Security and defence

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 (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 (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.


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 (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 (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 (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 (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 (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 (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 (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 (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.


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 (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 (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 (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.


Credit: NASA/JPL-

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 (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 (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.

Security and defence banner

The ultimate strategic high ground

Credit: Corporal Nathan Moulton, Valcartier Imagery Section

Did you know?

The Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness (URSA) system consists of deployable kits (antenna and terminal) which allow Canadian forces to download imagery directly from commercial satellites as they pass over areas of interest. This provides commanders in the field with strategic information.

The security and defence community has been an active user of space technology since the very first satellites were launched into orbit. In fact, Canada's first space mission, Alouette 1, studied the ionosphere to improve long-range communications for our armed forces.

Since then, space capabilities have become essential to military operations, in Canada and abroad:

  • Providing logistical support to Canadian troops
  • Monitoring Canada's landmass, long coastlines and the North
  • Sending and receiving encrypted communications

Keeping our maritime areas safe and secure

Credits: photo: Natural Resources Canada. RADARSAT-2; mosaic: Environment and Climate Change Canada. RADARSAT-2 Data and Products © MacDonald, Dettwiler and associates Ltd. (2014) – All Rights Reserved. RADARSAT is an official mark of the Canadian Space Agency.

Did you know?

Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) on satellites are revolutionizing how we monitor and manage maritime traffic by providing broader coverage and enhancing the detection of ships, including their location, identity, heading and speed.

As maritime activities expand, monitoring and protecting Canadian waters is increasingly important, and satellites offer unique solutions. They provide meteorological information, monitor sea ice conditions, and detect the location and identity of ships.

Satellites help us make sure that ships move in a safe and timely manner through icy waters. They also support our efforts to manage marine traffic and prevent or intercept illegal activities along Canadian coasts and at sea.

Understanding the risks and threats in space

Did you know?

The Canadian Armed Forces' small satellite, Sapphire, monitors space objects orbiting between 6,000 and 40,000 kilometres above the Earth's surface on a 24-hour basis. This data is incorporated into an international catalogue to help prevent collisions in space. Using this catalogue, the Canadian Space Agency's Conjunction Risk Assessment and Mitigation System supports Canadian satellite operators in industry, academia and government by processing close approach warnings and delivering value-added analyses of probability.

It's not a secret that the space environment is complex and hostile. Both natural events and man-made activities happening beyond our protective atmosphere can threaten people, property and the environment – both on Earth and in space.

  • Asteroids, the interesting and unpredictable space objects that sometimes venture uncomfortably close to the Earth, can be detected and tracked by satellites.
  • Space debris represents a threat to the satellites we depend on. Perhaps ironically, satellites help identify and limit risks by monitoring space objects and providing information to prevent collisions.
  • Space weather refers to radiation coming from space, mostly from the Sun. It causes spectacular auroras but can also have a major impact on human activities, from damaging spacecraft electronics to disrupting power grids on Earth. Satellites help us study and better understand space weather so that we are better equipped to predict and respond to its effects.