The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) had awarded a phase 0 development contract to McGill University for the proposed LiteBIRD telescope to validate a variety of objectives, including the concept definition and design.
The LiteBIRD space telescope is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) led mission that is scheduled to be launched in 2028 with a lifespan of three years. Other partners in the mission include France’s national space agency, the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), NASA and the European Space Agency.
LiteBIRD stands for Light satellite for the studies of B-mode polarization and Inflation from cosmic background Radiation Detection.
The LiteBIRD mission is to detect primordial gravitational waves of the Cosmic Microwave Background. This is an area of astronomy in which Canada has a great deal of expertise.
It was just a few years ago that the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and other regional and national organizations funded and built the ground-based CHIME radio telescope in the Penticton area of British Columbia. The LiteBIRD space telescope would complement the CHIME radio telescope as it would collect a different set of data.
The contract awarded to McGill is a follow-on to a science maturation study conducted by McGill, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia for the CSA.
According to McGill, the study is headed by Professor Matt Dobbs and “the McGill team will take the novel technology they developed for detectors readout in ground-based telescopes, and refactorize them for space. The McGill system, called the digital frequency domain multiplexing readout, would provide fidelity and control of the ultra-sensitive superconducting detectors that make up the focal plane of the LiteBIRD telescope. The mission will allow astronomers to capture the signature of primordial gravity waves, which physicists believe to have been emitted a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. This will enable researchers to look even further back into the origins of the universe.”
Professor Dobbs said in McGill press release, “taking part in the LiteBIRD mission would not only be a remarkable opportunity to look deeper into the origins of the universe, It would validate the capacities of space research at McGill University and across the rest of Canada, as well as the central role our talent and expertise have to play in this competitive and demanding field.”