31/05/2018 | Return to Latest News

A GNSS Reflectometry CubeSat for Measuring Sea Ice Thickness and Extent

C-CORE is partnering with Memorial University to design and build Newfoundland and Labrador’s first Earth observation satellite.

The four-year project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the Canadian Space Agency’s Canadian CubeSat Project, which offers Canadian post-secondary students the opportunity to create their own small satellite, the size of a loaf of bread, which can be launched from the International Space Station in 2020-2021.

Dr. Weimin Huang of Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and C-CORE’s Desmond Power are the project’s principal investigators.

Currently, about 15 engineering students, mostly undergraduates, are involved with the Killick-1 project. The proposed satellite will use Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) reflectometry to collect measurements such as sea ice thickness and wave height from space. This involves receiving direct and reflected signals from GPS satellites to measure geophysical features of the ocean such as temperature, salinity and wave height. Dr. Huang has previously successfully applied GNSS technology for detecting oil spills on the sea surface, detecting sea ice, and estimating sea-ice concentration.

Collecting sea-ice information using satellites is a project to which C‑CORE can bring unparalleled experience: the organization pioneered the use of satellite radar imagery to detect and measure iceberg features and has been developing innovations in the use of radar for sea ice mapping over the past two decades. Power, C-CORE’s Vice President of Remote Sensing, has over 25 years experience in developing both hardware and software for satellites. C-CORE has extensive expertise in all aspects of remote sensing, developing everything from advanced signal and image processing technologies to transponder designs. These technologies have had diverse applications ranging from the monitoring of ice build-up to supporting search and rescue operations.

C-CORE has also recently installed and commissioned a satellite ground station in Inuvik, which they designed and built principally to downlink data from the recently proliferating constellation of nanosats and CubeSats.

Remote sensing technologies such as this CubeSat facilitate the safe gathering of observational data that can help advance understanding of our planet and mitigate risk to people and the environment. This satellite will serve as an exciting advancement of the work C-CORE has been doing in remote sensing over the past 40 years.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a long history in remote sensing and aerospace development, and we at C‑CORE hope that the CubeSat project will draw young engineers to the province by highlighting its future in aerospace systems.