[SatNews] COM DEV International Ltd. (TSX:CDV), ("COM DEV" or "the Company") has revealed that three state-of-the-art scientific instruments provided by COM DEV to the European Space Agency ("ESA") for its Swarm mission were launched from the Plasetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.
The Swarm mission utilizes three satellites, each having an identical suite of six instruments. The trio of satellites will measure magnetic signals from the Earth's core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere. The data collected by the Swarm satellites will provide new insights into a range of phenomena about the magnetic field which surrounds the Earth and shields it from the harmful effects of solar storms, cosmic rays and charged particles that bombard the planet. Strong solar storms have caused power and communication blackouts, and damaged satellites on orbit. Without Earth's protective magnetic shield, the development of life would likely have been impossible. Evidence points to a weakening of the planet's magnetic shield and the Swarm mission will enable scientists to understand the causes.
COM DEV's role was to design, develop, integrate and test the Canadian Electrical Field Instrument (EFI), which is integrated into the instrument suites of all three satellites. The Canadian EFI will collect information about the interaction of Earth's magnetic field with the solar wind and electric currents, and their effects on Earth.
Each Canadian EFI consists of two types of sensors and an electronics assembly. The two sensor types are the Thermal Ion Imagers and Langmuir Probes. The Thermal Ion Imagers, developed by the University of Calgary, will provide a high resolution 3D picture of the ion flow around the Earth. The Langmuir Probes, developed by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, measure electron density, electron temperature and the electric potential of the satellite.
Under the Canada-ESA Cooperation Agreement, Canada is a participating state of ESA's Earth Observation Envelope Program (EOEP). This allows Canadian organizations to take part in the development and operation of EOEP missions by bidding on and obtaining related contracts, and enabling Canadian groups to access the data collected by these missions. ESA awarded the prime contract for the Canadian EFI to COM DEV in 2007. The total value of the contract was $16.6 million and the work was completed at the Company's facilities in Cambridge, Ontario. The CSA is funding work by Canadian universities to validate and perform scientific research with data from the Swarm mission and with data from Canadian ground- and space-based instruments. COM DEV's earlier work on the Cold Plasma Analyzer (CPA) instrument for Sweden's Freja satellite, and the Thermal Plasma Analyzer (TPA) instrument provided on Japan's Nozomi satellite, contributed to the success of the Canadian EFI project. Both the CPA and TPA projects were funded by the CSA.
"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. "The CEFI project is a continuation of COM DEV's world-leading heritage in space science, space weather, and space situational awareness instruments."
The Swarm mission has a design life of four years. The satellites will travel in a polar low Earth orbit, two satellites side-by-side at an eventual altitude of 300 kilometers above the Earth, with the third maintaining an altitude of 530 kilometers. Data collected will be downloaded daily to the ESA's ground station at Kiruna, Sweden and processed at the Center for Earth Observation at Frascati, Italy.
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