Funding opportunities in science are essential to the research and development ecosystem. Numerous and competitive, the vast majority focus on scientific accomplishment. While the advancement of science remains a top priority, some funding agencies started to reshape their programs to include strict training requirements, from training plans included in proposals to regular evaluations of training progress. At the centre of this change is the recognition of the universities and colleges educational mission through research, and the need for a highly qualified workforce serving industry, science, and research. It is this need for applied research training, expressed by the Canadian aerospace community, that led to the creation of the Canadian Space Agency’s FAST (Flights and Fieldwork for the Advancement of Science and Technology) funding activity in 2011. Among the three main objectives of the 2017 opportunity, two target training the next and current generations of scientists and engineers for space-related areas in Canada by (1) developing and maintaining a critical mass of researchers, and (2) increasing the level of student employability by exposing them to practical experiences. In this paper, we report about the context behind CSA FAST’s creation, the funding opportunity model, and the impact of the funding activity. Concrete results are also shown for the HiCIBaS project, funded by CSA FAST 2015, an ambitious balloon-borne mission with an optical payload for wavefront sensing and exoplanet imaging that was led by 5 graduate students as part of their master’s program, and that culminated with a stratospheric balloon flight in August 2018.
HiCIBaS-LOWFS is a spatially modulated pyramid wavefront sensor to be used on the HiCIBaS project, a high-contrast imaging balloon borne telescope, as a fine pointing and atmospheric turbulence sensor. Since the project will be using a relatively small telescope on a limited budget, creative solutions must be developed to respond to the requirements for such systems. For example, we need a linear response to large error in order to be able to correct for pointing error in a photon-limited regime caused by the telescope small size. Most solutions aren't well suited for the optical design in HiCIBaS since the high-contrast coronagraph and the Low-Order Wavefront Sensor (LOWFS) both run as separate instruments. The design is centered around the modification of existing pyramid wavefront sensor by adding static, spatial modulation to an otherwise unmodulated system. The spatial modulation is achieved by adding an axicon (a conical optical element) at an imaged telescope pupil plane. This has for effect to add a very large non- common path aberration between the imaging plane and the wavefront sensor. This has for effect to shape the point-spread function incident on the pyramid to a ring shape, which minimize diffraction effect on the apex of imperfect pyramids. We present the first lab results involving the wavefront sensor and its performances for wavefront reconstruction and pointing accuracy. We also discuss the first on-sky results that were recorded with the 1.6-m telescope at the Observatoire du Mont-Megantic in Qubec, Canada using Universite Lavals optical AO test-bench. These results pave the way to the design and integration of the wavefront sensor in the context of the HiCIBaS project.
The HiCIBaS (High-Contrast Imaging Balloon System) project aims at launching a balloon borne telescope up to 36km to test high contrast imaging equipment and algorithms. The payload consists of a off the shelf 14-inch telescope with a custom-built Alt-Az mount. This telescope provides lights to two sensors, a pyramidal low order wave front sensor, and a coronagraphic wavefront sensor. Since the payload will reach its cruise altitude at about midnight mission, two target stars have been designated for observations, Capella as the night target, and Polaris as the early morning target. Data will be collected mainly on the magnitude of atmospheric and gondola’s turbulences, the luminosity of the background. The whole system is already built and ready to ship to Timmins for the launch in mid-August 2018.