CSA Issues Letter of Interest for 7 Priority Technologies

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has issued a Letter of Interest (LOI) for seven priority technologies the agency wants industry to develop under its Space Technology Development Program.

The technologies include: improved wide-field astronomical imaging; exoplanet search; advanced planetary exploration instruments; improvements in synthetic aperture radar imaging; and the use block chain with Earth observation data.

Below is a table summarizing the seven technologies.

IDTitleTechnology Readiness Level (TRL)Estimated
1 Wide-Field Astronomical Imaging in UV/Optical – Critical Technologies2 –> 3-422 months$1.5 million
2 Enabling Technologies for the Search of New Worlds3 –> 4-622 months$1 million
3 Mass and Volume Reduction for Planetary Exploration Instrument3-4 –> 5-622 months$1 million
4 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) High Speed On-Board Processing4 –> 612-18 months$1.75 million
5 Novel Synthetic Aperture Radar Technologies for Low Cost Wide Area Monitoring2 –> 612 months$650,000
6 Cloud-computing for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Processing3 –> 518 months$600,000
7 Block Chaining in Service of Earth Observation Big Data1 –>324 months$500,000

The deadline for responses is April 17. The full LOI can be found at https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-MTB-575-15698.

Summaries of the technology areas taken from the LOI follow.

Wide-Field Astronomical Imaging in UV/Optical – Critical Technologies

Understanding the origin and evolution of the universe, galaxies, stars, planets and life itself is a fundamental objective of astronomy. Following community led scientific prioritization in astronomical research in Canada (CSEW 2016, LRP 2010, MTR 2015), the concept for a wide field of view optical / UV space telescope was proposed, mainly for the investigation of dark energy. The concept referred to as CASTOR (Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and UV Research) was proposed as a Canadian led space telescope mission. A concept study was completed in 2012 for a 1-m class wide field space telescope with a large focal plane array. A Science Maturation Study (SMS) completed in 2019 elaborated on the science objectives in cosmology and other fields of astrophysics and derived the mission and payload requirements.

Enabling Technologies for the Search of New Worlds

The CSA recently completed studies for future opportunities in space astronomy. Two studies identified opportunities for a Canadian-led small mission that would be dedicated to specific science of exoplanet transits and possibly other time-domain astronomy. CSA has also supported (through FAST grants) projects using the balloon program for testing optical or UV imaging and for adaptive optics for wavefront corrections towards enabling exoplanet imaging. Such early concepts require further development including testing of prototypes or breadboard to assess feasibility, reduce technical risks and increase their TRL.

This technology development opportunity targets priority payload or optical technologies that would enable Canada to make a significant contribution to exoplanet science, aligned with CSA and community priorities in this field. The technology areas include, but are not exclusive to, the concepts proposed as results of recent CSA supported studies or activities.

Mass and Volume Reduction for Planetary Exploration Instrument

The goal of this work is to advance technology readiness and reduce cost for a new Canadian planetary instrument technology to add to possible options for future planetary mission opportunities.

The objective of this work is specifically to advance readiness of a mature, low-cost concept targeting a near-term mission opportunity. For the purpose of any potential RFPs, “near-term” is defined as launch before 2027, and, “low-cost” means a CSA mission-lifecycle investment up to $30M. It is envisioned that future RFPs and CSA Preparatory Study opportunities will be made available for the advancement of new ideas and lower TRL planetary instrument concepts, targeting later launch dates.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) High Speed On-Board Processing

The need for on-board processing (OBP) of data for space-based missions continues to grow due to the increasing quantity of data being acquired by satellites along with operational requirements calling for rapid response to collected data. Processing data on-board a satellite can provide additional advantages which include improved payload performance, reduced consumption, and decreased data latency. The advantages of OBP are especially pertinent to Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite missions as they typically acquire radar images at high data rates and require significant processing before the information can be extracted.

Accordingly, two types of future SAR missions have been identified that could benefit from OBP, and will be the focus of this study:

i) Earth Observation Missions: OBP could be used to extract information in near-realtime (NRT) and react quickly and automatically to this information. E.g., Image data could be acquired over a flooded area using a large swath and coarse resolution, processed on-board, and analyzed to identify critical areas in NRT and subsequently task high-resolution images.

ii) Interplanetary Mission: OBP could reduce the volume of data by a factor of 10 or more and could allow the spacecraft to make autonomous decisions. E.g., A SAR or optical satellite in orbit around Mars could image the surface, process the data, analyze the results, and then transfer only pertinent data to Earth.

Novel Synthetic Aperture Radar Technologies for Low Cost Wide Area Monitoring

Several trends in SAR technologies can be identified that could potentially improve the ability to satisfy the user needs. A few of these trends are describe here but they are not aimed at restricting the options available to the Contractor and are provided to highlight the range of space and ground based technologies that can be considered under this activity.

  • The first trend is the use of much more compact SAR sensors (Iceye, Capella) that can provide satellite with more limited capability but at a much lower cost.
  • A second trend observed in SAR is the development of High Resolution Wide Swath system that promises a superior performance from more powerful satellites.
  • Finally, the last trend identified consist in increasing the emphasis towards the information versus the actual data.

Cloud-computing for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Processing

This project will deliver a series of demonstrations of an online platform to discover, access, process, manipulate, and exploit Earth Observation data (such as from Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM)). These will demonstrate a modern paradigm for connecting RCM data to its consumers, for the purpose of discovering a business model. This activity will demonstrate how users can apply their exploitation algorithms within the online platform, and therefore reduce the amount of data transfer needed. By using cloud technologies the work will demonstrate how to disseminate RCM data with low latency to geographically diverse users with unpredictable load.

Block Chaining in Service of Earth Observation Big Data

This project proposes to explore new technologies to enhance security and protect valuable Earth Observation (EO) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. Distribution of SAR data must be controlled and sensitive data must be protected from unauthorized access. Earth Observation in Canada is subject to multiple regulations such as those that flow from the Remote Systems Sensing Space Act (RSSSA) which, in particular, shape the protection afforded to raw SAR data and the remote sensing products generated from that raw data.