Canadian Space Agency

Canadian Space Agency

November 02, 2009 14:43 ET

Successful Launch of Canadian Technology On European Space Agency SMOS/Proba-2 Satellites

PLETSK, RUSSIA--(Marketwire - Nov. 2, 2009) - Aboard a Russian Rockot launch vehicle, two advanced satellites SMOS and Proba-2 have successfully been placed in orbit at 2:50 Central European Time.

The dual launch includes a primary satellite called SMOS (Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity), developed under the European Space Agency's (ESA) Living Planet program, that will observe soil moisture over the Earth's landmass and salinity over the oceans. As a secondary objective, SMOS will also provide observations over snow and ice covered regions, and contribute to the study of the cryosphere. It carries a single payload instrument, which uses an innovative technique never employed in space before that is based on interferometric radiometry in the L-band (1.4 GHz) to generate 2-D images.

The second satellite Proba-2 (PRoject OnBoard Autonomy) is part of ESA's In-orbit Technology Demonstration Program. Proba-2, a microsatellite with total mass of 130Kg, contains four on-board instruments supporting solar observation and plasma measurements and a number of innovative spacecraft technologies.

As a cooperating member of the European Space Agency (ESA), Canada is an active participant in the SMOS and Proba-2 missions. The Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) participation and funding of Earth Observation Space Technology Programs has enabled Canadian companies to actively contribute advanced technology for demonstration on these satellites. Overall, the CSA has invested approximately $7.5M in these missions. In addition, the CSA is also supporting the scientific exploitation of SMOS data through its Government Related Initiative Program.

SMOS - Canadian Contributions

For the SMOS mission, Array Systems Computing Inc., is playing a key role in the development of a soil moisture processor. Array Systems is demonstrating its core expertise in signal processing interacting with scientific experts to define the requirements, and design, build and validate the Level-2 Soil Moisture processor prototype.

For this mission, the CSA has sponsored two studies, the first focused on sea surface salinity conducted by a team of scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and York University. In the second study, Array Systems surveyed Canadian interest in using SMOS near-real-time data. Five Canadian teams have been approved by ESA to receive advance data for Calibration, Validation and Scientific Applications. The Canadian Meteorological Centre will assimilate the data to improve the representation of soil moisture in its Numerical Weather Prediction model which will require SMOS near-real-time data. This work will be carried out by a team led by Canadian Government scientist Stephane Belair, who will be collaborating with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

Proba-2 - Canadian Contributions

On the Proba-2 satellite, three Canadian space companies are contributing their technology and expertise: MPB Communications Inc.; Microsat Systems Canada Inc. (MSCI) and NGC Aerospace Ltd.

MPB Communications Inc. is providing a Fiber Sensor Demonstrator, which will be the first demonstration of a full fibre-optic sensor network used in a space environment. The sensors measure temperature at different locations in the propulsion system and the spacecraft, as well as, the xenon tank pressure. MPB is leveraging technological expertise developed through its terrestrial fiber optic communication business. The successful demonstration of this advanced fiber-optic sensor network will provide spacecraft operators with a lighter, more compact, and lower power-consuming centralized sensor system especially critical for the monitoring of temperature and pressure.

Microsat Systems Canada Inc. has supplied four micro-reaction wheels, which are important to assure the accurate orientation of the spacecraft. These are an integral part of the spacecraft attitude control subsystem and are used in maintaining three-axis stabilized operation. The micro-reaction wheels represent part of MSCI's core business which started from development of microsatellite reaction wheel onboard Canada's space telescope MOST.

NGC Aerospace Ltd of Sherbrooke Quebec is expanding on experience gained in the earlier flight of Proba-1, which used on-board intelligent software to support the autonomous guidance, navigation, control, and failure detection of the spacecraft. This specialised software also supported the fine pointing of remote-sensing cameras focusing on terrestrial sites of interest. Proba-1 was the first ESA spacecraft to fly the guidance, navigation and control software completely generated using automatic code-generation tools and was the first spacecraft to perform accurate pointing during large manoeuvres without the use of a gyro to maintain stability. Launched 8 years ago, in October 2001, Proba-1 is still operating successfully today. NGC Aerospace Ltd is leveraging this flight heritage by deploying several elements on Proba-2, including: the design, implementation and validation of the autonomous guidance-navigation-control algorithms implemented as part of the attitude-and-orbit-control-system (AOCS) software; the design and implementation of the ground-based AOCS telemetry analysis and calibration tool software; the design, implementation and validation of six innovative flight software experiments; and, the software-independent validation campaign on the system simulator.

For additional information on SMOS-Proba-2 missions and its launch progress, visit:

For SMOS science applications by Canadian scientists, consult EO Express issue no. 39:

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