Update on CASTOR

By / par Patrick Côté (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2020)

The recently released 2020 Long Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy has identified CASTOR, Canada’s “first marquee space astronomy mission”, as the top priority in Canadian space astronomy for the coming decade. The LRP2020 report highlighted the “substantial interest and involvement from Canadian industry” and emphasized that CASTOR would “allow Canadian astronomers to perform spectacular new studies of a huge range of cosmic phenomena ranging from exoplanets to cosmology.”

At the same time, the LRP2020 report pointed out that “It will be vital to engage with the federal government to fund this very large mission, and to work closely with international partners like JPL/NASA and IIA/ISRO.” To this end, industry partners and members of the community are working to explore partnership scenarios and refine the business case for this flagship mission, including expected economic impacts and returns on investment.

The next stage of design work will begin in late 2020, with a request for proposals for a Space Technology Development Program (STDP) study expected soon. That 22-month study — which will focus on the opto-mechanical design, focal plane array, fine steering system, UV spectrograph and precision photometer — will be awarded to Canadian industry through a competitive process. It is hoped that science planning will ramp up during a Phase 0 study that could begin in early 2021. In the meantime, discussions are underway for a virtual meeting, to be held in late 2020 or early 2021, between members of the Canadian, Indian and other international teams to discuss opportunities for scientific, technical and programmatic collaboration.

As always, members of the community who would like to participate in the next phases of CASTOR development are encouraged to contact: patrick.cote@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.

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