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Science satellites

Canada is renowned for the quality of its instruments on science satellites. Some of these satellites improve our understanding of the origin, formation, structure, and evolution of celestial bodies and the universe. Others make it possible to study the physics and effects of various phenomena, such as the impact of solar flares on Earth's magnetic field.

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All news about science satellites

The various science satellites

Active Canadian satellites

CASSIOPE

Characteristics: Canadian satellite, active

Launched on , CASSIOPE observes the phenomena of space weather. It was integrated into the European Space Agency's Swarm constellation. The onboard ePOP probe observes Earth's ionosphere. The satellite and probe are owned by the company MDA. The European Space Agency now funds operations, but the satellite is operated by the University of Calgary.

ePOP has eight instruments that collect data on:

  • the impact of solar storms
  • their effects on radio communications, satellite navigation, and other space- and ground-based technologies

Discover CASSIOPE

NEOSSat

Characteristics: Canadian satellite, active

Launched on , NEOSSat is the first satellite used to detect asteroids and satellites close to Earth. It is a collaboration between Defence Research and Development Canada and the CSA. NEOSSat scans space in search of:

  • satellites
  • space debris
  • near-Earth asteroids and comets

It also collects data on planets orbiting distant stars.

Discover NEOSSat

Canadian satellites in development

QEYSSat

Characteristics: Canadian satellite, in development

The objective of the Canadian QEYSSat mission is to demonstrate quantum key distribution in space. This technology creates virtually unbreakable encryption codes.

It will be used for:

  • online banking
  • smartphones
  • computers
  • cloud computing

Discover QEYSSat

International satellites to which Canada has contributed

OSIRIS-REx

Characteristics: Canadian elements, active

Launched on , NASA's OSIRIS-REx marks Canada's first participation in a sample-return mission. The Canadian lidar was used to scan the asteroid Bennu's surface to create 3D maps in order to select the sample site.

The mission objectives are to:

  • map the asteroid
  • document the sample site
  • determine the characteristics of the asteroid's orbit
  • compare observations with those made using telescopes
  • collect and analyze a sample from Bennu

Discover OSIRIS-REx

Proba-2

Characteristics: Canadian elements, active

The European Space Agency's Proba-2 microsatellite was launched on . The satellite is used to:

  • observe the Sun
  • study space weather phenomena

Discover Proba-2

Swarm

Characteristics: Canadian instrument and elements, active

Launched on , the European Space Agency's Swarm mission is a constellation of Earth observation satellites. When it was launched, it comprised three identical satellites, but since , the CASSIOPE satellite has been part of the mission. The Swarm mission measures the magnetic fields generated by various elements of Earth:

  • core
  • mantle
  • crust
  • oceans
  • ionosphere
  • magnetosphere

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THEMIS/ARTEMIS

Characteristics: Canadian elements, active

Launched on , THEMIS is a constellation of five NASA satellites whose objective is to gain a better understanding of what causes aurora. In , two of the satellites were taken to create the ARTEMIS mission and moved elsewhere in space to study the same phenomena near the Moon. Specialists compare satellite data with data collected by ground stations in the Arctic Circle.

In order to study aurora, the satellites are equipped with:

  • electric detectors
  • magnetic detectors
  • particle detectors

Discover THEMIS/ARTEMIS

Inactive Canadian instruments and satellites

Alouette I and II

Characteristics: Canadian satellites, inactive

These science satellites for monitoring the ionosphere from space were launched in and . Thus, Canada became the first country, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to design, build, and put into orbit an artificial satellite.

These spacecraft were very reliable thanks to brand new technologies:

  • the transistor
  • the solar cell

Discover Alouette I and II

Herschel

Characteristics: Canadian elements, inactive

The European Space Agency's space observatory was launched on . It made over 35,000 observations and logged more than 25,000 hours of studying the universe. It had three instruments:

  • the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI)
  • the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE)
  • the Photometric Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS)

Discover Herschel

ISIS I and II

Characteristics: Canadian satellites, inactive

Launched in and , Canada's ISIS satellites were used to study the ionosphere and the aurora borealis. The satellites had:

  • a set of direct measurement experiments
  • a tape recorder to store data

Discover ISIS I and II

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