Weight: 0.5)
  • Potential to provide scientific or technical guidance relevant to the development and operations of the mission. (Weight: 0.5)
Feasibility
  • Appropriateness and quality of the proposal. (Weight: 1.0)
  • Understanding of the ASTRO-H mission goals, capabilities, requirements. (Weight: 0.5)
Resources
  • Experience and qualifications of the applicant (expertise in HEA, X-ray and gamma-ray observational astronomy, scientific output in recent years). (Weight: 1,0)
  • Identification of the responsibilities, contribution and commitment to research in the area of HEA. (Weight: 0.5)
  • Appropriateness of budget and justification, including other sources of funding outside of the ASTRO-H Project. (Weight: 0.5)
Risk and Mitigation
  • Identification of the key risks associated with the project and mitigation (financial, management, technical). (Weight: 0.5)
Total score

Score: 90 max.
Net score: 60 max.

5.5 Evaluation Procedure and Ranking

Each criterion will be assigned a numerical score according to this scale: Excellent=10; Good=7; Average=4; Poor=0 and weighted as shown in the table. The ranking will be based on the highest total scores.

5.6 Service Standards

The CSA has set service standards for the timely delivery of the acknowledgement of receipt, funding decision and payment processes.

Acknowledgement: The CSA's goal is to acknowledge receipt of proposals within 2 weeks of receiving a completed application package.

Decision: The CSA's goal is to respond to the proposal within 12 weeks of receiving a completed application package or closing date of the AO and, to send for signature a Grant Agreement within 8 weeks after formal approval of the proposal.

Payment: The CSA's goal is to issue payments within 4 weeks of the successful fulfillment of requirements outlined in the Grant Agreement.

The achievement of these service standards is a shared responsibility. The applicant must submit all required documentation in a timely fashion. Service standards may vary by AO.

6. Funding Agreement

6.1 Payments

The CSA and the successful Applicants (Recipients) will sign a funding agreement. This represents a condition for any payment made by the CSA with respect to the approved project.

For Grant Agreements, payments will be made in a lump sum or in instalments as described in the signed agreement. Grant funding agreements will include a clause stipulating the obligation for the recipients to confirm, once a year in the case of multi-year agreements, their eligibility to this Component and to inform the CSA in writing of any changes to the conditions used in determining their entitlement and eligibility to this Component. This will be in the form of a progress report that should also include a summary of the activities, meetings, research results, and planned activities in subsequent years.

6.2 Conflict of Interest

In the funding agreement, the Recipient will certify that any former public office holder or public servant it employs complies with the provisions of the relevant Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Former Public Office Holders and the Value and Ethics Code for Public Servants respectively.

6.3 Intellectual Property

All Intellectual Property that arises in the course of the project shall vest in the recipient.

When applicable, the funding agreement will include a provision granting to CSA a non-exclusive, irrevocable, world-wide, free and royalty-free license in perpetuity to use or sub-license the use of any such Intellectual Property contained in recipient reports for non-commercial governmental purposes.

6.4 Other

The funding agreement will include relevant provisions, as and when appropriate, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between CSA and JAXA on ASTRO-H cooperation.

6.5 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) obliges all federal departments and agencies to review proposal for potential impacts on the environment. All applications will include information to enable the CSA to assess whether a payment under this component would trigger any information under the CEAA.

The Environmental Assessment Checklist will help the Applicant and the CSA to determine if the CEAA applies to a specific project. This checklist must be completed, signed and attach to the proposal.

6.6 Organizations in Quebec

An organization in Quebec whose operations are partially or fully funded by the province of Quebec may be subject to An Act Respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif, L.R.Q., chapter M-30.

Under sections 3.11 and 3.12 of An Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif, L.R.Q., chapter M-30 (hereinafter referred to as Act) certain entities / organizations, as defined in the meaning of the Act, such municipal bodies, school bodies, or public agencies, must obtain an authorization by the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes du Québec (SAIC), as indicated by the Act, before signing any funding agreement with the Government of Canada, its departments or agencies, or a federal public agency.

Consequently, any entity that is subject to the Act is responsible for obtaining such authorization before signing any funding agreement with the Government of Canada.

Applicants from Quebec must complete, signed and include the M-30 Supporting Documentation Form PDF Document - 113.7 kilobytes (KB) with their application.

7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The following list compiles all the questions and answers received and forwarded by the CSA since the opening of this AO. This list is given for information purposes only; always refer to the AO to obtain the information on which all the proposals received will be evaluated by the CSA. Please note that all enquiries about this AO must be addressed to the contact person identified in the AO.

Question 1: The funding level per PI. Is the $75K per year for all 3 SWG members?

Answer 1: In reference to Section 3.1. The breakdown of the current funding levels, that being $75,000 per year, will depend on the budget levels requested in the proposals and other identified sources of funding. A selected proposal might not necessarily be funded to the full amount requested. It should be understood that funding levels to each SWG member will be adequate, at a minimum, to permit participation in the meetings in Japan and elsewhere.

Question 2: Does the funding start in 2011 or 2012?

Answer 2: Funding is available to start in current fiscal year (2011/2012). The Canadian fiscal year starts April 1.

Question 3: The application form asks for Co-Is. Are individual candidates for the SWG group expected to apply separately as PIs?

Answer 3: As per Section 2.2 Eligible Recipients: "Given the limited number of scientists permitted on the SWG, an application should identify a unique Lead Scientist that would be the SWG member". The purpose of the AO is to find 2 additional scientists to join the ASTRO-H SWG, and this individual should be identified in the application. The Application form is a generic form for Grant Applications and Section 5 of the form suggests that other Co-I's can be listed, but this does not apply as such in this AO. Section 5 can be used however to identify any other people (e.g., students, Postdoctoral Fellows) that might be involved on HEA ASTRO-H research, but not considered to be a member of the SWG.

Question 4: Is it expected that applicants come up with other sources of funding?

Answer 4: Additional points will be allocated during the Evaluation Process for applications that identify additional sources of funding (see 5.4 Evaluation Criteria "Resources").

Question 5: In Section 4 'One original and one copy of the document(s) confirming the legal name of the Applicant organization'. Is this document essential?

Answer 5: In the Application Form: Section 1 – Applicant information requests the "Legal name of the organisation" confirmed by the Office of Research. In Section 3 – Signatures, requests the signature of the duly authorized representative of the organization. The signature of that person is sufficient to confirm the legal name of the organization. No separate document is necessary but can be included.

Question 6: Correction in Application Form Section 3 – Signatures

Answer 6: We should read 'Applicants must post-mail two (2) paper copies...' instead of 'Applicants must post-mail five (2) paper copies...'