By Janet Wong

Clues to some of the universe’s enduring mysteries could soon be captured,
thanks to a space telescope and microsatellite set to go into space next
year — a Canadian first that is now being built by a team of U of T
aerospace researchers.

In collaboration with the University of British Columbia and Dynacon
Enterprises Limited (a Canadian industry leader in the space technology
field), Robert Zee and his team at the Space Flight Laboratory at the
U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) are designing, building
and testing critical subsystems for the Microvariability and Oscillations
of STars (MOST) satellite. MOST is the Canadian Space Agency’s first
microsatellite mission.

“Our team is responsible for building several key spacecraft subsystems
including the structure, thermal, computer and communications subsystems.
The telescope, or payload, is being built by UBC,” says Zee, manager of
the Space Flight Laboratory. “The remarkable thing about this is that
we’re doing it for about $6 million Canadian, far less than the $50
million to $200 million currently spent on U.S. small spacecraft projects.”

This microsatellite weighs about 50 kilograms and is the size of a small
suitcase. Its primary mission is to collect and gather information about
other stars in the galaxy similar to our own sun, something that has not
been done from space before. This information will allow scientists to
deduce things like the size of the star, its age and core composition.
By looking at the oldest stars in the galaxy astronomers can then place
a lower limit on the age of the universe. The microsatellite will also
allow astronomers to detect orbiting planets and determine their
atmospheric compositions.

Zee adds the microsatellite can do what the Hubble space telescope can’t —
stare at a star continuously for up to seven weeks to gather information.
Hubble can only stare at a star for up to six days because of its orbit.

[Janet Wong is a news services officer with the Department of Public Affairs.]

Department of Public Affairs

University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario


Robert Zee, UTIAS

ph: (416) 667-7864; email:

U of T Public Affairs

ph: (416) 978-6974; email: