CASTOR telescope update – Honeywell gets contract

CASTOR space telescope. Credit: CASCA.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently awarded Honeywell Aerospace a Phase-0 study for the proposed Canadian led CASTOR telescope.

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.”

Using celestial themes, the CASTOR logo pays homage to Castor Canadensis — the North American Beaver — Canada’s national animal and an official “symbol of the sovereignty of Canada.” Credit: CASCA.
Using celestial themes, the CASTOR logo pays homage to Castor Canadensis — the North American Beaver — Canada’s national animal and an official “symbol of the sovereignty of Canada.” Credit: CASCA.

The proposed CASTOR telescope would be an international effort, though led by Canada. The last Canadian led space astronomy telescope was the MOST telescope which was launched in 2003. It was quite successful before it was deactivated in 2019. If the CASTOR telescope was to go ahead, it would be an important step forward for Canada’s astronomy community. The CASTOR telescope was the number one priority of the space astronomy community.

It should be noted Canada is also significant partner in the BRITE Constellation of six nano-satellites.

The Phase-0 study contract valued at $919,669 was awarded February 17th and is expected to be completed within a year.

The study follows a separate CSA $2.25 million space technology development program contract to ABB Canada awarded in April 2021 for a “priority technology” study of the Wide-Field Astronomical Imaging in UV/Optical technology. That study is also expected to completed within a year.

The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) posted an update on the CASTOR telescope recently.

  • The ongoing CSA technical (STDP) study contract continues to make good progress. A recent review detailed the design and performance of the Fast Steering Mirror that will perform the fine guiding for the observatory. The recently launched James Webb Space Telescope utilizes the same guiding system, so there is significant heritage in this capability. Other work on the detectors and payload opto-mechanical issues continues.
  • The long-awaited Phase 0 study contract is underway as of March 8. This study overlaps the STDP work, and both studies will wrap up about one year from now. The prime deliverable from the Phase 0 study will be a fully characterized and thoroughly planned mission concept, with agreed partnerships, that can move immediately into the flight Phases A to E. It is hoped that partnership details and agreements with ISRO, JPL, and UK will be formulated during this time. The Phase 0 study consists of an industrial contract (led by Honeywell Aerospace) and a science team contract (led out of NRC/HAA), and now is formally a joint project between CSA and NRC. Science working groups (SWGs) and work contracts are in place with several Canadian universities.
  • The CASTOR and Indian INSIST teams continue to work on a common design and hold regular meetings. The partner teams also include JPL and UK, whose participation in the STDP and Phase 0 work are being formalized.
  • The ACURA board and the Coalition are fully informed and are carrying the message from Universities to the government to prepare for flight approval and funding. We welcome colleagues to join in SWG and outreach activities.

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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