original CASTOR name was born on a Sunday in February 1998 at my old apartment in Kingston, Ontario Canada. I was trying to come up with a name that would encompass the satellite tracking facility that I was constructing for the Royal Military College (RMC). I had three criteria to began with:

    1)    The name would have to be astronomical in nature, such as a constellation, star, etc.;

    2)    The name would have to refer to Canada, since the project was funded by the Canadian government; and

    3)    The name would have to refer to satellite tracking in some fashion.

I narrowed it down to two favorite acronyms, each having their own charm:

    1)    Trio of Research Installations for Precise Orbit Determination (TRIPOD) (there were to be three of them); and

    2)    Canadian Automated Small Telescopes for Orbital Research (CASTOR)

TRIPOD had an astronomical tone since a tripod is what holds a telescope up. It did have a satellite-related acronym, but it did not have the Canadian component (no "C" in the name at all). That made things difficult.

CASTOR, on the other hand, had overwhelming advantages over TRIPOD. First, it had a "C" in the name, which meant that the first letter could stand for "Canadian" or "Canada". Second, CASTOR is the brightest star in Gemini (Alpha Geminorum) and therefore took care of the astronomical concern. Third, CASTOR was French for Beaver, which fit the Canadian theme on two counts at the same time. The beaver is Canada's national symbol, and it even had the country's bilingual heritage in it!

CASTOR became the name of the facility at RMC, but the name unfortunately did not stick. Five years after the CASTOR name was born, the facility at RMC had its name changed to the more Spartan and generic "Concept Demonstrator" (CD). The other two facilities inherited this name too. My own view that CASTOR would have been better, but the name change might have been more personal than professional. However, that is history.

Today, the CASTOR acronym has been changed to better reflect the true meaning of the original project at RMC. It is now aptly named: Canadian Astronomy, Satellite Tracking and Orbit Research. The term "satellite tracking" is much better and more concise than the term "space surveillance" which might sound more important, but is really misleading in terms of what the project is all about. "Satellite tracking" tells you just that. CASTOR tracks satellites. It does not do surveillance of (all) space.

The CASTOR logo has evolved considerably over the nearly 10 years since the CASTOR name was conceived. It began with a beaver looking through a telescope (no kidding) and evolved into a sleek and professional symbol of the CASTOR business.

When the CASTOR name was first conceived, I wanted to create a temporary symbol that would encompass the meaning of the project at that time. Since CASTOR was not constructed yet (the observatory dome had yet to be assembled) I decided to keep things light and low-key. I did not want to over-exaggerate the capabilities of a system that did not exist. So, I slapped together two images from the Internet. The first was a sketch of a beaver from the Environment Canada web site, which fit nicely with the French version of the CASTOR name. The second was an image of a small Celestron refracting telescope that someone had put up for sale. The logo appeared to make the beaver interested in astronomy and looking through his/her tiny Celestron telescope, but also appearing as if posing for the camera. I learned then that a logo should be descriptive, eye-catching and humble at the same time, something not easy to accomplish. At the time, my former boss had suggested that I make the telescope in the logo a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain instead of a lowly refracting scope. I told him that it would be too much at that particular time, and besides, it would be too large for the tiny beaver to handle!

The new CASTOR logo was a collaborative effort by Michael A. Earl (myself) and Jane E. Yaeger. I provided the input for its design and Jane E. Yaeger conceived and designed the logo based on my input. We designed the logo with several criteria in mind:

    1)     Like the old CASTOR logo, it had to encompass what the business would be doing;

    2)    The new logo would encompass my own tastes (for example, my favorite colour, red) and personality; and

    3)    The new logo should show some satellites orbiting something, to symbolize satellite tracking and orbit research.

What emerged from this effort is the logo you see on the home page. It is the logo I see every day on all of my computer desktops when I start them up and the logo featured prominently on my business cards. It shows two tiny satellites orbiting the "globe" containing a red "C" in the center symbolizing the Canadian and CASTOR aspects of the business. The satellite that is seen to orbit the "equator" of the globe is symbolizing a geostationary satellite. The satellite that is seen to orbit the "poles" of the globe is symbolizing a polar orbiting and/or sun-synchronous orbiting satellite. The equator-orbiting satellite is seen to have a larger orbit than the polar-orbiting one because their respective orbits are related in such a way. A sun-synchronous orbit has a much smaller orbit altitude (between 400 to 1000km) than a geostationary one (37,000km). You could also say that the dot in the center of the "globe" could be a geostationary and a sun-synchronous satellite in collision, which could symbolize collision avoidance, although it is highly improbable that a geosynchronous and sun-synchronous satellite could ever collide.

The new logo has a black background, symbolizing a clear, dark night sky, which CASTOR is best suited for. The logo you see on the home page has stars in the background, which suits the optical satellite tracking nature of the CASTOR business.




The CASTOR Name and Logo Was Last Modified On May 23, 2010