Science and Simulations at The Canadian Space Agency
So I really wanted to put a spotlight on this topic, because one of the founders of Houdini helped create a lot of simulations for the Canadarm back in the day. But also, space innovation has hugely helped simulation technology. I don’t think it’s a reach to say that if you are a country with a space technology sector, your computer industries also thrive.
So let’s focus on the Canadian Space Agency and the fun things they get up to.
A Not So Brief History of Canadian Space Innovation
Even though NASA is the most recognizable space agency in North America, the Canadian Space Agency has been up to some fun stuff too. So here is a little backstory on how Canada ended up investing in space endeavors.
Sir Edward Sabine created the first magnetic observatory at the University of Toronto. His reason for doing so: prove Edmund Halley’s theory right, and that the northern lights were formed by the Earth’s magnetic field. He was also the first scientist to prove that magnetic disturbances in the atmosphere are related to the number and strength of sunspots.
The First International Polar Year happens. This doesn’t involve one year of winter happening in Canada, but the first worldwide co-ordinated scientific enterprise. This effort included researchers from all over the world measuring meteorological,magnetic, and auroral data in Canada.
The government of Canada creates the Honorary Advisory Council on Scientific and Industrial Research. This is now known as Honorary Advisory Council on Scientific and Industrial Research
John Herbert Chapman was born. He is credited as the father of the Canadian Space Agency. He will also help with the Alouette/ISIS scientific Earth satellite program.
The Second International Polar Year happens. A bunch of measurement field stations are set up in the arctic circle. Balloons with built in radios and kites are now being used for more accurate measurements. This also leads to the discovery that there is a correlation between solar radiation and the ionosphere.
The National Research Council Laboratories and the Radio Propagation Lab and Electronics Lab merge to become the Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment. This later became the Communications Research Center of Canada.
Sputnik 1 is launched into space. This starts the worldwide space race. Hours after it’s launch, A scientist, John Chapman and his crew were listening to it’s beeps at the Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment.
The International Geophysical Year happens. Between July 1957 and December 1958 the worldwide scientific community looked up to the sky, and conducted research to understand Earth and Sun interactions.While the rest of the world was looking at solar flares, Canada and the USA built the Churchill Research Range in northern Manitoba. They did this so they could launch suborbital supersonic rockets into the atmosphere. This base would last until 1989 and launched more than 3,500 rockets into the sky.
NASA begins operations.
The International Council of Scientific Unions creates COSPAR. (Committee on Space Research) This committee would make sure that space research in the prior and current International Geophysical Year programs would continue. Canada would be the founding member for that committee.
The launch of a Nike-Cajun sounding rocket is launched with the first canadian science payload.
NASA agrees to launch Canada’s first satellite Alouette 1 for study of the ionosphere. This marks a stepping stone for Canada’s career in the space industry.
June 6, 1959
The Prince Albert Radar Laboratory is opened in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
September 5, 1959
The Black Brant 1 becomes the first Canadian made rocket. It is launched at Churchill Range.
June 22, 1960
The USA’s navigation satellite Transit 2A is launched. This satellite is built with the first Canadian made space hardware. Which was a cosmic noise receiver. At this point, Canada doubles down on developing space technology.
Echo 1, a United States satellite-balloon, is deployed. It was the first satellite to allow for two way telephone conversations. One of its main receiving stations is set up in Prince Albert Saskatchewan.
May 5, 1961
Alan B Shapard becomes the first american in space.Installed in his Freedom 7 capsule is something called STEM.(storable tubular extendible mechanism). This was the main communication antenna for Freedom 7. It was built by de Havilland Aircraft of Downsview, Ontario. These STEM antennas are installed on other space capsules as well.
February 20, 1962
Friendship 7 takes flight, and this capsule is also outfitted with a STEM antenna.
September 29, 1962
Alouette 1 is launched. Canada becomes the third nation to place a satellite in space. Alouette was launched on a Thor-Agena B rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It was given a one year lifetime, but was formally deactivated in 1972.
December 13, 1962
Relay-1 is launched. This is the first communication saliette built by RCA Limited. Canada supplies the transponder for it. It was built by a manufacturing company that built microwaves for RCA in Montreal.
December 21, 1963
The first ever weather photo is transmitted into Canada by U.S satellite TIROS 8.
April 6, 1965
Launch of Early Bird(Intelsat 1) marked Canada’s first commercial communication satellite. It was run by what is now known as Teleglobe Canada.
November 29, 1965
Alouette 2 is launched. This continues ionospheric research from space.
John Herbert Chapman submits a report to the federal government requesting the creation of the Canadian Space Agency.
January 1, 1968
Spar Aerospace Limited was formed. They play a huge part in the development of the Canadian Space Agency. They would be the sole developers of the Canadarm, and other space shuttle technology. They are now part of MDA, a space technology company located in Brampton, Ontario.
January 30, 1969
ISIS 1 launches. This satellite is a new and improved version of the Alouette craft. It was designed to capture pictures of the northern lights from space, and study the ionosphere.
July 20, 1969
Man first steps foot on the moon. The lunar spacecraft’s landing gear was built by Héroux Aerospace of Longueuil, Quebec.
September 1, 1969
The Canadian government created Telesat Canada. This company is designed to own and use Canadian communication satellites.
March 31, 1971
ISIS 2 is launched.It is launched on a Thor-Delta Rocket. When Canada is finished with the satellite, they transfer its operations over to Japan.
April 1, 1971
The Canada Center for Remote Sensing (CCRS) was created.
July 26, 1972
The first Landsat-1 remote-sensing image was received in Canada.
The federal government created the David Florida Laboratory. This lab will be the main center for operating the Hermes/CTS program.
September 30, 1972
Alouette 1 ceases activity.
November 9, 1972
The Anik A1 com-satellite is launched. Canada becomes the first country with a private communication satellite.
April 20, 1973
Anik 2 is launched. This is Canada’s second communications satellite.
NASA gives Canada the main contract for designing the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) for the Space Shuttle. This is the device that is now known as the Canadarm. Canada splurges $100 million into its development.
May 7, 1975
Anik A3 is launched.
August 1, 1975
Alouette 2 is terminated.
The CTS(Communications Technology Satellite), also known as Hermes, is launched. It became the most powerful satellite in the world. It was the first satellite to operate in the 14/12-GHz frequency.. This craft paved the way for the broadcast satellites we have today.
August 20, 1977
Voyager 2 leaves Earth. Canada helped design the boom for the telemetry instruments.
NASA launches Seasat. Canada sets up: Surat(Surveillance Satellite) program, to process the satellite data. This joint effort leads up to the creation of the RADARSAT program.
Anik B is launched. This is the world’s first dual-band communications satellite.
January 1, 1979
Canada and The ESA sign their first 5-year cooperation agreement.
The Hermes/CTS satellite is terminated.
Canada signs agreements with the ESA to help build the world’s largest communications satellite named Olympus. Canada supplies the solar panels, amplifiers, hyperfrequency components, and supports assembly, and integration.
The Toronto-based paper, The Globe and Mail starts using the Anik A3 to relay news to major cities.
The Canadarm arrives in space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.
Anik D1 is launched
The Canadarm works so well that it impresses NASA. They offer Canada a place to fly an astronaut into space. This is where Canada starts its own astronaut program.
Anik C3 is launched. It carries the equivalent of 32 color tv channels and 21,504 voice circuits.
June 22, 1983
The first operational use of the Canadarm on the shuttle Challenger deploys the SPAS-01.
The first six Canadian astronauts are selected. These are: Roberta Bondar, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean, Ken Money, Robert Thirsk, and Bjarni Tryggvason.
Astronaut Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian in space. He arrives there via space shuttle Challenger.
Anik D2 is deployed.
Brasilsat F1 launches into orbit. This is the first joint Canadian-Brazilian satellite venture.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan sign an agreement to take part in the U.S’s space station project.
Canada and the U.S sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the space station projects.
Sweden launches its Viking spacecraft. Onboard is Canada’s ultra-violet auroral imager.
Canada signs on as an official partner of the ISS( International Space Station).
Canada and Japan continue their scientific endeavors together and sign an agreement for Science and Technology Cooperation.
Canada launches GEODE(Gravity Experiment On Detector Elements) from the European Space Range in Kiruna, Sweden. This project is designed to see if cadmium/mercury crystals can grow in zero gravity.
The Institute of Space and Terrestrial Science (ISTS) is founded at York University. It was later renamed the Center for Research in Earth and Space Technology in 1997.
In Washington, D.C,Canada, the European Space Agency, Japan, and the United States sign an official agreement for contributing to the ISS.
February 22, 1989
Japan’s Akebono satellite launches into orbit. Aboard it is a suprathermal ion mass spectrometer built by Canada.
The Canadian Space Agency is officially born,
The European Space Agency's Olympus satellite is launched. It takes off with a bunch of experimental technology aboard. A two-channel high power and direct broadcasting payload and much more.
Canadian Roberta Bondar is selected to become a Payload Specialist on a mission for Space Shuttle Discovery.
Canada puts forward a $15 million budget plan for the U.S.A’s FUSE (Lyman Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) space telescope. Canada signs up to create the optical systems of the telescope.
A Canadian Black Brant 5 rocket takes off with the COBRA(cosmic background radiation) project. This is a Canadian project involving particle detectors to measure radiation from the Big Bang. One of its mission statements is to confirm discoveries made by American teams regarding cosmic radiation.
The first piece of Canadian technology leaves Earth’s orbit. The High Flux Telescope(HFT) created by the National Research Council is attached to the ESA’s Ulysses space probe. Its mission is to study the poles of the sun.
The Memorandum of Understanding between Canada and Russia is signed. This allows space cooperation between the two countries.
The Canadian Space Agency Act is passed by the Government.
April 4, 1991
The Anik E2 satellite is launched.
April 5-11 1991
During the Atlantis STS-37 mission, the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (GRO) is deployed. This instrument is set into space with the Canadarm, and this marks the 23rd time it is used on a space mission.
July 16, 1991
Canada receives and processes data from ERS-1 in Prince Albert Saskatchewan, and Gatineau, Quebec.
Anik E1 is launched from Kourou, French Guiana.
The Annual Congress of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) takes place in Montreal.
The Canadian Space Agency seeks for more astronauts.
Roberta Bondar becomes the second Canadian and the first Canadian woman in space.
March 19, 1992
In New Mexico, The Canadian Black Brant 9 rocket carries the CSAR-1 (Canadian Space Agency Rocket) into space.
Telesat Canada becomes completely privatized. The Canadian Government sells the company to Alouette Telecommunications Inc.
The Canadian Space Agency selects four new candidates for their next group of astronauts. These people are: Chris A. Hadfield; Julie Payette, Robert Stewart, and Dr. Daffyd (David) R. Williams. However, Robert Stewart soon leaves and he is replaced by Capt. Michael John Mackay.
Astronauts Marc Garneau and Chris Hadfield become Canada’s first space mission specialists. They begin training in Houston Texas.
Mae Jemison becomes the first African-American woman in space. Canada completes it’s “Bread in Space” Experiment. In order to figure out if bread yeast behaves differently in space.
October 22- November 1,1992
The third Canadian enters space, Steve MacLean enters space on Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-52.
The official headquarters for the Canadian Space Agency opens in Saint-Hubert (Longueuil), Quebec. Inside are the astronaut training facilities, the RADARSAT control room, labs, and the MOC(MSS Operation Center) .
The new budget for the Canadian Space Program is released. The Canadian government is putting aside $2.7 billion for the program. Including $500 million for the ISS.
Marc Garneau becomes the first non-American CapCom at Mission Control in Houston.
Chris Hadfield is assigned to mission STS-74. He will become one of Canada’s most recognized astronauts.
The CSAR-2 (Canadian Space Agency Rocket-2) mission is launched.
January 13, 1995
Dave Williams is selected as the third Canadian to become a Mission Specialist.
Robert Thirsk becomes a Canadian payload Specialist for his first ever spaceflight. This also kicks off the longest ever study performed by a Canadian astronaut. This is the Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission.
Canadian Astronaut Marc Garneau is assigned as a Mission Specialist to his second space flight.
RADARSAT is finally launched. It became Canada’s first Earth observation satellite.
Air Force Maj. Chris A. Hadfield becomes the fourth Canadian in outer space. He became the first Canadian Mission Specialist. He also became the first Canadian aboard Russian Space Station Mir.
Canada signs an agreement with China in Beijing. They agree to cooperate with the China National Space Administration to have a cooperative discussion and communication about space and technology.
Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian astronaut to fly in space twic. He becomes a mission specialist. He participated in a number of experiments for Spacehab-4, Spartan 207, Inflatable Antenna Experiment, and TEAMS.
Jone 20-July 7,1996
Robert Thirsk becomes the 5th Canadian in Space. He is a payload specialist on mission STS-78.
Candians Steven G. macLean and Julie Payette are selected to train as mission specialists.
Canadian Minister John Manley signs an agreement with the ESA director Jean-Marie Luton. They sign an agreement stating that Canada will help on two different programs. The General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) and the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems Programme (ARTES).
Canadian Astronaut Dave Williams completes his mission specialist training. He is assigned to the future crew of the STS-90/Neurolab.
The Interball-2 spacecraft is launched. On board is Canada's Ultra-Violet Auroral Imager (UVAI). This is a camera system for studying the magnetic storms that take place in Earth’s atmosphere.
The main Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec is renamed to the John.H.Chapman Space Center.
Mac Evans, the current president of the CSA, signs an agreement with India regarding space technology. They agree to help out the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Canadian Astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason is selected to fly as a mission specialist for mission STS-85. His training starts now.
Spar Aerospace completes its Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) task. This robotic arm was launched on April 19,2001.
U.S. astronaut Jerry Linenger starts Canada’s main sleep study on astronauts in space. This experiment is designed by Dr. Harvey Moldofsky, director of the Center for Sleep and Chronobiology of the Toronto Hospital.
Telesat Canada announces their partnership with Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin has now been tasked with the build of NIMIQ. This is the first Canadian direct broadcast satellite.
Canada announces that it will invest a further $207 million in the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator for the ISS.
August 7-19, 1997
Bjarni Tryggvason becomes the sixth Canadian astronaut in space.
The first ever high-res image of the South Pole is taken with RADARSAT-1. This is Canada’s first observation satellite.
Some of the most important sets of growths of crystals are performed in space. These are sets of protein crystal growth (PCG) designed by Canadian scientists and University Students.
The CSA selected MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) to build RADARSAT-2. This will be a cheaper,lighter, and more advanced version of RADARSAT-1.
April 17-May 3,1998
Dr. Dave R. Williams becomes the seventh Canadian astronaut in space. He becomes the first non-medical officer on a space shuttle mission.
Japan’s first martian probe is launched. It carries the Thermal Plasma Analyzer (TPA) designed by Canada. It is designed to measure the Martian plasma density and the charged particles in the air. Understanding the overall magnetosphere is part of its overall task.
Mission STS-88 reaches space. Aboard is the now upgraded Canadarm, and the Orbiter Space Vision System (OSVS) is now also used.
The Canadarm 2 is now officially owned by the CSA vs Spar Aerospace. It costs over $1.4 billion, and is soon shipped down to Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility.
The Russian Proton-K heavy-lift launcher takes off. It carries the new Telesat Canada's NIMIQ high-powered Direct Broadcast Satellite.
May 27-June 6,1999
Julie Payette becomes the 8th Canadian in space. She operates the Canadarm for its 53rd Shuttle Flight.
Minister of Industry John Manley, finalizes the legislation to formalize Canada's involvement in the ISS. This keeps Canada as a long term investor of the space station.
The CSA and the President of Japan’s Space Agency.(NASDA) agreed to let Japanese astronauts train with Canada's Mobile Servicing System (MSS).
December 18, 1999
The Terra satellite final launches. On board are a ton of instruments to serve as NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) program. The MOPITT (Measurement of the Ozone Pollution In The Troposphere) is designed by Canada.
Dr. John Hutchings of the National Research Council Canada submits reports on Canadian discoveries using the FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) spacecraft. This spacecraft is responsible for the findings that exploding stars leave halos of gas extending away from them.
The John H. Chapman Excellence Award is announced in Canada. This award merits exceptional accomplishments in the space science and technology sector.
This day marks 160 years of Canadian scientific research on the Northern Lights. At the same time, a Black Brant-12 lifts off at Poker Flat, near Fairbanks, Alaska. On board is an instrument called GEODESIC (Geo Electrodynamics and Electro-Optical Detection of Electron and Suprathermal Ion Currents). This instrument ends up being hurled into the Northern Lights to measure its overall activity.
Marc Garneau takes off on his third space mission on STS-97. On this mission, he sets the record for longest Canadian in Space. (12 days)
Mission STS-102 is launched. On board is Canada’s first space experiment for the ISS. It is called H-reflex.
April 19-May 1,2001
Chris Hadfield takes off on Space Shuttle Endeavor. He became the first Canadian to take part in an Extra Vehicular Activity, or spacewalk.
Marc Garneau becomes the president of the Canadian Space Agency.
Space Shuttle Endeavor takes off with two Canadian science experiments onboard. The innovative Extra-Vehicular Activity Radiation Monitors (EVARM), to measure the amount of radiation the astronauts are receiving. And the H-Reflex experiment once again.
ENVISAT launches. This is Earth’s most advanced Earth Observation Satellite. This joint project between the ESA and the CSA works successfully.
The Northern Center for Advanced Technology Inc. (NORCAT) showcases drilling skills that could be useful for mining Mars. As well as other sample collecting methods that could be useful.
Canada’s addition to the ISS is launched into space. This is the Mobile Base System (MBS). It was officially installed on June 9th. It contains the Canadarm 2. It is fully operational on June 10th.
Canada unveils SCISAT-1 in Winnipeg. This is Canada’s first science satellite in 30 years.
Plans for Canada’s first space telescope are shown. It is planned to be housed on a microsatellite, and to be called MOST (microvariability and oscillations of stars).
The Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator "Dextre" is announced. This Canadian robot is the latest addition to the Mobile Servicing Systems for the ISS.
CSA successfully launches MOST. MOST opens and starts officially working on August 4th.
The CSA launches SCISAT from NASA’s site in Lompoc, California. Its main mission is to study the depletion of the ozone layer especially in the arctic regions of the world.
Anik F2 launches. This craft contains Telesat Canada's newest technology. It is a Ka-band, multimedia telecommunications satellite. Low-cost, two-way satellite connections for wireless internet connections are now available in remote regions in Canada. This satellite also improves wireless services for all Canadians going forward.
June 13, 2005
The BLAST (Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope)project takes place. This is a joint venture between the U.S, U.K, Canada, and Mexico. This project is designed to launch a balloon 38,000 meters into the sky to study distant stars.
September 26, 2005
Plans for the James Webb Telescope are announced. The CSA will help design the guidance sensors and the tunable filters for the telescope. The fine guidance sensors will give the craft the ability to track faint stars.
September 9, 2006
Canadian Astronaut Steve MacLean heads off into space on Space Shuttle Atlantis. He will become the first Canadian to use the Canadarm, 2.
August 4, 2007
NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander launches into space. Canada contributes the meteorological instruments for the spacecraft. These tools will give readings of the weather and climate of Mars.
December 14, 2007
RADARSAT-2 is launched in Kazakhstan. This is Canada's next-generation radar satellite. This gives Canada improved marine surveillance, ice and environment monitoring tools, and resource management observations.
March 11, 2008
Dextre takes off to the ISS aboard Shuttle Endeavor.
May 22, 2008
The CSA starts looking for their next round of astronauts.
May 25, 2008
The Phoenix Mars Lander touches down on Mars. Thai marks the first time Canadian technology has set foot on another world.
September 1, 2008
Astronaut Steve MacLean becomes the newest president of the Canadian Space Agency.
November 14, 2008
The CSA announces plans for a new RADARSAT craft. These plans hope to continue the RADARSAT program and continue its use with scientific endeavors.
May 13, 2009
Two new Canadian astronauts are selected. These are Jeremy Hansen and David St-Jacques.
May 14, 2009
The ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory and Planck Space Telescope are successfully launched. Canada assists with funding the overall development of the project.
May 27, 2009
Canadian Thirsk Lifts off to live on the ISS for six months. This is now the longest record for a Canadian in space.
October 5, 2009
This date marks 25 years of Canadians in space. 25 years earlier Marc Garneau became the first person from Canada to leave Earth.
November 16, 2009
Astronaut Robert (Bob) Thirsk begins the Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit (APEX-Cambium) study. This is a Canadian based research experiment from New Brunswick. It is designed to see if bark develops on trees in low gravity. Or if bark is a pulpy reaction to gravity holding the tree down.
December 1, 2009
Astronaut Robert Thirsk leaves the ISS and arrives back to Earth in Kazakhstan via Russian Soyuz Capsule.
May 10-23, 2010
Astronaut Chris Hadfield Participates In NASA Undersea Mission NEEMO 14. This mission simulates exploration missions that could happen on other worlds.
September 20, 2010
AuroraMAX is launched. This mission is designed to study the intensity of the Aurora Borealis.
November 4, 2010
Canadian Satellite RADARSAT-1 celebrates 15 years of operations.
January 11, 2011
Canadian Astronomers showcase a new survey of the universe from the Planck Space Telescope. They showcase more data on how the formation and evolution of the Universe took place.
April 19, 2011
Canadarm 2 turns 10 years old.
June 10, 2011
Canada's Earth Observation Program continues after the launch of the 4th Argentinian Satélite de Aplicaciones Cientificas (SAC-D). This joint venture will last for 5 years and measure temperatures from volcanoes, forest fires, and the ocean.
July 8, 2011
The Space Shuttle program ends after Space Shuttle Atlantis takes its last trip into space. Some contributions that Canada helped with regarding the shuttle program was: TriDAR technology, this was a Triangulation and LIDAR Automated Rendezvous and Docking system. Canada also contributed to the Hypersole project. This was a research project to study the changes of human skin before and after spaceflights. There were a multitude of other projects as well. Canadian astronauts flew a total of 14 times during the shuttle program.
August 18, 2011
RADARSAT-2 submits new data on the surrounding Antarctic terrain. The salalitte discovers unmapped glaciers, and unique terrain features of the ice. This craft also allows for the entirety of Antarctica to be mapped for the first time.
September 8, 2011
Astronauts, Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques successfully complete their training. On September 15, Astronaut David Saint-Jacques will further his training in a NASA undersea mission.
November 13, 2011
The canadarm turns 30 years old.
November 26, 2011
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory(Curiosity) launches carrying Canadian instruments on board. One being the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS). This tool will help analyze the chemistry of rocks and soil on Mars.
February 2, 2012
AuroraMAX connects to the ISS.This now allows the astronauts on the ISS to take pictures of the Northern Lights in Earth’s Atmosphere. This project is run by the University of Calgary, the City of Yellowknife, Astronomy North and the Canadian Space Agency.
March 7, 2012
Canada helps out with robotic refueling in space. On this date, Dextre is used to help test to see how satellites could be refueled in outer space.
July 30, 2012
Canada delivers its contribution to the James Webb Space telescope. This is the Fine Guidance Sensor.
Canadian science mission BCAT-C1 starts on the ISS. This project studies how nano-scale particles disperse in a type of liquid with no gravity.
December 19, 2012
Astronaut Chris Hadfield embarks on his 3rd mission to space. He also became the first Canadian commander of the ISS. He stays in space for 6 months.
January 9, 2013
Canada launches its final stage of the RADARSAT Constellation Project.
January 25, 2013
Dextre successfully refuels a satellite in space?
February 14, 2013
The original Canadarm touches down on the last flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor. Its final resting place is the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. Over a period of its lifetime, it operated for 90 shuttle missions, and spent a total of 944 days in space.
February 25, 2013
The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) successfully launches. It became the world’s first experimental microsatellite for tracking space objects.
March 13, 2013
Chris Hadfield officially takes over as the First Canadian Commander of the International Space Station. He will oversee over 100 scientific experiments in space.
May 9, 2013
This marks 17 years of the RADARSAT-1 program.
May 13, 2013
Chris Hadfield returns to Earth aboard the Russian Soyuz Capsule.
September 12, 2013
The CSA and The French Space Agency complete their first joint mission together. This is a stratospheric research balloon flight from Timmins, Ontario.
September 29, 2013
The CASSIOPE craft leads to discoveries in space weather.
October 22, 2013
The SCISAT Satellite celebrates 10 years of scientific discoveries.
November 22, 1013
The ESA’s Swarm satellite launches. Onboard is the Canadian Electric Field Instrument (EFI).
Dextre, completes the first robotic self repair in space.
July 17, 2014
Canada agrees to build the high-powered laser for the OSIRIS-REx NASA mission. This is the first U.S mission to retrieve debris from an asteroid.
Canada participates in the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. This will be the first ever global survey of surface water.
The CSA’s Jeremy Hansen participates in NASA’s Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO 19) mission.
The CSA participates in the 65th International Astronautical Congress.
SMAP launches. This is a joint mission between Canada and the U.S for studying agricultural productivity, flood risks, and help with weather predictions.
April 14, 2015
Tomatosphere, Osteo-4 and JCAP launch to the ISS. The Tomatosphere project is run by the University of Guelph to see how tomatoes grow in space. Canada is also involved in the Osteo-4 project. This mission is designed so we can better study osteoporosis and other diseases on Earth.
December 11, 2015
The UVIT telescope takes its first photos in space. The CSA helped design the “eyes” for the telescope so objects can be seen in ultraviolet light.
June 21, 2016
The Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat) launches. This satellite will improve Canada’s ability to monitor marine traffic.
September 8. 2016
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft heads towards it’s chosen asteroid. Canada’s OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) will create the most detailed 3D map of any object in outer space.
Two new astronauts are announced for the Canadian space program. These people are: enni Sidey-Gibbons and Joshua Kutryk.
December 3, 2018
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques heads into space. He will become the fourth CSA astronaut to go on a spacewalk.
February 28, 2019
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Canada’s participation with NASA’s Lunar Gateway program. As well as updates on the Canadarm 3.
June 12, 2019
Canada's RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) launches. This craft will produce more than 50 times the amount of images than the original RADARSAT-1 craft.
December 16, 2020
The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry of Canada announces that Canada will be a part of the Artemis II mission. This will be the first crewed mission to the moon since 1972. One of the astronauts will be a Canadian.
October 13, 2020
The Artemis Accords are signed. These outline a set of agreements between Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America regarding space exploration.
May 26, 2021
Canada announces that they are investing $3 million in Lunar technology. As well as plans to land a Canadian rover on the moon.
Space Simulations and Technology
So as you can see ,Canada has been an active developer of space technology. The majority of our space agency has been for mission assistance, climate monitoring, atmospheric research, and robotics. So let’s dive into some mission details.
The most famous Canadian robot is the Canadarm. It supported space shuttle missions for 30 years. (1981-2011) It is a mechanical “arm” like device that is designed to grab objects in zero gravity. The challenge of building a robot like this, is to build something with the flexibility of a human arm that could lift things out of the shuttle’s cargo bay.
There were certain standards the CSA had to meet when it came to the robots weight, dexterity, precision, and safety. The arm is also made up of insulation and heaters to keep the mechanics warm.
Testing the Canadarm was a difficult process, as a special room had to be built for zero gravity environments. Canada also built a computer simulation facility to let the astronauts simulate how the Canadarm operates. As well as various scenarios that could happen when operating the device.
Because of the creation of this program, Canada would have never been trusted, or able to send astronauts to space. The first Canadarm in space was on space shuttle Columbia in 1981. Canadarm 2 was installed on the ISS in 2001. The one on the ISS will stay there indefinitely. The arm was first designed with the idea that it would only be controlled by astronauts. However, now the arm is mostly remotely operated from flight controllers in Houston and Saint-Hubert, Quebec.
Creating autonomous robotic operations for space is a huge sector of space technology. The more control we can have over a spacecraft, the safer it will be for the crew inside. Autonomous operations for the Canadarm will be a huge part of its future development.
Canadarm 3 is in development. It will be a permanent fixture in the Lunar Gateway craft. The arm will be able to move over the entire structure, have an improved sense of touch, better collision avoidance, a 3D vision sensor tool, and 4K cameras.
Canada will also be heavily involved in the Lunar gateway program. Developing a spacecraft that can be remotely controlled from Earth will be a challenge. So many different countries are involved.
Canada has created the The Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) to encourage companies and Canadians to participate in the space sector. This program will hopefully help Canada develop improved technologies when it comes to artificial intelligence, robotics, science and health.
Now let’s talk about the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. This is a NASA based mission, but Canada helped process a fair amount of the data. For example, Canadian Tim Haltigin, Senior Mission Scientist for the craft was responsible for operating the laser instrument(built by Canada). This was used to measure the best places to grab asteroid debris. OSIRIS-REx was able to grab more than 1kg of debris from the asteroid, and the samples will be returned to Earth in 2023.
Earth observation is one of the main focuses of the CSA. It aims to create a better use of satellite data when it comes to using and maintaining Earth’s resources and environment. Some programs to come out of this have been the Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP), the Government Related Initiatives Program (GRIP), and the Science and Operational Applications Research (SOAR) Program.
The CSA processes space data in a variety of ways. Some of these methods are: Studying the Earth's atmosphere using satellites,and using satellite data to study space weather.The Geospace Observatory (GO), Space exploration, and scientific visualizations..
There are countless simulations that are involved when flying an astronaut or spacecraft into the universe. Let’s break some down.
To start off the bat, astronauts need to constantly train in simulations in order to complete their jobs. One of the required training simulators for both Canadian and American astronauts is for operating the Soyuz flight capsule. Now that the space shuttles have been retired, commercial space travel and flights on Soyuz are some of the only ways astronauts can get to space.
Some of the simulations they train for in Soyuz are: rendezvous and docking with the ISS, Earth re-entry, manual flying, emergency measures, and chemical leaks.
By training in these simulations it overall builds an astronaut’s knowledge of how to survive in space, operational skills, coordination, and communication.
Soyuz training also comes with wilderness survival training. This is because the Soyuz itself is designed to crash into the ground. Unlike American spacecrafts, which traditionally touch down in water. These crafts can touch down anywhere in remote areas of Russia, so in case of emergency, it’s a good idea to know how to survive in the wild.
Some basic wilderness skills they learn are: how to set up a camp and shelter, how to find food, how to light a fire, and search and rescue.
The Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising Human Behavior and Performance Skills (CAVES) expedition is one of the other training missions astronauts participate in. This expedition is designed to simulate space missions, and it is held in a 4km deep cave system. This is designed to introduce the research teams to hostile living conditions and how to work successfully in them.
Caves can expose future astronauts to the problems they will face in their careers going forward. Such as working in confined spaces, private lives, reduced hygiene and comfortable conditions, and much more.
The three Canadian astronauts who have participated on these CAVES expeditions usually spent the majority of their time creating 3D maps of the cave systems, photographic surveys, measuring airflow, surrounding temperatures, and taking scientific samples.
Learning how to work with simulations and 3D technology are some main skills astronauts need.
The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) expedition is another extreme environment training mission. It takes place at the Aquarius laboratory, which is anchored 19 meters underwater, off the coast of Florida. Astronauts who participate in this program usually stay on this base for about 10 days.
The closest environment we have to space on Earth is the bottom of the ocean. So it only makes sense to simulate missions down there. The sea floor also allows for NASA and other space agencies to simulate spacewalks, sample collections, telecommunication delays, and forced isolation.
Study wise, when it comes to maintaining the health and safety of astronauts, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is collaborating with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) on studies of inactivity on the Human body.
There have been some observations that living a sedentary lifestyle here on Earth has similar impacts on your muscle development as if you were to go into outer space.
The study they have done involves participants from ages 55-65, and keeping them in a bedridden state for 2 weeks. The control group is the only one that is allowed to participate with low impact exercise while in bed, while the others will only have access to basic physiotherapy for their muscles.The hypothesis is that basic exercises will promote muscle mass to last longer, and deteriorate slower. The data collection from this study started in 2021 from Mcgill University.
This study is not only useful for preparing astronauts for long space missions, but also tackling age related issues here on Earth, and health issues that arise from non-active lifestyles.
The Canadian arctic is a hotbed for space training. As of right now, it is one of the best places for astronauts to train for the Lunar Gateway mission.The harsh environment, cold temperatures, and rocks are perfect for training people for geological missions. When it comes to sending scientists to Mars in the future, the arctic will also be used. Finding and identifying freshwater deposits, or the remains of them will be a key part of Mars missions. So training in an ice related environment can help with that.
Northern Quebec is also a hotbed for space training and research. In previous studies, researchers have been sent up to West Clearwater Lake in Quebec to study the rock formations from the meteorite that created it. Devon Island in Nunavut, has been where the CSA and NASA have tested their planetary rovers.
CM labs has also been recently setting up virtual testing of robotic vehicles and mission simulations for the Exploration Surface Mobility (ESM) Simulation. This is a program that oversees mission prototypes for future space missions for the CSA. So far the three different rovers they are testing under this framework are: The Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR), The SL-Commander Rover (SLC) and The Next Generation Communications System (NGCS).
Over the years the CSA has been able to create its own in house simulation software called SYMOFROS. This software is for creating virtual environments for modeling, simulations, and real time control over dynamics.
Creating vehicles and robots for space requires creating something that has overall multibody dynamics. These are hard to create on paper, so creating a 3D representation of them beforehand helps tremendously. SYMOFROS was first created in 1994, and is based around two other scientific simulators. The Maple symbolic modeling engine and the Matlab-Simulink environment. SYMOFROS is used beyond the CSA, and at other companies and labs as well.
Where Does 3D/Houdini/VFX Fit In?
Well…Time to talk about why this all matters. Development of the space sector has helped improve other industries on Earth. Many things like Shoe insoles, Invisible braces,Cordless tools, water filters,Satellite navigation, the internet, and Memory foam, would not have existed without the space race.
For this section I will be talking about impacts that both the CSA and NASA have contributed to for technology development.
The different jobs that have been directly or indirectly created from humans trying to strap themselves to a rocket, also have a huge effect on how technology is developed. I would argue the space sector has hugely helped develop the 3D and simulation industry.
- The quickest indirect example is of Sidefx Houdini and Touchdesigner. One of the two founders, Greg Hermanovic started out with a background in the space sector. Before stepping foot in Omnibus, Greg worked as an engineer for airplane and rocket systems in Montreal. Then moved on to creating simulations for the first Canadarms.
- He would also work on research for man/machine interaction. Then he would march proudly onward to Spar Aerospace. After that, Omnibus and Sidefx.
- I don’t think it’s a reach to say that a background in space technology very much assisted Greg’s amazing software skills. I would argue you can still see it today in Touchdesigner, and Sidefx software development.
A direct example would be, Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics. SPH wouldn’t have existed without astrophysics. It was first developed in 1977 for solving astrophysical problems. To this day this simulation technique has been used in astrophysics, ballistics, volcanology, and oceanography.
SPH in turn fed directly into the development of FLIP systems. FLIP is faster and more efficient than SPH. It also has more options for adjusting particle behavior. However, it is less accurate. You commonly see its use in film and entertainment.
- Aerospace is also responsible for developing Fortran. This is one of the oldest and most commonly used programming languages that is used for numeric computation and scientific computing. It was first created by IBM in the 1950s. Now Fortran is used in numerical weather prediction, finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, geophysics, computational physics, crystallography and computational chemistry.
Some other software NASA has helped evolve is scheduling software. Space missions can be difficult to manage, so NASA created an AI planning system for solving complex problems called Aurora. This eliminated human error in mission planning. This software is now available in the commercial world.
NASA’s Metrics Data Program is also responsible for helping create universal approaches in eliminating errors in software code. Their repository from this program stores problems that occur when code is run, product, and metrics data. They share this data whenever possible.
Progress for 2D to 3D applications has also been accelerated through the space industry. Companies across America now use a technique first developed at NASA for geometric flattening in their modeling software. NASA’s calculations were so accurate, that it allowed for fabric tension to be simulated in multiple ways and applications.
Development of creating the modern transistor is directly credited to the aircraft sector. Transistorized computers began to appear in missile-guidance systems around 1960. They were preferred, as they improve overall circuitry, and reduce electronic failure. This application would lead to the invention of silicon transistor chips. The same of which would be used in spacecrafts.
In the solid state 3D world, 3D printing is also being affected by aerospace. 3D printers are amazing when it comes to printing out D&D figures, sci-fi models, and other artistic representations. However, they are flexible with file types, and various softwares.
Which leads into its use in space technology. Space is helping develop 3D printing. The aerospace industries of today, fully rely on 3D printing to reduce costs, and to avoid constraints on the supply chain. 3D printing also minimizes weight on aircrafts. This in turn creates cheaper vehicles, less waste, and more accurate flight patterns.
NASA and the U.S Airforce are directly responsible for the creation of Computer Aided Design (CAD). This is when computers are responsible for creating and improving a design. NASA research in creating a generalized stress analysis program called “NASTRAN” helped kick start the importance of including computer accuracy of design. “NASTRAN” is a shortening of “NASA Structural Analysis”. The software is based on the FORTRAN programming language. The development of CAD at NASA helped feed into the AutoCAD programs that we have a love-hate relationship with to this day.
Virtual Reality is also being developed for the space industry. The high immersion features of it make it perfect for training purposes. As well as teaching and environmental observations. The more simulations that are run of a mission, and the more outcomes that can be rehearsed, the better the outcome will be. This in turn provides funding to the technology, and helps to develop more realistic virtual systems.
NASA has also helped the development of motion tracking technology. The first ever wearable tracker for VR applications was created through software and hardware designed for space.
VR is also perfect if astronauts or scientists are not able to travel to remote areas to train. Over the past couple of years, NASA has started using Unreal engine to train their space crews for the ISS. There is a great article on it here: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/developer-interviews/how-nasa-trains-astronauts-with-unreal-engine
Lately the CSA has started to lean towards it too. I wasn’t able to find many press releases on the projects they are doing with unreal. But I was able to do some lurking on linkedin. For a profile listing their Multimedia Specialist, it confirms that they are developing technology involving the use of virtual reality experiences, simulations, videos, graphics and animations with Unreal.
(Side note: Looks like they hire game developers for all you curious cats. ;)