Richard Marchand


Richard Marchand’s research has produced a tool called PTetra to simulate low-orbit satellite interactions with plasma. Plasma, which can be found around spacecraft, is the fourth possible state of matter (after solids, liquids and gases). Our understanding of how it will interact with surrounding satellites is crucial in preventing the failure of this important infrastructure.

The interaction of space environment with artificial satellites is a critical element in the success in science missions and commercial applications in space. The last several decades have seen a dramatic increase in the deployment of monitoring and science satellites in the world. Our society is increasingly dependent on space science and technology for its well-being and its security. With the use of space-borne telescopes and observatories, fundamental science has also made giant leaps that would not have been possible otherwise. It is clear that an optimal use of space infrastructure must account for the interaction between spacecraft and space environment. In extreme conditions, this interaction can lead to the interruption of services or total failure. Even under normal conditions, the interaction between a spacecraft and surrounding plasma can lead to aberrations in certain measurements. In such cases, a good understanding of this interaction and its effects on space-borne instruments is essential to get the most value from these measurements. My research will focus on developing and using computer models to simulate the interaction between satellites and space environment, with the aim of better understanding and calibrating its effects on sensitive space-borne measurements. This will be done with a suite of software that I developed over the last 15 years, and that I will continue to improve and apply to deployed and planned space missions.

Having access to Compute Canada’s Westgrid has enabled Dr. Marchand to establish international collaborations with other experts in this field of research. Between 2011 and 2013, he was leader of an ISSI International team, which led to publications in refereed scientific journals, involving students and international collaborators.