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Canada's Sapphire satellite tracks objects in space

Canada's Sapphire is a space-based electro-optical sensor (Courtesy: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.)

Canada's Sapphire is a space-based electro-optical sensor (Courtesy: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.)


Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Monday, June 10, 2013, 11:07 AM -

For years, NORAD has been monitoring the skies above Canada, but now officials are watching space as well.

Sapphire, Canada's first dedicated operational military satellite, will help improve Canada's space situational awareness.

Lieutenant Colonel James Peck says the satellite will track objects in high Earth orbit, including other satellites and debris that's floating around and could pose a danger in space.

"We've got lots of sensors on the ground that look at the airspace above Canada, but we have nothing in space that looks at the sensors and the objects that are in space," says Peck. "So Sapphire is going to connect into the surveillance of space network and contribute as a sensor that catalogs all the stuff that is in space."

Data from the Sapphire satellite will enhance the ability to detect and avoid the collision of critical space platforms with other orbital objects.

Peck says they track as many as 20,000 objects daily, so Sapphire will be particularly important as it replaces ground sensors that are not effective during periods of bad weather.

“The issue with that is as soon as we get cloud cover or significant weather over top of those ground base satellite sensors, we lose the ability to see into space. As soon as we remove the requirement of looking around the weather and get on top of it, now we have persistent coverage and that's the advantage Sapphire gives us while we are in space.”

The satellite is currently being tested by NORAD and it's expected to be fully operational by mid July.



With files from the Royal Canadian Air Force

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