Celebrating 50 Years of Canada in Space
Longueuil, Quebec, September 25, 2012 — Fifty years ago, John H. Chapman and his team from the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE) in Ottawa were in the final stages of preparing a small science satellite named Alouette for its historic voyage into space. On Sept. 29, 1962, Canada's Alouette-1 was launched by NASA from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This technological feat — at the dawn of the space age — launched Canada as a space faring nation; third, after Russia and the United States, to entirely design and build a satellite.
"Canada's rich history in space began with Alouette-1, and this legacy paved the way for Canadian innovation in space, such as the iconic Canadarm," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry. "Today, the Canadian space sector has established a world-class reputation in niche areas such as earth observation, space robotics, space science and exploration, and satellite communications."
"This was the beginning of a proud space legacy for Canada — it opened the door for outstanding international partnerships that continue to this day," said Steve MacLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
It all began in 1958 when the US invited countries to submit ideas for space experiments. Canada suggested a new approach, using space to study the topside of the ionosphere not observable from the ground. John H. Chapman, who was responsible for the Alouette program and whose name now adorns the Canadian Space Agency headquarters, supervised the production of two satellites. Alouette-1 and another, a backup, that was later modified to incorporate improvements including an American experiment, when launched in 1965, as Alouette-2.
The design of Alouette-1 was complex and exceptionally advanced for the technology of the time. Alouette-1 was an immense scientific and technological success that operated for 10 years, showcasing Canadian expertise and rigorous engineering; its performance exceeded all expectations. Amongst its many awards the Alouette-1 satellite programme was designated "an event of national historic significance" by the Government of Canada in 2007.
"The success of Alouette-1 was all the more remarkable in that a new art had to be established in space electronics and space mechanics. The program was undertaken at a time when there were few guidelines to satellite design, little was known of the in-orbit environment, semiconductor electronics was in its infancy and satellites frequently failed or had limited lifetimes," said Colin Franklin, former Chief Electrical Engineer for Alouette at DRTE.
"Alouette-1 was the beginning of Canada's use of space for the public good. Since then, the Candian Space Program has engaged people from nearly every industry to explore how space can be used to improve the quality of life for Canadians," stated Steve MacLean. "The space industry itself is a key driver of innovation and commercialization — it now employs 8,256 people and contributes $3.4 billion to the economy."
In 2013, with the launch of the hybrid satellite CASSIOPE, Canada will extend its leadership in studying the ionosphere. CASSIOPE will fly a scientific instrument known as the Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (E-Pop), for the University of Calgary and make a significant contribution to unraveling the mysteries of space weather, which occurs in the ionosphere impacting both satellites in orbit and technology on the ground.
Since 2006, the Government of Canada has invested nearly $8 billion in initiatives supporting science, technology and the growth of innovation firms in Canada, including $5 billion for advanced research, education and training; $2 billion for post-secondary infrastructure; and $1 billion for applied research and financing. This funding has helped to make Canada a world leader in post-secondary education research and to create the knowledge and highly skilled workforce that are required for a more prosperous economy.
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