CASCA updates on the BRITE Constellation and CASTOR Telescope

CASTOR space telescope. Credit: CASCA.

The Canadian Astronomical Society – Société Canadienne D’Astronomie (CASCA) has posted several updates as part of its summer newsletter update including for the BRITE Constellation and CASTOR Telescope.

BRITE Constellation update

BRITE-Constellation is an international space astronomy mission consisting of a fleet of 20x20x20 cm nanosatellites dedicated to precision optical photometry of bright stars in two photometric colours. The mission continues in full science operations, with 38 datasets available in the public domain from the BRITE public archive. As of April of 2020, all data is made public as soon as decorrelation is complete, with no proprietary period.

The BRITE mission is a collaboration between Canadian, Austrian and Polish astronomers and space scientists. The Canadian partners represent University of Toronto, Université de Montréal, Mount Allison University, and Royal Military College of Canada. The mission was built, and the Canadian satellites operated by, the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab (UTIAS-SFL). The Canadian Space Agency funded the construction of the Canadian satellites, and continues to support their day-to-day operations.


There are five BRITE satellites in the Constellation, which work together to obtain well-sampled, long term continuous (~6 months) light curves in both red and blue band passes across a variety of sky fields.

As this issue of Cassiopeia went to press, the assignments of the BRITE nanosats were:

  • BRITE Toronto (Canada): This satellite observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Cyg V field. (As indicated by the roman numeral, Cygnus is a BRITE legacy field being observed for the 5th time.) The pointing performance of the satellites on this field has been poor, and an alternative field may be considered.
  • BRITE Lem (Poland): Lem observes with a blue filter, but is currently idle due to unresolved stability issues.
  • BRITE Heweliusz (Poland): Heweliusz observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Cru-Car IV field with good performance.
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a blue filter. It is currently observing the Sgr VIII field.
  • UniBRITE (Austria): Currently out of order.

Read the full report.

CASTOR Telescope update

The Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and uv Research (CASTOR) telescope is a proposed “1-meter class space telescope concept on a small satellite platform that would make a unique contribution to astrophysics by providing wide field, high-resolution imaging in the UV and optical spectral region, surpassing any ground-based optical telescope in image sharpness.”

CASTOR continues to make progress on several fronts. The following list summarizes activities since the last e-CASS report in March.

  1. The technical risk-retirement (STDP) contract has developed the detector work plan, involving the supplier T-e2v, the JPL doping and coating process, readout electronics from NRC-HAA, and lab testing at Honeywell, the Open University in the UK, and the University of Calgary UV vacuum lab.
  2. The Phase 0 Science Working Groups (SWGs) and full science team are meeting monthly for science development work. Under NRC-HAA contracts, specific work is continuing at several Canadian universities.
  3. The Industrial Phase 0 Mission Concept Review (MCR) is due later this month, where the mission requirements will be outlined and agreed on. The CASTOR science team has been closely engaged in preparing for this important milestone.
  4. Partnership discussions have included a town-hall meeting in the UK, attended by the UK Space Agency to advise on funding opportunities later this year. Other individuals in Europe, United States and Asia have expressed interest and are contributing specific studies.
  5. The FORECASTOR tools for exposure time calculations and data simulations continues development on several fronts with contributions from a number of students, postdocs and faculty members. SWGs will be using these tools to raise the science readiness levels of CASTOR’s planned surveys to a minimum of SRL=4 by conclusion of the Phase 0 study.
  6. The mission business case is now in development by CSA, and will be completed later this year. ACURA and the Coalition have been briefed as part of their regular activities and CASTOR has been mentioned favourably in several of the CSA Topical Team meetings, and the recent Canadian Space Exploration Workshop.
  7. Detailed education and public outreach plans are being developed by the science team. Those who are interested in being involved in these efforts are encouraged to contact Nathalie Ouellette.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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