Small size, big performance [CANSEC2016D1]

25 May 2016

The UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) (Booth 933) develops complete space missions for international customers with high-performance demands but tight budgets and short schedules. For more than 17 years, SFL has been pushing the performance envelope by building big satellite performance into smaller satellites and, therefore, at a lower cost.

SFL develops missions for all applications – Earth observation, monitoring and remote sensing, asset tracking, communications, science, and technology demonstration. Its capabilities are complete end-to-end services, from initial mission conception, to satellite integration and test, to arranging launches on a regular basis, to commissioning and operating satellites.

At only 53kg, the MOST microsatellite was Canada’s first space telescope, and the world’s first microsatellite with high precision attitude control, taking microsatellites from simple ‘toy’ missions to an entirely new regime of serious applications.

Another paradigm shift occurred when CanX-2, as one of the first cubesats in orbit, was, to SFL’s knowledge, the first 3.5kg satellite to demonstrate three-axis attitude stabilisation, propulsion, and a high-speed S-band downlink with a 1Mbps data rate. NTS provides a time-critical commercial automatic identification system (AIS), while ship tracking was accomplished with the 7kg AISSat-1, followed by AISSat-2, ordered and launched by Norway, and EV9 (exactView 9), believed to be the smallest satellite to have operational ground target tracking capability.

BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) with high-precision pointing capability (12 arcsec RMS) is a five-satellite constellation funded by three countries: Austria, Poland and Canada. CanX-4 and CanX-5 represent the world’s first 7kg precise, autonomous formation flying satellites, having demonstrated relative position with precision to a few centimetres. Additional satellites are expected to launch soon. These include the 15kg NEMO-AM, India’s first aerosol monitoring satellite to assist in measuring pollutants; the 16kg GHGSat-D with the mission of measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the 3.5kg CanX-7 that will demonstrate deorbiting drag sails for debris mitigation purposes; NEMO-HD, a 72kg earth observation satellite for Slovenia; M3MSat, developed for high-bandwidth, high detection-rate ship tracking for the Canadian government; and three more for Norway comprising AISSat-3, the 16kg NORSAT-1, Norway’s first scientific satellite, and NORSAT-2, which is poised to be the world’s first VHF data exchange satellite.

Earlier this month, SFL announced that it has partnered with SSL for a spacecraft to be used by Telesat, one of the world’s leading satellite operators.

SFL is presently Canada’s most prolific satellite builder and exporter of satellites internationally. Its mandate is to lower the entry barrier for organisations around the world to meet their needs in space while requiring modest investment.

Commercial business models are sensitive to cost, and SFL solutions allow businesses to close financial models for new satellite services.

Government programmes worldwide have benefited from SFL’s low-cost missions, enabling them to operate in space for a fraction of the traditional cost. SFL satellites are surprisingly small for their performance and mission objectives, keeping launch costs to a minimum. SFL has provided quality small mission solutions worldwide, covering all aspects of mission implementation, from concept to manufacturing to launch and on-orbit operations.

(498 words)