Environment

Canadian satellites

Canadian Communications Satellites

Canadian Communications Satellites (since 1972)
All Canadian communications satellites are commercial. The Canadian-based company Telesat is the main provider for Canadian government and corporate users. Its fleet includes Anik F2 (2004), which provides wireless broadband Internet connections in the most remote regions of Canada.

SCISAT

SCISAT (2003)
This small Canadian satellite monitors ozone in the stratosphere and helps scientists improve their understanding of ozone depletion, with a special emphasis on the changes occurring over Canada and in the Arctic.

RADARSAT-2

RADARSAT-2 (2007)
Canada's next-generation commercial radar satellite enhances marine surveillance, ice monitoring, disaster management, environmental monitoring, resource management and mapping in Canada and around the world.

CASSIOPE

CASSIOPE (2013)
This hybrid small satellite gathers information to better understand the science of space weather, while demonstrating high-speed communications concepts through the use of space technologies.

NEOSSat

NEOSSat (2013)
The world's first space telescope dedicated to detecting and tracking asteroids. It also sweeps the skies in search of satellites and space debris.

Sapphire

Sapphire (2013)
Canada's first operational military satellite monitors thousands of pieces of space debris, detects man-made objects in orbit, and provides data to the U.S.-led Space Surveillance Network dedicated to preventing collisions in space.

M3MSat

M3MSat (2016)
A microsatellite designed to test new technologies in space to advance Canada's ability to detect ships and manage marine traffic and improve the way we monitor the health and safety of satellites in orbit.

RCM

RCM (2018)
The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) will build on the success of previous RADARSAT missions. The three satellites will provide daily revisits of Canada's lands and oceans for maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring.

International satellites with Canadian participation

Cospas-Sarsat

Cospas-Sarsat (since 1982)
The Department of National Defence (DND) has long provided payloads to support Cospas-Sarsat in low-Earth orbit (LEO). DND is currently developing new payloads that aim to dramatically decrease search time and save more lives.

Terra

Terra (NASA, 1999)
Canada's MOPITT is one of five instruments on Terra. It contributes to the study of environmental pollution by continuously scanning the atmosphere to gather long-term measurements of global carbon monoxide levels.

Odin

Odin (Sweden, 2001)
Canada's Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imaging System (OSIRIS) aboard Odin measures concentrations of ozone, aerosols and nitrogen dioxide in the upper atmosphere.

CloudSat

CloudSat (NASA, 2006)
This satellite gathers data on the structure, frequency and volume of clouds to help improve our understanding of how they influence weather. Canada has been participating since 1998 and collaborates in related scientific work.

THEMIS

THEMIS (NASA, 2007)
This mission aims to identify the physical mechanism that leads to the explosive release of solar energy in substorms. Canadian scientists are involved in this mission by providing real-time monitoring of the visible consequences of substorms: the aurora borealis.

SMOS

SMOS (ESA, 2009)
The purpose of this mission is to improve our understanding of the Earth's water cycle by mapping sea surface salinity and monitoring soil moisture on a global scale. SMOS also contributes to the study of the cryosphere. Canada has invested in this mission and supports scientific exploitation of its data.

Swarm

Swarm (ESA, 2013)
By measuring the Earth's magnetic field from space, Swarm aims to separate the measured field according to its different sources: the Earth's core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere. This information will help scientists better understand how the core-generated magnetic field is evolving. Canada's space sector has contributed technology to the mission, and our scientists have access to its data.

Sentinel

Sentinel (ESA, 2014)
A family of six next-generation missions of the Copernicus program that will focus on different aspects of Earth observation. Canada is participating under the Canada/ESA Cooperation Agreement, and Canadian users benefit from simplified access to Sentinel data through a dedicated Data Hub.

SMAP

Credit: NASA/JPL-
Caltech/GSFC

SMAP (NASA, 2015)
The purpose of this mission is to map soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state globally. SMAP's instruments measure conditions in the top 5 cm of soil. This data can be very useful, particularly for agriculture. Canada is collaborating in the scientific aspect of the mission.

EarthCARE

EarthCARE (ESA/JAXA, 2019)
EarthCARE will deliver unprecedented data to scientists studying clouds, aerosols and radiation at accuracy levels that will significantly improve our understanding of these highly variable elements. Canada is contributing technology to the mission and will participate actively in science activities leading up to and during the mission.

SWOT

SWOT (NASA, 2020)
This mission will survey 90% of the Earth's lakes, rivers and oceans using altimetry technology to provide a comprehensive picture of the world's oceans and freshwater bodies. Canada is contributing technology and will be an equal partner in the mission's science working group.

International satellites – Accessible data and services

Global navigation satellite systems

Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) provide positioning, navigation and timing information. Canadians benefit particularly from the use of the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS). Other systems include the European Union's Galileo, Russia's GLONASS and China's COMPASS (Beidou).

Earth observation satellite systems

Earth observation satellite systems are critical for environmental monitoring, meteorology, disaster response, agriculture and many other applications that can improve life on Earth. A number of programs and technologies exist worldwide. Canada benefits from increasingly open access to data from many of these systems.

Telecommunications satellite systems

Telecommunication satellite systems from around the world enhance access to the advanced services needed to compete in the global knowledge economy.

Environment banner

Monitoring signs of climate change

Credit (shoreline photo): USGS Alaska Science Center

Did you know?

Canada's OSIRIS instrument has been measuring the ozone layer every day since 2001. The daily, monthly and annual data shows that the ozone layer has been stabilizing gradually since the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, one of the most successful international agreements to date.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats of our time. Some of the most alarming effects are seen in the Arctic, where higher temperatures are impacting local ecosystems and communities. By improving our understanding of climate processes and impacts, our ability to model and predict these changes will improve. Satellites are valuable tools for studying various aspects of the Earth and atmosphere:

  • land resources
  • glaciers and snow cover
  • soil moisture
  • ocean processes
  • complex cloud and precipitation processes
  • the concentration of ozone, aerosols, carbon monoxide and other significant molecules in the atmosphere

Satellite data contributes to international research and efforts to address this global issue.

Protecting our ecosystems

Did you know?

Over one billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. Satellites like Canada's RADARSAT-2 can help locate and manage ground water sources.

The Earth's ecosystems are essential to life as we know it, contributing to some of our most basic needs like clean air, water and food. Using satellites, we can monitor changes and promote the responsible use of land and natural resources to protect our ecosystems.

  • Monitoring the state and health of our forests and national parks
  • Discerning the changing conditions of agricultural lands
  • Mapping geological features and determining environmental impacts of mineral exploitation
  • Identifying and managing various water resources, including ground water
  • Detecting changes over time in Canada's coastal areas, wetlands and wildlife habitats

Satellites are also useful for understanding and protecting Canadian biodiversity. Remote sensing techniques provide important data on wildlife and habitats, and GPS devices can be used to track different species.

Measuring pollution

Did you know?

The smoke from a forest fire increases carbon monoxide (CO) levels in the atmosphere and affects air quality. Since CO is transported in the atmosphere, the negative impact on air quality can spread beyond the local area. For example, Canada's MOPITT instrument measured the CO produced by major forest fires in Northern Canada in June/July 2015 as the CO travelled through different parts of Canada and the United States.

Satellites are helping specialists monitor and study air, water and soil quality. This supports various programs to manage pollutants and reduce toxic waste that is harmful to the environment and Canadians.

Satellites can be used to detect pollution on water and land. They can identify oil spills and areas that have been contaminated by mining activities.

They can also help us measure pollution in the atmosphere. For example, from space we are able to collect information on the global distribution of carbon monoxide and distinguish between natural and human sources of pollution.