|Operator||Canadian Space Agency|
|Mission duration||Primary mission: 2 years
Elapsed: 2 months and 9 days
|Launch mass||500 kg (1,100 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||September 29, 2013, 16:00UTC|
|Rocket||Falcon 9 v1.1|
|Launch site||Vandenberg SLC-4E|
|Semi-major axis||7,270.93 km (4,517.95 mi)|
|Perigee||325 km (202 mi)|
|Apogee||1,475 km (917 mi)|
|Argument of perigee||350.47 degrees|
|Mean anomaly||8.21 degrees|
|Epoch||November 29, 2013, 02:02:31 UTC|
The satellite was deployed in an elliptical polar orbit and carries a commercial communications system called Cascade as well as a scientific experiment package called e-POP (enhanced Polar Outflow Probe). This combination gives rise to the acronym CASSIOPE, from "CAscade, SmallSat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer".
The satellite that became CASSIOPE began with a 1996 concept for a small (70 kg/150 lb), inexpensive microsatellite called Polar Outflow Probe, or POP. The Canadian Space Agency funded a 1997 feasibility study that led to a modified mission concept that was designed during 2000-2005. The revised concept was to combine an enhanced version of POP, called e-POP, with an MDA Corporation commercial satellite called Cascade, into a single satellite, and to design and build a generic, low-cost small satellite bus that would be useful for other Canadian satellite missions in the future.
The eight e-POP scientific instruments were built, calibrated, and tested in 2005-2007, with integration onto the satellite bus for spacecraft-level testing in 2008-2009. MDA is the prime contractor for the CASSIOPE mission, including launch and operation of the spacecraft. The orbital science mission is scheduled for a 21-month duration.
CASSIOPE is a 500 kg (1,100 lb) smallsat with a suite of eight scientific instruments collectively called e-POP. The instruments are: GAP, NMS, RRI, CER, FAI, IRM, MGF, and SEI. The University of Calgary's Institute for Space Research leads the science project, while MDA is the prime contractor for the mission including launch and operation of the spacecraft.
e-POP will gather data on Solar storms in the upper atmosphere. These storms give rise to the polar aurora or northern lights seen in the skies in northern latitudes. While these atmospheric glows may offer a thrilling night time spectacle, the inducing radiation can interfere with radio communications, GPS navigation, and other space-based systems. The eight scientific instruments aboard CASSIOPE will help scientists understand solar weather and eventually plan for measures to mitigate its deleterious effects.
The commercial payload, named Cascade, is a technology demonstrator courier in the sky, aimed a providing a proof of concept for a digital broadband courier service for commercial use. Built by MDA, the operational concept is to receive very large data files as the satellite orbits the globe, store them onboard temporarily, then deliver them at a later time to nearly any destination worldwide.
The demonstrator will provide a secure digital store-and-forward file delivery service, exploiting the fact that CASSIOPE passes over much of the globe 15 times per day. It has been described[by whom?] as a courier service, with the customers using a small parabolic antenna of one or two meters (three or six feet) to upload or download files at a rate of 1.2 gigabits per second. The storage capacity will be between 50 and 500 gigabytes and the data delivery time will be about 90 minutes, depending on the pickup and deposit points on the globe.
At the time the launch was contracted in 2005, a SpaceX Falcon 1 was the planned launch vehicle. The launch was originally scheduled for 2008 from Kwajalein Atoll. The launch date slipped several times, and after SpaceX discontinued the Falcon 1, the launch was shifted to the much larger Falcon 9 in June 2010. MDA contracted with SpaceX to put the CASSIOPE payload on the first flight of an essentially new launch vehicle —a non-operational demonstration launch— and with a payload mass that is very small relative to the rocket's capability, at a discounted rate because it is a technology demonstration mission for SpaceX, approximately 20% of the normal published price for SpaceX Falcon 9 LEO missions.
The Falcon 9 v1.1 is a 60 percent heavier rocket with 60% more thrust than the v1.0 version of the Falcon 9, the only version to have flown previously.
SpaceX performed a hot-fire test of the launch vehicle on the launch pad on September 12, 2013. Due to some anomalous data collected during the two-second firing of the first stage booster engines, SpaceX made plans do a second hot-fire test on September 14, but then rescheduled that pad test for September 18. A successful hot-fire test, with a two-second hold down with all nine Merlin 1D engines firing, occurred on September 19, 2013. The rescheduled launch date was announced on September 20 to be no earlier than September 29, 2013.
While a number of the new capabilities were successfully tested on the September 29, 2013, CASSIOPE flight, there was an issue with the second stage. SpaceX was unsuccessful in reigniting the second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine once the rocket had deployed its primary payload (CASSIOPE) and all of its nanosat secondary payloads.
After the second stage separated from the booster stage, SpaceX conducted a novel flight test where the booster conducted a test to attempt to reenter the lower atmosphere in a controlled manner and decelerate to a simulated over-water landing. The test was successful, but the booster stage was not recovered.
Post-mission launch vehicle testing
In an arrangement unusual for launch vehicles, the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket conducted a propulsive-return over-water test after the second stage with the CASSIOPE payload separated from the booster.
After the three-minute boost phase of September 29, 2013 launch, the booster stage attitude was reversed, and three of the nine engines refired at high altitude, as planned, to initiate the deceleration and controlled descent trajectory to the surface of the ocean. The first phase of the test "worked well and the first stage re-entered safely." However, the stage began to roll due to aerodynamic forces during the descent through the atmosphere, and the roll rate exceeded the capabilities of the booster attitude control system (ACS) to null it out. The fuel in the tanks "centrifuged" to the outside of the tank and the single engine involved in the low-altitude deceleration maneuver shut down. "SpaceX has fished out debris [of] the first stage from the ocean."
Musk indicated that the next attempt to recover a Falcon 9 first stage will be on the fourth flight of the upgraded F9 v1.1 rocket, the third commercial Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station, scheduled in early 2014.
- CUSat, Cornell University
- Drag and Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer (DANDE), University of Colorado Boulder
- three Polar Orbiting Passive Atmospheric Calibration Spheres (POPACS), each a 10 cm white aluminum sphere, joint project of Morehead State University, University of Arkansas, Montana State University, Drexel University, and Planetary Systems Corporation.
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- Neutral mass and velocity spectrometer (NMS) on e-POP/CASSIOPE spacecraft
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