Update on CASTOR

By / par Patrick Côté, John Hutchings (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2020)

Since the message in the last Cassiopeia, we have the following progress to report.

  1. The CSA technical study request for proposals (STDP RFP) has had several months of delay due to COVID and consequent backlogs. However, the RFP has now been issued, with a due date of December 8. Given time for review and award of the contract, this work may not begin until March 2021. The technical work to be performed is significant and important, and the community looks forward to working with the contractors.
  2. The long-awaited Phase 0 study (which was first recommended in the 2015 MTR) has also not moved forward, but we are hopeful it will overlap with the STDP work. It is expected that this study will incorporate science teams from Canada and proposed partners. In view of the significant design and technical work already devoted to CASTOR, the Phase 0 may run quicker than usual.
  3. An optimistic launch date is late 2027, depending on agreements on international partnerships and a commitment by the Government. To that end, two informational pamphlets for CASTOR have been produced and are available for lobbying efforts by the Coalition for astronomy and promotion activities by members of the CASTOR science team. The Space Advisory Board has also been approached and informed. We are hopeful that the work may be seen as part of a post-COVID stimulus initiative that high-tech industry may need, in addition to the mission’s exciting scientific capabilities.
  4. CSA has sent a formal letter to ISRO to instigate discussions on a significant partnership in the mission. This has prompted the Canadian and Indian teams to outline mission components and options for sharing among the partners. The CSA-ISRO discussions are expected to begin within the next few weeks. It is our aim to ensure Canadian leadership in the mission but to have significant savings over the full cost to Canada.
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