MDA to Develop Innovative, Multi-Purpose Small Satellite Mission for Government of Canada

Press Release From: MDA
Posted: Saturday, February 7, 2004

image MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announced today that the company is the prime contractor to develop & operate Canada's first multi-purpose information delivery and scientific research small satellite mission.

Called CASSIOPE, this innovative mission will build a small satellite spacecraft platform that will be adaptable for a wide range of missions, including science, technology, Earth Observation, geological exploration and high capacity information delivery.

Scientists, led by the University of Calgary, will use the satellite to collect new data and details on space storms in the upper atmosphere and their potentially devastating impacts on radio communications, GPS navigation, and other space-based technologies. This innovative scientific probe, called ePOP, forms a key element of the Canadian Space Agency's science program and involves contributions from 10 Canadian universities and research organizations.

CASSIOPE will also demonstrate a potential new information delivery service called Cascade that will allow very large amounts of information to be delivered to decision-makers anywhere in the world. Future operational missions could deliver a commercial "digital package delivery service" to customers ranging from resource exploration companies to the military.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Richmond, B.C. will lead a Canadian industrial team expected to include EMS Technologies of Montreal and COM DEV Space of Cambridge, Ontario in the development of the CASSIOPE mission.

The estimated value of the program is over $100 million, with investment from the Canadian Space Agency and Technology Partnerships Canada. The Canadian Space Agency is providing $63 million and Technology Partnerships Canada $77.2 million of which $29 million is dedicated for future operational Cascade missions.

MDA President and CEO Daniel Friedmann commented: "This mission represents a key milestone for MDA, as we continue our expansion into the small satellite missions market. CASSIOPE also allows the demonstration of a new and exciting information delivery service."

Cassiope is scheduled for launch in 2007.

For more information, please consult the attached backgrounders. Related Web sites:


The CASSIOPE Mission

MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) is developing a space mission around a new generation of smaller cost-effective satellites. Cassiope is a multifunctional mission designed to serve both a scientific and a commercial purpose.

Scheduled for launch in 2007, this small satellite mission will feature the first in a new generation of multi-purpose satellite platforms that will be adaptable for use in a variety of future Canadian space missions.

MDA is the prime contractor for the space and ground infrastructure for the CASSIOPE Mission including system engineering, design, assembly, integration, testing, launch and operation of the spacecraft.

The mission is being developed with the support of the CSA and Technology Partnerships Canada and the world-class capabilities of a Canadian industrial team. MDA's involvement in CASSIOPE strengthens the company position as a small satellite mission supplier in Canada and abroad.

The technologies and processes developed through the CASSIOPE mission will assist in placing Canadian companies at the forefront of small satellite technology.


The Cassiope Mission will carry the experimental Cascade payload to demonstrate the world's first commercial space-based digital courier service. When proven, future operational missions will provide a large-scale data transfer service to remote commercial, civil and military clients anywhere in the world.

Similar to the operations of a traditional courier company, Cascade will pick-up a parcel at close of business day, and deliver it to geographically dispersed destinations before work starts the next day. The difference is that the service will utilize a small satellite and the packages will be very large digital data files. This groundbreaking "Courier-in-the-Sky" will support the transfer of digital data files 50 to 500 Gigabytes at a time, equivalent to 50 to 500 pickup trucks filled with paper.

Initially, one Low Earth Orbit satellite will orbit above the Earth at an altitude of 300 to 1,500 km once every 1.5 hours, providing multiple opportunities each day for the pick-up and delivery of data anywhere on Earth. As demand increases, capacity can be expanded by adding additional satellites.

Cascade is accessed through small turnkey terminals with built-in mass storage capacity and 1-2 metre antennas. The terminal communicates with the Cascade control centre to schedule pickup and confirm delivery. As the satellite comes overhead, the data is transmitted at 1.2 gigabits per second - 12 times faster than the operating speed of most office LANs. At that speed, the contents of a typical music CD would be transferred in a little over 4 seconds and a full length DVD movie in little more than a minute. This point- to-point delivery system ensures a high degree of security. Cassiope will operate in the higher frequency Ka-Band radio spectrum providing greater bandwidth.


Developed by a scientific team led by the University of Calgary, ePOP will be Canada's first space environment sensor suite, providing Canadian scientists with the opportunity to understand the impact the variability of the Sun has on the space environment.

ePOP will carry a suite of eight scientific instruments, including plasma sensors, radio wave receivers, magnetometers, CCD cameras, and a beacon transmitter. The ePOP payload will lead to a comprehensive understanding of plasma processes in the polar ionosphere - a region in the upper atmosphere. For more information see ePOP backgrounder.

About MDA

CASSIOPE forms part of a rapidly developing small satellite capability at MacDonald Dettwiler, combining MDA's strong engineering background and sound management practices to provide low-cost, high reliability access to space.

This emerging capability will further add to MacDonald Dettwiler's space pedigree, which has seen the company develop the Canadarm for the US Space Shuttle, the Mobile Servicing System for the International Space Station and RADARSAT-2 - Canada's next generation remote sensing satellite.

%SEDAR: 00014148E

// end //

More news releases and status reports or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

Kepler Communications - Aether - Unbound Connectivity to your on-orbit assets
Terran Orbital - Extraordinary Capabilities to Support Any Mission