SpaceX to Launch Space Weather Satellite for Canada Sunday

September 5, 2017 – 10:54 am
CASSIOPE Satellite Artist's ConceptSpaceX's first upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, a Falcon 9 v1.1, rolls out to its launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for a September 2013 launch debut.
Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

An instrument called the fast auroral imager will use two cameras (in the visual and near infrared) to examine the fine structure of . An imaging and rapid-scanning spectrometer will simultaneously observe what kinds of charged particles, or ions, are in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, a superthermal electron imager will show how fast the electrons are moving and where they're going.

"It's a picture of what the plasma is doing around the spacecraft, " Greg Enno, a technical manager for the scientific suite at the University of Calgary, told Studying the small auroral structures — only a few dozen feet in size — will give an idea of how energy transfer takes place within the shimmering lights.

Other Canadian instruments on board include a radio receiver used to watch plasma waves and a flux gate magnetometer to study the magnetic field. A GPS experiment will accurately clock the time in which events occur as well as the orientation of the spacecraft. It will also measure electron content by watching other rise or set behind Earth. Then it will determine how the signals change as they skim through the atmosphere before being blocked by Earth itself.

CASSIOPE will also carry two international payloads. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has a neutral mass spectrometer that will examine how neutral particles behave relative to the surrounding ions and electrons. The U.S. Navy also provided a transmitter that will interact with several ground-based receivers, again to measure electron content in the atmosphere.

Space-based courier

Cascade Data Services (a subsidiary of MDA) will use the communications payload to pick up large digital packets of information, anywhere from 50 to 500 gigabytes at once. Then Cascade will beam the data down to interested customers when the satellite passes over a receiving station.

As part of a reimbursable contribution agreement between the space agency and MDA, the CSA will receive a percentage of Cascade's commercial revenues, as royalties, to repay the agency's contribution. It's the first time CSA has ever used such a government contribution mechanism...


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