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Clues To The Universe From Canada's First Microsatellite

Since the target stars are bright and provide high photon fluxes across wide bandpasses, a large telescope aperture isn't needed to ensure good signal-to-noise. The handicap has been noise due to atmospheric scintillation (what makes stars "twinkle"'), so a small telescope in orbit can overcome this. Also, unlike instruments whose primary purpose is imaging, a photometer does not require a highly-focused image.
by Janet Wong
Toronto April 25, 2001
Clues to some of the universe's enduring mysteries could soon be captured, thanks to a space telescope and microsatellite set to go into space next year -- a Canadian first that is now being built by a team of U of T aerospace researchers.

In collaboration with the University of British Columbia and Dynacon Enterprises Limited (a Canadian industry leader in the space technology field), Robert Zee and his team at the Space Flight Laboratory at the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) are designing, building and testing critical subsystems for the Microvariability and Oscillations of STars (MOST) satellite. MOST is the Canadian Space Agency's first microsatellite mission.

"Our team is responsible for building several key spacecraft subsystems including the structure, thermal, computer and communications subsystems. The telescope, or payload, is being built by UBC," says Zee, manager of the Space Flight Laboratory.

"The remarkable thing about this is that we're doing it for about $6 million Canadian, far less than the $50 million to $200 million currently spent on U.S. small spacecraft projects."

This microsatellite weighs about 50 kilograms and is the size of a small suitcase. Its primary mission is to collect and gather information about other stars in the galaxy similar to our own sun, something that has not been done from space before.

This information will allow scientists to deduce things like the size of the star, its age and core composition. By looking at the oldest stars in the galaxy astronomers can then place a lower limit on the age of the universe. The microsatellite will also allow astronomers to detect orbiting planets and determine their atmospheric compositions.

Zee adds the microsatellite can do what the Hubble space telescope can't -- stare at a star continuously for up to seven weeks to gather information. Hubble can only stare at a star for up to six days because of its orbit.

Janet Wong is a news services officer with the Department of Public Affairs.

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China Studying Novel Steam Engine For Micro Probes
Tsinghua - March 21 2001
Gentle puffs of steam could one day propel tiny spacecraft round the cosmos, say space scientists in Beijing. Steam power would provide a green alternative to toxic fuels in miniature rocket motors.

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