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P&P Optica technology hitches ride on International Space Station


When the next SpaceX spacecraft blasts off from Cape Canaveral on June 28 en route to the International Space Station (ISS), a little bit of Waterloo ON technology will be on board in the form of a spectrometer made by P&P Optica Inc., an instrumentation start-up company that develops, designs and manufactures optical spectrometers with accompanying acquisition and analysis software.

P&P Optica CEO Olga Pawluczyk says the sophisticated optical imaging equipment will be used by scientists aboard the ISS as part of a number of educational experiments. Bjarni Tryggvason, one of the pioneering Canadian Astronauts who has flown two space missions in 1992 and 1997, personally chose P&P’s technology for the mission.

“We were honoured when Bjarni asked if a P&P Optica spectrometer could be used during the mission,” Pawluczyk says. “We are still uncovering ways for spectroscopy to be used creatively here on earth in applications ranging from mineral mapping to chemical detection, so who knows what it might uncover in space as part of the experiments.”

The actual science of spectroscopy is outside the expertise of most lay people but essentially it is used to measure the properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and can for example detect whether water or other liquids that aren’t supposed to be there contaminate a sample of crude oil.

The flight on June 28 will see the SpaceX CRS7 deliver several tons of supplies to the ISS for use by the crew as well as several new science experiments and technology research.