Press Release

COM DEV Delivers Key Instrument for Europe’s Deep Space Observatory

By SpaceRef Editor
October 13, 2006
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Canada’s largest manufacturer of space hardware subsystems is today unveiling a key component of an international satellite that will, among other things, search for water in the deepest reaches of space.

COM DEV International Ltd. is delivering a Local Oscillator Source Unit (LSU) to the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON), for integration into the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory. The Canadian Space Agency financed the $10-million cost of designing and building the LSU. In exchange for Canada’s contributions to the Herschel Mission, a team of Canadian scientists, led by Professor Michel Fich of the University of Waterloo’s department of physics, will have access to the observatory’s research capabilities. All revenue from the project has been recognized by COM DEV over the past several years.

Herschel, dubbed the Hubble of longwaves and scheduled to launch by 2008, will inaugurate a new generation of space telescopes. The huge observatory will be deployed 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth, in a very cold and dark environment. Its 3.5-metre mirror will collect light from distant and poorly known objects, such as newborn galaxies thousands of millions of light-years away. Herschel will be equipped with three very sensitive instruments kept at temperatures close to absolute zero.

The COM DEV-built LSU is a very efficient low-noise stable frequency standard, emitting a reference frequency, somewhat like a tuning fork does for musicians. This unit will be at the “heart” of the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI), one of Herschel’s three instruments.

“The LSU project is a very important civil space mandate for the Company,” said John Keating, CEO of COM DEV. “It has very demanding technical requirements for frequency synthesis that may offer some leverage into the commercial space market. We are also pleased to participate in a program which contributes to the expansion of human knowledge, a key element of our mission.”

The University of Waterloo’s Professor Fich leads a team of some 30 astronomers from institutions across Canada who will use HIFI to search for water in the Universe. They will look for the H(2)O chemical signature in extremely young solar systems, in dense interstellar clouds where stars are just beginning to form, and in other galaxies. HIFI will also be used to study many other simple molecules in the first detailed astrochemistry mission in space.

“Herschel will be a major space observatory, much like the Hubble Space Telescope. However it will work at the longer wavelengths of light, where the processes creating planets, stars and galaxies become visible,” explains Fich. “Canadian astronomers will use HIFI, the high resolution instrument on Herschel, to make the first detailed studies of water, the basic molecule of life, in all of these parts of the Universe.”

The Canadian Space Agency also supports the acquisition of ground equipment and the design of data analysis software for the calibration of SPIRE – another instrument onboard Herschel. Canada’s contribution to Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) is led by Professsor David Naylor of the University of Lethbridge.

“Canada is proud to contribute to the ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory by helping to design and operate two of the telescope’s three scientific instruments, HIFI and SPIRE,” said Dr. Virendra Jha, Vice-President, Science, Technology and Programs at the Canadian Space Agency. “Herschel will embark on one of the most exciting space astronomy missions of the next decade by trying to solve the mystery of how stars and galaxies are born. Canada’s astronomy community will benefit significantly from our involvement in this major international space science mission.”


COM DEV International Ltd. ( based in Cambridge, Ontario, is the largest Canadian-based designer and manufacturer of space hardware subsystems.

COM DEV, with facilities in Canada and the United Kingdom, manufactures advanced products and subsystems that are sold to major satellite prime contractors for use in communications, space science, remote sensing and military satellites.

COM DEV and COM DEV Space are registered trademarks of COM DEV International Ltd. This news release may contain certain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from results indicated in any forward-looking statements. The company cautions that, among other things, in view of the rapid changes in communications markets and technologies, and other risks including the cost and market acceptance of the company’s new products, the level of individual customer procurements and competitive product offerings and pricing, and general economic circumstances, the company’s business prospects may be materially different from forward-looking statements made by the company.

For further information

Gary Calhoun, Chief Financial Officer, COM DEV International, Tel: (519) 622-2300 ext. 2826,

Jeff Codispodi, The Equicom Group, Tel: (416) 815-0700 ext. 261, Michael Strickland, Media Relations, University of Waterloo, Tel: (519) 888-4777,

SpaceRef staff editor.