Probing the Space Environment with Canadian Space Technology

Fri, 18 Mar 2016
David J. Knudsen
University of Calgary
Probing the Space Environment with Canadian Space Technology
Mar 18, 2016


Canada was the third nation to build an earth-orbiting satellite, and the first to build a satellite dedicated to ionospheric research.   Since the launch of that satellite -  Alouette1 - in 1962, Canada has launched dozens of scientific instruments into space, most recently on the Canadian ePOP satellite, and on the European Space Agency’s three Swarm satellites, all launched in late 2013.  A principal scientific goal of ePOP is to study the daily loss to space of tens of tons of ionospheric material, including oxygen and other elements that should be gravitationally  bound to earth.  The Swarm satellites are probing the magnetic field and plasma environment surrounding the earth. This talk will summarize scientific findings resulting from Canada’s  involvement in these two missions during their first two years in orbit.  Highlights include energy-dispersed electron beams found within rapidly-moving auroral structures; narrow, supersonic plasma flow channels in the ionosphere, even during very quiet periods of geomagnetic activity;  an intense fountain of oxygen ions reaching speeds  of several km/s, again even during quiet periods; and observations of the birth and death of unstable patches of plasma in the polar cap, which can have a strong effect on radio propagation.  



Short bio: 
Dr. David Knudsen is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary.  He holds a B.S.E.E. degree from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. in Space Plasma Physics from Cornell University.  He has held positions at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics,  France’s Centre d’Etudes des Environnements Terrestre et Planetaires, Canada’s Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics-archive, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.   He serves as  lead scientist for the Canadian Electric Field Instruments on the European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites, Principal Investigator of the ePOP Suprathermal  Electron Imager experiment, and has been PI of six sub-orbital sounding rocket experiments.  He currently heads a team of four graduate students and four post-doctoral researchers and scientists at the University of Calgary.