Indian Rocket Launches Canadian Satellites

This morning at 7:31 a.m. EST an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) successfully launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota carrying seven satellites into orbit including four Canadian built satellites.

The launch was originally scheduled for 7:26 a.m. EST but was delayed 5 minutes to avoid debris in the orbital path of the rocket.

The primary payload for the launch was the Indian-French joint venture SARAL (409kg) earth observation small satellite.

The secondary payload included Canada's Sapphire, a small satellite (148kg) and NEOSSat, a microsatellite (74kg), UniBRITE (14kg) and BRITE (14kg) which are Canadian built microsatellites for the University of Vienna and Technical University, the Danish AAUSAT3 (3kg) nanosatellite, and the UK's STRaND-1 (6.5kg), a nanosatellite.

All seven satellites were placed in their proper orbits and after a check-out will go into service.

Sapphire is the Department of National Defence (DND) first dedicated military satellite and will be an integral part of Canada's space surveillance capabilities.

In a press release from the Department of National Defence Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff said "the launch of Sapphire ensures the Canadian Armed Forces' continued cooperation with other nations in the area of space surveillance. This milestone marks another important step in reducing the threat to our critical space capabilities."

As well Defence Minister Peter MacKay said "It is with great pleasure that I announce that Canada's Sapphire satellite has been successfully launched. Sapphire is a sound investment that will help safeguard billions of dollars of space assets, in fields such as telecommunications, weather, search and rescue, and global positioning systems."

Sapphire
View of the Sapphire spacecraft taken in a N2 purge controlled environment at the Canadian Space Agency's David Florida Laboratory in Ottawa. Credit: Sergeant Gatan Racine, Canadian Forces Combat Camera. 2012 DND-MDN Canada.

NEOSSat will be the first space telescope dedicated to the search for near-Earth asteroids. NEOSSat is the result of a university-industry collaboration and will spend half the time looking for these small interplanetary objects that could potentially impact the Earth and cause great damage. NEOSSat will spend the other half of its time searching for satellites and space debris in orbit around the Earth in a research project sponsored by a DND agency, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).

"Today marks another milstone for Canada's world renowned space sector. This microsatellite is a testament to Canadian ingenuity and leadership in advanced space technology," said Minister Paradis. "Our Government will continue to support the development of this vital sector to ensure it can continue to foster innovative technologies and create high-quality jobs for Canadians."

"Today's successful launch is a great accomplishment made possible by Canadian specialized expertise and technology that has literally pushed the boundaries of innovation. As NEOSSat becomes fully operational, the satellite will provide us with key data and imagery from the unique vantage point of space to become our Sentinel in the Sky" said Gilles Leclerc, Acting President of the CSA.

NEOSSat
An employee is setting up radio frequency feed horns pointing at NEOSSat in a small anechoic chamber at the David Florida Laboratory located in Ottawa. Credit: Janice Lang, DRDC.

The BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) microsatellites we're built by the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies for the University of Vienna and Technical University, Graz, Austria respectively.

According to the SFL the "BRITE constellation will use six satellites, each observing a given stellar target field at different times to measure low frequency brightness oscillations in luminous stars. The satellites will have different optical filters in order to obtain temperature information. These measurements will uncover the characteristics of the stars and help answer questions related to the origin of the universe and creation of heavy elements that formed the planets and life on Earth. The approach is known as asteroseismology - the same approach used by Canada's first space telescope, MOST (Microvariability and Oscillations of STars), to characterize stars similar to our sun."

While UniBrite and BRITE are owned by the Austrian universities, the data will be shared among all the researchers taking part in the constellation program including Canada. UniBrite will be operated from the Space Flight Laboratory in Toronto.

The launch of the BRITE satellites as well as the Danish nanosatellite was facilitated by the Nanosatellite Launch Service, the commercial arm of the Space Flight Laboratory.

BRITE satellites build by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory
The Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies built UniBRITE microsatellite is on the left and BRITE microsatellite on the right. Credit: Nanosatellite Launch Service