sfl logo
University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies
Space flight laboratory
Smaller Satellites, Bigger Return

CanX Program: Mission

January 25, 2014

LawTigerThe Canadian Advanced Nanospace eXperiment (CanX) program at the UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory provides cost-effective access to space for the research and development community at home and abroad through the use of nanosatellites. These circa 10-kilogram spacecraft employ state-of-the-art technologies and subsystems, including high-performance computers, miniaturized attitude control sensors and actuators, and high-speed communication devices.

The first CanX satellite, CanX-1, was primarily a programmatic pathfinder to forge the general approach to development, launch and operations of nanosatellites in Canada. The spacecraft’s principle mission focused on space-testing key technologies for future SFL micro and nanospacecraft. These key technologies included colour and monochrome CMOS imagers, a novel low-cost computer and active-three axis magnetic stabilization. CanX-1 was successfully built and was launched on June 30th 2003.

The next CanX satellite, CanX-2, was launched in April 2008 and is significantly more capable than CanX-1. While CanX-1 was SFL’s first foreray into nanosatellites, CanX-2 represents a nanosatellite developed with high performance objectives following SFL’s full quality assurance plan. CanX-2 has successfully met its two mission objectives. The first objective was to demonstrate key technologies required for the CanX-4 & -5 formation flight mission. These technologies include a novel SFL-designed cold gas propulsion system and miniature attitude determination and control subsystem sensors and actuators to name a few. The second objective was to perform scientific data collection of importance to the Canadian research community. The scientific mission continues to this day and includes a miniature spectrometer to detect greenhouse gases and a GPS occultation experiment to measure vertical profiles of total electron content and water vapor in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

CanX-3, also known as BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) Constellation, involves six nanosatellites funded by three countries (Austria, Poland, and Canada) that will observe the largest and brightest stars in the sky. Using a technique called differential photometry, BRITE Constellation will measure subtle variations of light from these objects in order to probe the structure and evolution of massive stellar objects. BRITE Constellation will achieve this mission using three-centimeter aperture optical telescopes carried by the six nanosatellite platforms.

In addition to supporting leading-edge scientific research, the CanX spacecraft are used for technology demonstration. The advanced components incorporated into the spacecraft are candidate technologies for future high-performance microsatellites. CanX missions are an excellent means by which to gain flight heritage for developmental systems. Some examples are described below.

CanX-4 and CanX-5 is a dual nanosatellite formation flying demonstration mission. It involves two nanosatellites flying autonomously in precise formations in low Earth orbit. Relative position determination will be accurate to a few centimeters using carrier-phase differential GPS techniques. Relative position control will be accurate to within one meter.

CanX-6, otherwise known as Nanosatellite Tracking of Ships (NTS), launched in April 2008, is a mission developed and successfully implemented for COM DEV Ltd. to demonstrate high performance Automatic Identification System (AIS) detection of ships from space. This mission was developed by SFL in six months and launched in the seventh. It represents one of the most responsive space missions conducted worldwide.

CanX-7 is a deorbiting demonstration mission. In order to address the debris mitigation guidelines of the Inter-Agency Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), SFL is developing a compact, scalable drag sail that can be used to ensure reentry of small satellites within the IADC 25-year limit in cases where a satellite cannot deorbit naturally on its own.


BRITE Reveals Spots on Supergiant Star Drive Spirals in Stellar Wind
Oct 24 2017
CLARA on NorSat-1 Successfully Switched on for the First Time
Aug 25 2017
Norwegian Satellites Launched Successfully and Healthy
Jul 14 2017
GHGSat Unveils Satellite Imagery
May 23 2017
Dubai Space Centre Orders Environmental Monitoring Satellite from SFL
May 16 2017
After Only One Week, CanX-7 Shows Drag Sails are Effective at Deorbiting Satellite
May 11 2017
CanX-7 Successfully Deploys Drag Sails kicking off Deorbiting Demonstration
May 04 2017
GHGSat Announces 1000th Measurement – Two Months Ahead of Schedule
Apr 07 2017
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) Nanosatellite Validates Aircraft Tracking, Prepares for Deorbit Demo
Mar 30 2017
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Microsatellites for Greenhouse Gas Monitoring
Mar 24 2017
CanX-7 Aircraft Tracking and Deorbiting Demo Satellite Launched, Contacted, and Healthy
Sep 26 2016
GHGSat-D (CLAIRE) Bus Commissioning Ahead of Schedule
Jun 27 2016
M3MSat Launched and Successfully Contacted
Jun 22 2016
GHGSat-D (CLAIRE) Launches Successfully and First Contact Indicates Good Health
Jun 22 2016
Deep Space Industries and SFL selected to provide satellites for HawkEye 360’s Pathfinder mission
May 26 2016
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Provide LEO Bus to SSL
May 10 2016
NORSAT-1 Launch Postponed Due to Faulty Bracket Provided by Arianespace
Apr 14 2016
BRITE-Constellation Sees Stars in a New Light
Feb 05 2016
Deep Space Industries Teams with UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory to Demonstrate Autonomous Spacecraft Maneuvering
Jan 26 2016
exactView-9 Launched Successfully and Contacted
Sep 28 2015
SFL’s Josh Newman Wins 1st Place in Small Satellite Student Competition for CanX-4 and CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission Contribution
Aug 12 2015
NORSAT-2 Contract Awarded to SFL by Norwegian Space Centre
Jul 13 2015
CanX-4&5 Formation Flying Mission Accomplished
Nov 05 2014
CanX-4 & CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission, One Month in Space
Jul 30 2014
Space Flight Laboratory Launches Five Satellites in Two Weeks
Jul 08 2014
AISSat-2 Successfully Launched
Jul 08 2014
Update on BRITE-Toronto and BRITE-Montreal
Jul 03 2014
Indian rocket successfully launches two Canadian satellites
Jun 30 2014
Two low-cost, car battery-sized Canadian space telescopes launched today
Jun 19 2014
UniBRITE and BRITE-Austria Commissioned and Operating Successfully
Feb 25 2014
Canadian Space Agency Awards Propulsion System Development Contract to SFL
Dec 02 2013
BRITE-PL1, WNISat-1, and GOMX-1 Launch Successfully
Nov 21 2013
Norwegian Space Centre Awards AISSat-3 Project to SFL
Jul 08 2013
SFL Wins Contract for First Norwegian Science Satellite – NORSAT-1
Jun 14 2013
UniBRITE Achieves Arcminute-Level Fine Pointing for First of its Kind Space Astronomy Mission
Jun 09 2013
Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Demonstration Satellite Contract Awarded
May 01 2013
Next Generation Automatic Identification System Satellites to be Developed under Communitech Program
Apr 19 2013
World's Smallest Astronomy Satellites In Orbit! (Toronto Star Article)
Feb 25 2013
Austrian BRITE Satellites Launched Successfully and Healthy! (Globe and Mail article)
Feb 25 2013
Microsatellite Science and Technology Centre (MSTC) Opens its Doors to the World
May 25 2012
Canadian Space Agency Awards Micro-mission Cluster Pilots Project to SFL
Mar 28 2012
SPACE-SI Awards NEMO-HD Contract to SFL
Dec 22 2011
Canada adds two satellites to BRITE Constellation
Jan 19 2011
AISSat-1 celebrates six months of success on-orbit, first nanosatellite with high performance pointing
Jan 12 2011
Norway signs AISSat-2 deal
Jan 06 2011
New Microsatellite Science and Technology Center (MSTC) planned for completion in late 2011
Dec 15 2010
CanX-7 Deorbiting Demonstration Mission Awarded Funding
Oct 28 2010
SFL-Built AISSat-1 Reaches Orbit and Confirmed Healthy
Jul 12 2010
CanX-2 Team wins the 2010 CASI Alouette Award
May 04 2010
UTIAS-SFL Trailblazing Small Satellite Technology (Space News)
Apr 20 2009
View All News Articles
© 2014 University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab. All rights reserved.