CSA Balloon Base Gets Payload Facility Upgrade

Strato-Science campaign at the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency’s Stratospheric Balloon Base in Timmins opened a new payload integration facility on Thursday, doubling its capacity and reinforcing its position as a premiere location for stratospheric science. 

As detailed in earlier SpaceQ coverage of the CSA’s STRATOS program, the Timmins base is a key international hub for study of the stratosphere. Started ten years ago in conjunction with the Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, it takes advantage of Timmins’ ideal location and infrastructure to launch stratospheric balloons every August from a variety of international scientific partners. The base is located at the Victor M. Power airport in Timmins.

(CNES and the CSA renewed their agreement for a new term late last year.)

Balloons are still an ideal way to perform scientific work in the stratosphere, STRATOS Mission Manager Phillippe Vincent said to SpaceQ last year, as they are “the only vehicle able to work in the stratosphere”. Aircraft fly too low, satellites fly too high, and rockets pass through too quickly. Twenty-eight zero-pressure balloons and seven stratospheric expandable balloons have been launched from Timmins, with payloads from teams around the world. 

A spokesperson for the CSA explained the upgrade in a statement to SpaceQ. They said that while the new Payload Integration Hall has the same floor area as before, it’s been rebuilt as a metal structure, replacing the soft shell facility that had been there previously. They said that “this upgrade will allow the TSBB to host twice as many experiments and researchers, and for more youth to have the chance to test technologies and perform experiments in a near-space environment.” 

They also built a new elevator to increase accessibility to the base’s second floor. The $5.2-million project was paid for by FedNor and NOHFC.

The announcement featured a variety of international dignitaries, according to a release from the City of Timmins. Mayor Michelle Boileau and CSA President Lisa Campbell were both at the event, as were Timmins MPP and Minister of Mines George Pirie, FedNor’s Lucie Perreault, and representatives from CNES, Public Service & Procurement Canada, and NOHFC.

Campbell was quoted by Nicole Stoffman at the Timmins Daily Press as saying “[t]his science is helping us monitor the space environment…how much debris is there? Is it growing? How do we avoid it? How do we put spacecraft up safely?” Campbell also said that “most of what happens here fits with things we know are going to be needed in the space environment.”

A delegation from the Brazilian Space Agency was also on hand. Stouffmann quoted Rodrigo Leonardi, coordinator for satellites at the Brazilian Space Agency, who said “we’re here to learn about the Timmins experience.” He said that they wanted “[t]o learn about all the science we can get out of stratospheric balloons and also to see what kind of structures we would need to deploy in the future to make sure we can also invite this vibrant scientific community to Brazil.”

Launches for this year’s stratospheric balloon campaign began earlier this month. Canadian payloads for the campaign include a precision pointing telescope for astronomy, a debris-tracking camera, multispectral remote sensing of ground-based artificial light, a Fabry-Perot spectrometer, and a “commercial grade, CubeSat compatible star tracker concept” among others.  

One payload is by Indigenous students via Stardust Technologies, whose Stardust Festival is later this month.

About Craig Bamford

Craig started writing for SpaceQ in 2017 as their space culture reporter, shifting to Canadian business and startup reporting in 2019. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and has a Master's Degree in International Security from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He lives in Toronto.

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