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.
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.
We present the progress in characterization of a Nuv¨ u Cam ¨ eras CCD Controller for Counting Photons ¯ (CCCP) designed for extreme low light imaging in space environment with the 1024×1024 Teledyne-e2V EMCCD detector (the CCD201-20). The EMCCD controller was designed using space qualified parts before being extensively tested in thermal vacuum. The performance test results include the readout noise, clock-induced charges, dark current, dynamic range and EM gain. We also discuss the CCCP’s integration in the coronagraph of the High-Contrast Imaging Balloon System project: a fine-pointing and optical payload for a future Canadian stratospheric balloon mission. This first space qualified EMCCD controller, named CCCPs, will enhance sensitivity of the future low-light imaging instruments for space applications such as the detection, characterization and imaging of exoplanets, search and monitoring of asteroids and space debris, UV imaging, and satellite tracking.