After a two-week delay, a rocket carrying a GPS instrument designed by University of New Brunswick scientists was launched into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on September 29. The rocket left Vandenberg Air Force base in California as part of the CASSIOPE (Cascade Smallsat and Ionospheric Polar Explorer) mission.
Dr. Richard Langley, GPS World Innovation editor and professor in geodesy and geomatics engineering at the University of New Brunswick, is a principal investigator behind the scientific portion of the CASSIOPE mission. Langley and his colleagues will monitor data from the GPS instrument, which is part of the Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e-POP) payload aboard the spacecraft.
E-POP will continue the sequence of Canada’s orbiting space environment sensors, which began with Canada’s first satellite, Alouette 1, launched in 1962 to study the ionosphere. e-POP is, perhaps, the most extensive suite of sensors for studying the ionosphere/magnetosphere/thermosphere yet to be launched, and will provide Canadian and other scientists with the opportunity to better understand the impact and variability the sun has on the space environment — what we call “space weather.”
A static fire retested the Falcon 9 rocket after several problems cropped up during a hotfire of the launcher’s engines during preparation for the original launch date September 15. The launch was then delayed because the U.S. Air Force Western Range, which controls a network of tracking and communications assets based at Vandenberg, was busy with Minuteman ballistic missile testing.
The small hybrid satellite blasted off on board a Falcon 9 rocket developed by SpaceX, a commercial space company. The Canadian Space Agency became one of SpaceX’s first customers when the agency decided years ago to use the private U.S. rocket to deliver the satellite at a reduced cost of $10 million. It cost the space agency $63 million to develop the satellite.