Sunday, December 01, 2013

Canadian Company Contributing to the ESA SWARM

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

Two of the three SWARM satellites. Image c/o EADS.
Canada is an important contributor to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SWARM mission of three Earth observation satellites, with a little help from a Canadian firms state-of-the-art scientific instruments.

Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International designed, developed and tested the Canadian Electrical Field Instrument (CEFI) which was integrated into the instrument suites of all three satellites comprising the SWARM mission.

The CEFI will collect information about the interaction of Earth's magnetic field with the solar wind and electric currents, and their effects on Earth.

COM DEV deals with the manufacturing and design of technologically advanced space hardware. In the past couple years, COM DEV has built satellite equipment for several important international missions, such as Terra and CloudSat, and has technology on more than 900 spacecrafts. 80% of all commercial communications satellites launched to date have COM DEV technology on board.

Mike Pley. Photo c/o COM DEV.
I appreciate the confidence that ESA expressed in COM DEV by selecting the company to be the prime contractor for three instruments that will make an important contribution toward the scientific goals of the Swarm mission,” said Mike Pley, CEO of COM DEV International in the November 22nd press release, "Three COM DEV Instruments Launched Onboard European Space Agency's Swarm Satellites," available online on the company website. “The CEFI project is a continuation of COM DEV’s world-leading heritage in space science, space weather, and space situational awareness instruments.

There is a CEFI on board each of the three satellites to collect information about the connection between Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind/electric currents. There are two types of sensors in all the CEFIs: the Thermal Ion Imagers and Langmuir Probes, providing high resolution imaging of the ion flow around the Earth, and measuring electron density.

The Swarm mission hopes to shed light on one of the most important aspects of our planet’s survival: the magnetic field. Planning to map it to as much detail as possible, this 4 year long mission will give us an incredibly close-up look at the depletion of our global field, and even help find valuable resources from the magnetization of rocks.

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
According to the ESA SWARM mission fact sheet, the key to the program is “exploiting European and Canadian technological excellence, Swarm takes advantage of a new generation of sensors. The magnetometers measure the magnetic field to an accuracy greater than other instruments while the electric field sensors are the first 3D ionospheric imagers of their kind in orbit.

The global scientific community has addressed the importance of the Earth Explorer missions, such as Swarm, and Canada’s involvement is appreciated and recognized at an international level.

Sarah Ansari-Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

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