Update on CASTOR

By / par Patrick Côté, John Hutchings (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Work has continued under the space technology development program (STDP) contract with ABB and Honeywell. The detector choice for the study has been decided and sensors are now being procured from e2v. The delivered large-format sensors will be used to prototype the mosaic arrays needed for CASTOR. Separate detectors will be tested for performance after doping and coating by JPL; this will include the measurement of read-noise, dark current and QE by HAA at the University of Calgary vacuum facility that was used for the Astrosat/UVIT mission. Joint work on optical and mechanical aspects are also continuing between HAA and IIA in Bangalore. The optical design has moved forward with attention to packaging, baffling, moving parts, and overall volume. The next stage of the work underway is on the performance and testing of the Fast Steering Mirror that CASTOR will use for fine tracking. Technical meetings are being held as needed and there are biweekly meetings with the contractors and CSA.

September 9 marked the deadline for Phase 0 industrial proposals. Proposal review and evaluation will take place in the coming weeks; it is expected that a contract will be awarded soon afterwards. In parallel, a science Statement of Work will be delivered by a university-based science team, to be organized by HAA. Logistic details are still being formulated but the science development activities are expected to be carried out in parallel with the industrial Phase 0 work. Those interested in participating should get in touch with us now (core team members have already been contacted). It is expected that the Phase 0 science team will also include some members of partner teams in India, JPL, and the UK.

A university-led CFI proposal continues to be developed to fund and operate a detector lab for post-Phase 0 development of the mission.

In order to exchange technical details as the major partnership with ISRO develops, a permit is being drawn up to enable this collaboration, as required by the Export Control rules for satellites. In the meantime, meetings and correspondence between CSA and ISRO are proceeding as best they can.

The Coalition for Canadian Astronomy have submitted their pre-budget memo to the government as usual, and CASTOR is explicitly mentioned, along with the expected international partnerships. Until the general election is over, no actual meeting will occur with the government, and the path forward will depend on the detailed outcome of the election.

Overall, progress is happening on several fronts, and CASTOR remains on track to fulfil the requirements for flight approval in 2023.

For more information on the mission, see here.

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