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Canadian imaging technology takes key role in science satellite mission

Monday, July 22, 2019 5:06:00 PM

- Mission to observe the complete chain of events that drives space weather for the first time.

(CSA) - The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the University of Calgary, along with other partners, announced that they will develop Canada’s contribution to the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE) mission. The mission is a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to study space weather, the phenomenon that causes the northern lights but can also cause disruptions and damage to technology.

ESA and CAS selected the SMILE mission – the proposal submitted by scientists from the University of Calgary – from among 13 scientific proposals. The Canadian-led science instrument, the Ultra-Violet Imager (UVI), is funded through an innovative business model that brings together funding from the CSA, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Alberta’s Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.

“This mission will provide the data that researchers need to better understand space weather and the damage it causes. It will also allow governments and industry to better protect satellites and ground infrastructure such as electrical grids that are critical to serving the everyday needs of Canadians.”
- The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

The CSA has awarded two contracts: one worth almost $11 million to Honeywell to design the UVI, and the second worth $1.5 million to the University of Calgary to design the UVI Science Operations and Data Centre.

Space weather can affect the performance of critical technologies and services both in space and on Earth, resulting in substantial economic impacts. Severe space weather events can disrupt radio communications and satellite navigation signals, damage electrical infrastructure and satellites, and even endanger trans-polar air travel. It is therefore important to try to understand space weather in order to limit its negative effects.

Canada is the country with the largest landmass under the aurora borealis, or northern lights, the most visible manifestation of space weather.

SMILE supports the Space Strategy for Canada, as it is a space science mission that aims to help us better understand our planet, our Sun and the radiation environment. SMILE will also contribute to making Canada’s use of space and ground infrastructure more robust against the adverse effects of space weather.

The Space Strategy reiterates the importance of space science and the broader space sector. It includes commitments to ensure Canada’s leadership in acquiring and using space-based data to support science excellence, innovation and economic growth, while at the same time positioning Canada’s commercial space sector to help grow the economy and create the jobs of the future.