Canada Invests in Training the Next-Generation of Space Innovators

Funding has been awarded to train and develop Canadian graduate students through ten space science and technology projects led by six Canadian universities.

The two-and three-year grants will offer opportunities for graduate students to acquire hands-on experience in designing, building, testing and - in some cases - flying scientific instruments and technologies on high-altitude balloons, sounding rockets or nanosatellites and analyzing the resulting data. The projects will help these students to investigate innovative space technologies and give them the training to keep Canada at the forefront of space research.

This investment is aligned with the “Inspiring Canadians” principle, outlined in Canada's Space Policy Framework released in February, of working with industry, universities and colleges to recruit, support and retain highly qualified personnel.

This is the result of an Announcement of Opportunity published on the CSA's website on November 8, 2013. Total funding for these projects is $2 million.

The selected projects were chosen from a variety of science disciplines, including: weather forecasting; climate change; atmospheric studies; solar-terrestrial sciences and cosmology.

University Project Summary (courtesy of the project teams) Amount
University of Alberta New scientific instrument related to measuring the Earth's magnetic field: The University of Alberta has developed a prototype Next Generation Fluxgate Magnetometer capable of providing the high-precision measurements of the Earth's magnetic field required for space-physics research and monitoring space weather. The University of Alberta has secured a no-cost launch opportunity to test a miniaturized version of this instrument on a constellation of cube satellites deployed from a Norwegian suborbital sounding rocket to study the effects of space weather on arctic communications.  This flight will train the next generation of highly qualified Canadian engineers and scientists and help develop a sophisticated scientific instrument for future ground, suborbital and satellite missions. $250,000 over three years
New instrument for studying high energy electrons from the Van Allen Radiation belts: Balloon Observations of X-rays for Education and Research (BOXER) will complete the development of a small, low-cost X-ray detector to be flown on stratospheric balloon flights from Canada. The scientific goal of this project is to study the loss of high energy electrons from the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts.  This mission will also provide an invaluable training opportunity for young researchers and students to be involved in all the typical phases of a space mission from concept through designing, building and flying an instrument and then exploiting the resulting data in scientific research. $80,000 over two years
University of Calgary New instruments aimed at monitoring of Van Allen belt particles: During space weather events, high-energy particles from Earth's Van Allen radiation belts can rain down into the upper atmosphere over Canada. In order to better understand how these particles can be monitored from the ground, this project will be launching three high-altitude stratospheric balloons. The balloons will watch for X-rays produced by high-energy electrons, while arrays of ground-based radio instruments simultaneously watch from below. $250,000 over three years
Université du Québec à Montréal New technologies relating to climate change monitoring weather forecasting: Polar regions are very sensitive to climate changes. In particular, activities in industrial countries modify the Arctic atmosphere and, in return, the Arctic influences our weather at lower latitudes, especially during the cold season. Polar climate is highly sensitive to all forms of atmospheric water in the air, in clouds and in precipitation. Human-made and natural aerosols interact strongly with cloud formation. This project aims to study and measure the extensive formation of very thin ice clouds specific to coldest arctic conditions. Many studies have indicated that acid pollutants affect climate. This project will test new technologies for a satellite called TICFIRE to better monitor cold anomalies and to improve weather forecasting. $250,000 over three years
University of Saskatchewan New instrument for the measurement of atmospheric aerosol and cloud components: This project will provide end-to-end training for several graduate students, summer students, and a research associate in the design, building, testing, calibration, flight and data analysis of a prototype satellite instrument. The instrument uses new and novel optics to measure aerosol and cloud in region of the atmosphere that is particularly sensitive to climate change; this project will provide the opportunity to greatly extend its measurement capability. The test flight of the instrument will occur on a stratospheric balloon, giving the team the opportunity to be exposed to all aspects of the mission. $250,000 over three years
University of Toronto New instruments for the study of the Universe and is earliest times: This project will engage three PhD students and one Post-Doctoral Fellow in the activities related to the flight of the Spider mm-wave polarimeter on a NASA long-duration balloon flight from Antarctica. Spider explores the nature of the Universe at its earliest times (10-36 seconds after the Big Bang) by studying the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background—the oldest light in the Universe.  The PhD students will complete their degree upon having trained for this flight.

$80,000 over two (2) years

University of Waterloo New form of optical transmission between a balloon and a receiver on the ground: The objective of this project is to conduct an end-to-end airborne demonstration of quantum key distribution (QKD) between a receiver payload on a stratospheric balloon and a mobile transmitter on the ground.  A Chinese group recently reported the demonstration of downlink QKD using a transmitter on a balloon; however, the University of Waterloo team is proposing the more innovative and difficult challenge of demonstrating uplink QKD with the receiver on the balloon, thereby establishing the feasibility of stratospheric QKD up to a moving airborne platform. The demonstration will significantly retire technical risks associated with the proposed QEYSSat mission. $250,000 over two years
York University New instrument for the measurement of Arctic temperature and pressure profiles: The Canadian government is considering the development of a polar, highly elliptical satellite mission (Polar Communications and Weather, or PCW) to provide communications and weather information in the Arctic. A potential augmentation to this mission complement is the addition of a science package that would provide information about the composition of the atmosphere, temperature and pressure profiles, and measurements related to air quality in the Arctic. In addition, carbon dioxide and methane, important greenhouse gases, would also be measured. This project is intended to fund the development and increase the technical readiness level of the instruments that would provide these measurements on PCW. $250,000 over three years
New instruments for atmospheric science related to meteorology application: This project will foster the creation of a critical mass of engineers, atmospheric scientists and students through the modification and completion of a miniature O2 A-band Fabry-Perot 2-D imaging spectrometer, developed by MPB Communications Inc. The project will provide the detailed design, modification, fabrication and validation of this spectrometer for atmospheric science, air quality and meteorology applications. Engineers, scientists and students will work closely on mechanical, electrical and optical aspects to complete its development. This instrument will then be tested on a balloon flight. The measurements of the spectrometer will also be analyzed. $249,995 over three years
New software algorithm for satellite attitude control systems: The York University team will be participating in the SIGMA mission as part of the Korean CubeSat program. This proposal is to support the team's effort to develop efficient attitude control system (ACS) for the SIGMA mission, based on the ACS hardware that has flown on CINEMA CubeSat Series. With little modification to the ACS hardware, the team will have an opportunity to demonstrate its own ACS algorithm concept. The team will also play a significant role in mission operations providing one of the main operation centers at York University with only a minor modification to the existing ground station. $80,000 over two years