Backgrounder

Microsatellite missions

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded five contracts for feasibility studies on concepts for five microsatellite missions, following a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued in November 2013. These proposed missions would address Canada's domestic needs in security, health, forest fire surveillance, weather surveillance and water quality monitoring.

Five candidate missions were selected by Canadian government departments that benefit from the services these potential missions provide. Total funding for each contract ranges from $300,000 to $800,000 over two years.

1. Canadian Atmospheric Tomography System (CATS)

The CATS mission aims to study the exchange processes between the stratosphere and the troposphere. The primary mission objectives are:

  • To better understand and identify the mechanisms responsible for the "ozone hole" in the Arctic stratosphere, to study the impact of pollutants such as aerosols in non-polar regions, and to examine the coupling between climate change and the recovery of the ozone layer from the effect of ozone-depleting substances; and
  • To explore some of the mechanisms that provide coupling between the upper and lower atmosphere, e.g., downward transport of nitrogen with its effects on ozone chemistry.

Industrial prime and sub-contractors: COM DEV Ltd. (prime), University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies/Space Flight Laboratory, Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited, and Harvard University.

Canadian government user department: Environment Canada.

2. Canadian Wildland Fire Monitoring System (CWFMS)

The CWFMS mission aims to prepare a new generation of space-based wildland fire observation systems. The mission would increase both the spatial and chronological resolution of fire data and advance the tools used on the ground to analyze the effect of emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants in order to better predict the progression of fires. CWFMS aims to track forest fires, and determine their spatial distribution, timing, extent and intensity (temperature and energy release). It would also be used to monitor and predict gaseous and particulate pollutants emitted from fires, as well as other thermal anomalies such as coal seam fires, burning oil spills or natural phenomena such as volcanoes.

Industrial prime and sub-contractors: NGC Aerospace Ltd. (prime), COM DEV Ltd., University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies/Space Flight Laboratory, Institut national d'optique, MPB Communications, Université de Sherbrooke, and University of Alberta.

Canadian government user departments: Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and Department of National Defence.

3. Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSAT)

The QEYSSAT mission aims to provide a platform for the Canadian scientific community that is developing new applications in the area of quantum cryptography. The main objective is to demonstrate a new technology that would eventually provide Canada with the most secure communications capability from space.

The safe distribution of cryptographic keys has always been a crucial element for the task of protecting and sharing important and secret information. Although ground-based systems are commercially available today, they can only cover distances of up to 200 km due to photon absorption in fiber optic cables. Satellite-based systems are offering the best approach for surpassing this distance limitation with today's technology.

Industrial prime and sub-contractors: COM DEV Ltd. (prime), University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies/Space Flight Laboratory, Institut national d'optique, ADGA Group, University of Waterloo, and University of Calgary.

Canadian government user departments: Communications Security Establishment Canada.

4. Thin Ice Clouds in the Far InfraRed Experiment (TICFIRE)

The goal of the TICFIRE mission is to observe key characteristics of thin ice clouds (TICs) forming in the cold regions of the Poles and globally near the tropopause (the transitional region between the troposphere and the stratosphere), and link these to the change of clouds and their radioactive properties, caused by pollution. TICs the dominant cloud type found in the Arctic, are an important factor in the generation of cold Arctic air masses that feed large scale storms during the cold season. TICs are poorly understood and more research is required to properly measure their developments.

Industrial prime and sub-contractors: COM DEV Ltd. (prime), NGC Aerospace Ltd., University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies/Space Flight Laboratory, Institut national d'optique, and Université du Québec à Montréal.

Canadian government user department: Environment Canada.

5. Canadian Coastal and Inland Waters (WATERSAT)

The WATERSAT is a microsatellite mission with the objective of assessing the health of coastal and inland waters. WATERSAT would:

  • Provide ecological information on coastal waters (medium to large bodies);
  • Monitor hazards, discharges, effluents and pollution events;
  • Assess the well-being of marine coastal ecosystems;
  • Detect, monitor and help predict harmful algal blooms; and
  • Monitor the quality of medium and large freshwater bodies.

Industrial prime and sub-contractors: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (prime), Magellan Aerospace Limited, ABB Canada, and ASL Environmental Sciences.

Canadian government user departments: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Department of National Defence.