15 December 2010 – The Microsatellite Science and Technology Center (MSTC) is a new facility spearheaded by the Space Flight Laboratory and funded jointly by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Its mandate is to promote microspace mission concept design and technology development across Canada by leveraging the unique expertise and complete mission capabilities at SFL. The $10M project includes the construction of a new building on the campus of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, along with the installation of key facilities for analysis, simulation and design, together with a full complement of equipment for assembly, integration and test of instruments and complete spacecraft. “The investments made by Canada and the Province of Ontario in the MSTC are testimony to the uniqueness and innovation present in the microspace missions developed by SFL, and demonstrate a firm belief in the opportunities that will be available to researchers across the country through collaboration at the MSTC,” remarks Dr. Robert E. Zee, SFL Director. “The MSTC has engaged top researchers from across Canada, many of whom have their own CFI facilities, to come together and conceive new missions and develop new technologies using low-cost microspace approaches.”
Indeed, the MSTC membership includes universities and companies from across Canada. In addition to the University of Toronto, the Universities of Calgary, Winnipeg, Waterloo, Lethbridge, York, and New Brunswick are all principal users of the center. This collection of expertise, in addition to Canadian industrial players like COM DEV, Canadian government agencies and foreign space faring entities, creates a “critical mass” of talent and capabilities whose output will be more microspace mission ideas and innovative low-cost technologies for the future. The mandate of the MSTC is to promote new microspace technologies from Technology Readiness Levels (TRL’s) 1 (concept) through 4 (lab prototype), complementing SFL’s current expertise in TRL 5 (qualified prototype) through TRL 9 (operational space implementation). The MSTC will also conceive and champion missions through Phase 0 and Phase A (concept) studies, while SFL will continue to implement missions in Phases B (design) through E (space operations). The intent is to merge the scientific expertise of the principal users with the microspace development approaches of SFL and thereby broaden and promulgate the practice of microspace throughout Canada. The ultimate goal is to enable more space missions with significant data return on a surprisingly low budget. Such cost reductions and smart, targeted engineering is intended to create superior value for Canadians given Canada’s constrained funding in the space sector.
The MSTC is planning its grand opening in late 2011. At present, Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. has finalized the building design and a contractor will soon be selected for the main construction project. The equipment list for the MSTC has been finalized and procurement will begin later this year. Major sponsors of the MSTC at this time include Analytical Graphics Inc., Agilent Technologies Canada Inc., Testforce Systems Inc. and Spirent Communications PLC.