NEOSSat: Canada's Sentinel in the Sky
Launch: February 25, 2013
Status: Successfully launched
Animation depicting NEOSSat's mission. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)
The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat), launched February 25, 2013, is the latest in a proud family of world-leading Canadian satellites. The world's first space telescope dedicated to detecting and tracking asteroids and satellites. It circles the globe every 100 minutes, scanning space near the Sun to pinpoint asteroids that may someday pass close to Earth. NEOSSat is also sweeping the skies in search of satellites and space debris as part of Canada's commitment to keeping orbital space safe for everyone. NEOSSat applies the kind of industry-leading technology for which Canada has become known and has already demonstrated in our very successful Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars (MOST) satellite.
An Eye on Asteroids
The suitcase-sized NEOSSat orbits approximately 800 kilometers high above the Earth, searching for near-Earth asteroids that are difficult to spot using ground-based telescopes. Due to its lofty location, it is not limited by the day-night cycle, and can operate 24/7. The hundreds of images that NEOSSat will generate per day will be downloaded and analyzed by the University of Calgary's NEOSSat science operations centre. Through NEOSSat, Canada will contribute to the international effort to catalogue the near-Earth population of asteroids producing information that will be crucial to targeting new destinations for future space exploration missions.
Space Debris Surveillance
In its other capacity, NEOSSat monitors orbiting space objects to help minimize collisions between them. NEOSSat will keep track of the positions of both satellites and "space junk" as part of the High Earth Orbit Surveillance System project by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC). NEOSSat is the first microsatellite used for this purpose. One of the major advantages of using NEOSSat in this capacity is that, unlike ground-based telescopes, it is able to track satellites and space debris in a wide variety of locations and not be limited by geographic location, the day-night cycle, or weather. The information produced by NEOSSat will bolster Canada's contribution to international efforts to maintain the safety of Canadian and international space assets.
NEOSSat is jointly funded by the CSA and DRDC. The satellite is built by Microsat Systems Canada Inc., with support from Spectral Applied Research and COM DEV International Ltd (formerly Routes AstroEngineering). The two Principle Investigators are Dr. Brad Wallace from DRDC and Dr. Alan Hildebrand from the University of Calgary. Dr. Hildebrand leads the Near Earth Space Surveillance project with scientific collaborators from the University of British Columbia, the Planetary Science Institute, the University of Arizona, the University of Western Ontario, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Dr. Wallace leads the High Earth Orbit Space Surveillance project and the science team whose mission is to track satellites and debris in High Earth Orbit.
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