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Space Test Program - Houston 3 - Canary (STP-H3-Canary)


Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Geoff Mcharg, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

Space Test Program - Houston 3 - Canary (STP-H3-Canary) investigates the interaction of ions with the background plasma environment around the ISS.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Geoff Mcharg, Ph.D., U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending


    United States Department of Defense Space Test Program, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    National Laboratory - Department of Defense (NL-DoD)

    ISS Expedition Duration:

    March 2011 - October 2013

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    STP-H3-Canary is modified from a version, FLAPS that flew as a sensor on Falcon-Sat 3 and is scheduled to fly on Falcon-Sat 5 as WISPERS.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • Space Test Program Houston 3 - Canary (STP-H3-Canary) is one of four individual experiments that will test concepts in LEO for long-duration space flight. This experiment investigates the interaction of ions with the background plasma environment around the ISS.


    The STP-H3-Canary sensor provides a better understanding of the origin and impact of plasma irregularities surrounding and interacting with orbiting spacecraft as well as in the Earth's ionosphere. The development of such a technology demonstrates the availability of low-cost techniques for monitoring those conditions.

    The Canary instrument allows one small miniaturized sensor suite to perform an array of plasma monitoring tasks simultaneously. By incorporating a plasma spectrometer, one can investigate spacecraft surface charging, characterize the interaction of spacecraft and the ambient environment, and detect and map significant natural events in the ambient environment. Six of Canary’s seven sensors can detect ambient plasma in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and all seven sensors can detect higher energy ions in the auroral oval (an oval band situated between magnetic latitudes), given an appropriate pitch angle.

    The Canary’s instrumentation can also probe perturbations in the ionosphere. The instrument, derived from the WISPERS instrument flying on FalconSAT-5, is an electrostatic analyzer capable of detecting ions over the range 0 to 1500 eV. An onboard processor and data storage system can record up to 1 Gb of data for later retrieval by the US Air Force Academy.

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    Space Applications

    Understanding the space environment by novel sensing technologies is used to advance future spacecraft development. Probable advances in technology offer an increase in efficiency and decrease in the cost of designing future spacecraft. By providing on-orbit data for understanding how spacecraft operations affect the natural environment, Canary’s results can be used to provide warnings of potentially hazardous operating conditions within the space environment.

    Earth Applications

    The spacecrafts that these technologies apply to include those supporting earth-bound communications. The improvements that STP-H3-Canary intends to demonstrate creates more robust and capable satellites that are used to interface with ground systems. This investigation is part of a learning program that gives US Air Force Academy cadets hands on experience with spacecraft development, testing and operations.

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    Operational Requirements

    The STP-H3 hardware complement was be installed with the SSRMS and activated via ground based commands. Instrument health, status and operational data will be downlinked via standard ISS 1553 communications protocols.

    Operational Protocols

    Using the NASA TReK interface, Canary is commanded from, and data downloaded to, the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Cadets and faculty operate the ground station as part of the final year cadet capstone project.

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    Results/More Information

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    Related Websites

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    image WISPERS flight model for Falcon-Sat 5.
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    image Detail of Canary head.
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    image STP-H3 with Canary (upper rear box) installed on EXPRESS Pallet Adaptor (ExPA).
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Payloads-Helpline.