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U of C professor takes research to infinite and beyond

Researcher creating tiny space instrument to test wind speeds and temp. surrounding the earth

Jonathan Burchill in his lab at the U of C where he is conducting his work for CSA.

Kenneth Appleby / For Metro

Jonathan Burchill in his lab at the U of C where he is conducting his work for CSA.

University of Calgary researcher is taking his findings out of this world.

Jonathan Burchill, an adjunct assistant professor in the U of C’s physics department has been commissioned by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to design a prototype of a tiny space instrument that will test weather in space including wind speeds and temperatures of space surrounding earth.

Burchill said there are many benefits, including a much lower cost, to making this technology smaller.

“It’s lower mass and will cost much less to launch into orbit compared to conventional scientific satellites,” he said.

Burchill said the hope is that the technology will lead the way space missions involving groups of nano-satellites that will help advance the understanding of space environments.

““It’s very exciting stuff,” he said.  “The miniature plasma imager will be very low weight which will allow it to be used on the nano-satellites.”

The scientist said he’s familiar with this kind of work, as he has done similar work in the past on a project called Swarm for the European Space Agency—an earth observing satellite, and that part of the technology from that project is the basis of Burchill’s current work.

“It’s a bit of a return and improvement on some of the work I did in the past,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to keep the work moving forward.”

Burchilll said his contract with CSA is $382,000, and that he has hired a U of C student to assist him with his research.

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