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Earth observation satellites

Earth observation satellites provide data on oceans, ice, land environments, and the atmosphere. They are useful for monitoring and protecting our environment and planet and for helping us better understand them. They help us manage our resources and ensure the safety of Canadians. Experts use satellite images to support humanitarian efforts and sustainable development around the world.

What's new?

All news about Earth observation satellites

The various Earth observation satellites

Active Canadian satellites

  • RADARSAT Constellation Mission
    Constellation RADARSAT

    Characteristics: Canadian satellites, active

    The RADARSAT Constellation Mission was launched on . It is Canada's third generation of Earth observation satellites. Three identical satellites work together. They bring solutions to key challenges for:

    • maritime surveillance
    • disaster management
    • ecosystem monitoring

    Discover the RADARSAT Constellation Mission


    Characteristics: Canadian satellite, active

    MDA's commercial radar satellite was launched in . It facilitates:

    • ice, marine, and environmental monitoring
    • disaster and resource management

    Discover RADARSAT-2


    Characteristics: Canadian satellite, active

    SCISAT was launched on . It is used to monitor the ozone layer. In particular, it enables observation of the changes occurring over Canada and the Arctic.

    It passes over:

    • polar regions
    • tropical zones
    • mid-latitude locations

    Discover SCISAT

Canadian satellites in development

  • HAWC

    Characteristics: Canadian satellite mission in development

    HAWC will launch in . It will provide critical data to support extreme weather prediction, climate modelling, and monitoring of disasters. consists of three innovative Canadian instruments and a Canadian satellite that will be part of the international NASA-led Atmosphere Observing System (AOS).

    It will make it possible to:

    • Observe mid-to high-altitude aerosol particles.
    • Measure water vapour in the upper reaches of the lower atmosphere. Water vapour is a powerful greenhouse gas.
    • Observe water vapour and ice cloud properties. It will also measure the energy that the atmosphere radiates to space.

    Discover HAWC

  • WildFireSat

    Characteristics: Canadian satellite, in development

    WildFireSat is scheduled to launch in . It is intended to support active wildfire monitoring and management in Canada.

    It will make it possible to:

    • anticipate wildfire behaviour and determine which wildfires are high risk and should therefore be prioritized
    • obtain more accurate data on smoke and air quality

    Discover WildFireSat

International satellites to which Canada has contributed

  • CloudSat

    Characteristics: Canadian elements, active

    NASA's CloudSat satellite was launched on , and is part of a constellation of satellites. It helps us better understand clouds and their effect on climate and weather. As part of a first-ever comprehensive three-dimensional study of clouds, it gathers data on:

    • their structure
    • their occurrence
    • their volume

    Discover CloudSat

  • Odin

    Characteristics: Canadian instrument, active

    The Swedish satellite Odin was launched on . Since then, it has been collecting data for studying climate and atmospheric changes. Canada's OSIRIS instrument measures atmospheric composition, focusing mainly on the upper atmosphere. It provides data on:

    • ozone depletion
    • concentrations of aerosols and nitrogen dioxide

    Discover Odin

  • SMAP

    Characteristics: Canadian elements, active

    NASA's orbiting laboratory/satellite, SMAP, was launched on . It is used to map soil moisture and freeze/thaw state. It helps:

    • improve climate and weather forecasts
    • monitor droughts and better predict flooding

    Discover SMAP

  • SMOS

    Characteristics: Canadian elements, active

    The European Space Agency's SMOS was launched on . It is the first satellite designed to both map sea surface salinity and monitor soil moisture. Its secondary objective is to map snow- and ice-covered regions.

    The data provided helps us better understand:

    • how water moves across the planet
    • how our climate systems work

    Discover SMOS

  • SWOT

    Characteristics: Canadian elements, in development

    The SWOT mission led by NASA and the Centre national d'études spatiales (France's space agency) is scheduled to launch in . It will provide detailed information on water, one of Earth's most precious resources.

    It will be able to:

    • survey 90% of Earth's surface water
    • observe the details of the ocean surface topography
    • measure how lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and oceans are changing

    Discover SWOT

  • Terra

    Characteristics: Canadian instrument, active

    NASA's Terra satellite was launched on . It carries five instruments that observe Earth's atmosphere, ocean, land, snow and ice, and energy budget. The Canadian instrument MOPITT continuously scans Earth's atmosphere to measure carbon monoxide (concentrations, distribution, transport).

    It is used to:

    • forecast the long-term effects of pollution
    • orient the assessment and implementation of short-term pollution controls

    Discover Terra

Inactive Canadian satellites and instruments

  • Envisat

    Characteristics: Canadian elements, inactive

    Launched on , the Envisat satellite, led by the European Space Agency, was the largest Earth observation satellite ever built at the time. It had 10 instruments.

    Envisat's data helped:

    • understand the components of the Earth system (e.g., oceans, continents, flora, fauna, layers of the atmosphere)
    • make informed decisions about how to protect the environment

    Discover Envisat


    Characteristics: Canadian satellite, inactive

    Launched on , RADARSAT-1 was a sophisticated Earth observation satellite developed by Canada. It was used to monitor environmental changes and Earth's natural resources. It is in part thanks to RADARSAT-1 that Canada has become a world leader in the processing of satellite remote sensing data.

    With its powerful synthetic aperture radar, RADARSAT-1 was able to produce images of Earth:

    • day or night
    • in all weather conditions
    • through cloud cover, smoke, and fog

    Discover RADARSAT-1

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