Saskatoon company contributes to successful comet landing

Watch above: A probe successfully landed Wednesday on a speeding comet and Saskatoon’s SED Systems played an instrumental role in the galactic achievement.

SASKATOON – The European Space Agency’s (ESA) successful landing of a spacecraft on a comet was aided by a Saskatoon-based company.

ESA’s Rosetta mission successfully completed the first ever soft landing on a comet on Wednesday, which experts say could contain information that dates back to the start of the solar system.

Saskatoon-based SED Systems constructed three large ground stations that communicate with the Rosetta spacecraft which deployed the probe that landed on the comet. The five-storey tall structures are located in Argentina, Australia and Spain.

“We’re very proud to be part of this fairly momentous space science first,” said Denis Sirois, the business manager for SED Systems.

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“This ground station is the most important terrestrial link to the space craft; it’s all we have … If you can’t talk to it, you can’t do a mission,” he added.

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Read more: European Space Agency releases 1st picture from comet surface

The Rosetta spacecraft has been in orbit for roughly a decade, during which it sent and received information through SED’s stations.

On Wednesday, the Philae probe was sent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is believed to be as old as the solar system.

“We’re actually being able to touch some of that pristine material that we believe is about four and a half billion years old,” said Stan Shadick, an astronomy lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan.

Shadick said studying the comet could help in finding another planet that would support life.

“It might be interesting to improve our understanding of what was necessary to make the earth as we have it today and possibly give us more ideas on the likelihood of an earth-like planet elsewhere,” said Shadick.

Read more: Rosetta probe lands on comet, reports of technical issues

The Rosetta mission was not SED’s first foray into the world of space ventures. Sirois said the company has been around for decades and is well known in outer-space circles.

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However, he says many unfamiliar with the company will say, “really? In Saskatoon, you do these things?”

“It’s like yeah, we’ve been doing this for an awfully long time,” he said.

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