Artist illustration of Sapphire satellite.
On February 18th Canada's first dedicated military satellite will launch aboard an Indian rocket. What is the significance of this launch?
The following two articles delve into the mission and its significance.
Sapphire: Canada's first dedicated military satellite by James Fergusson in Vanguard
"After nearly 20 years of planning and development, Canada will finally enter into military space with the expected launch of the Sapphire satellite early next year.
Built by prime contractor MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates in conjunction with COM DEV and two foreign firms, Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology and Denmark’s Terma A/S, this electro-optical satellite will be located in low earth orbit and is designed to monitor the outer orbits between six and forty thousand kilometres from earth, and particularly the geo-synchronous and stationary (GEO) orbits in support of the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN) and the NORAD early warning mission.
It will join the U.S. Pathfinder satellite, built by Boeing, launched in the fall of 2010, and declared operational last summer as the only two space-based components of the network."
Sapphire - Canada's First Military Satellite by Chris Gainor in Space Quarterly
"Canada's Department of National Defence (DND) will upgrade Canada's space surveillance capabilities when it launches Canada's first operational military satellite, Sapphire.
Sapphire is tentatively scheduled for launch in June atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in southern India. It will form the heart of the Canadian Space Surveillance System, which will assist the United States Space Surveillance Network.
The prime contractor for Sapphire is MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Richmond, B.C., which signed a $65 million contract with DND in October 2007. MDA won another $11.7 million contract from DND last year to operate Sapphire for five years. The Sapphire contractor team also includes COM DEV International of Cambridge, Ontario, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Surrey, England.
The 2007 contract for Sapphire came a few months after China destroyed one of its own weather satellites using a missile, leaving a large amount of debris in low Earth orbit and putting other nations on notice that their commercial and military space assets were vulnerable to attack.
"Canada is increasingly reliant on space assets," DND Communications Advisor Daniel Blouin told Space Quarterly, adding that Sapphire will "re-establish the Canadian contribution to surveillance in space."