CASSIOPE: Observing Space Weather With a Hybrid Satellite
With the launch of the hybrid small satellite CASSIOPE, scheduled for 2013, Canada will make a significant contribution to unraveling the mysteries of space weather. To accomplish this feat, the satellite will use the scientific payload ePOP (enhanced polar outflow probe), which will observe the ionosphere, and a technology demonstrator Cascade payload, which will provide a 'proof of concept' for a digital broadband courier service for commercial use.
The ePOP probe will observe the Earth's ionosphere, where space meets the upper atmosphere; ePOP comprises a suite of eight scientific instruments, including plasma imagers, radio wave receivers, magnetometers and cameras. These will collect data about the effects of solar storms and, more specifically, their harmful impact on radio communications, satellite navigation and other space and ground-based technologies.
Like a courier in the sky, Cascade's operational concept is to pick up large digital data files and deliver them to almost any destination in the world. The concept supports the efficient transfer of these huge files, equivalent to 50 to 500 pickup trucks filled with paper.
Small and versatile
CASSIOPE's hexagonal platform measures only 180 cm long and 125 cm high. It is more cost effective to construct and launch several small satellites with different goals than combining all the functionality on one big satellite. In addition to reducing the risk, this means that the satellites achieve their scientific or commercial objectives at a more reasonable cost.
The new platform produced for the CASSIOPE mission will also be versatile: it will be possible to adapt and use it for various missions involving science, technology, Earth observation, geologic exploration and information delivery.
Professor Andrew Yau of the University of Calgary directs the ePOP project and a team comprised of researchers and engineers from seven Canadian universities. The Communications Research Centre, located in Ottawa, as well as the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are also partners in the project.
Moreover, CASSIOPE benefits from a solid partnership between the private and public sectors. Bristol Aerospace, based in Winnipeg, has constructed the satellite platform. Vancouver's MDA is the project's prime contractor and directs a group of Canadian companies with a view to developing terrestrial and space-based infrastructures and operating the satellite.
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