Canadian Military Space at a Crossroads - A Space Quarterly Magazine Preview

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Radarsat-2 painting.

The following excerpt is a free preview from the March issue of Space Quarterly magazine. This article is only available in the Canadian edition of the magazine.

Canadian Military Space at a Crossroads by Dr. James Fergusson

From the late 1960s until the early 1990s, military space for National Defence largely meant access to American military space. The release of the 1992 Defence Space Policy, and the creation of the Space Development Working Group set in motion the formal return of National Defence to military space. The establishment of the Directorate of Space Development, and the creation of the Joint Space Project, which identified six possible areas for defence investment, quickly followed. The Project, in turn, set in motion numerous initiatives. Indeed, the planned launch by India of the Sapphire satellite this year will mark National Defence's actual entry into military space. Sapphire will be Canada's first military satellite and represents a significant contribution to the United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN).

In addition, the Joint Space Support Project designed to provide space situational awareness for the Canadian Forces has reached operational status. National Defence has secured relatively guaranteed access to the next generation U.S. Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) military communications constellation. This year, the government approved Project Mercury Global that will provide secure and dedicated access to the Wideband Global communications system, thereby eliminating reliance on commercial systems. Polar Epsilon I has been completed, which provides Canadian Forces access to Radarsat-2 imagery, alongside the creation of two ground stations for imagery reception. The follow-on, Epsilon II, is underway in conjunction with the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM), which will combine radar and ship identification information for enhanced national situational awareness, and a global capability. Finally, as part of the international space-based search and rescue consortium, COSPASS-SARSAT, Canada is planning to provide SAR repeaters, and a ground segment. In total, they represent a military space investment of roughly 1.5 billion.

With the majority of these projects at or near completion, National Defence now stands at a crossroads for future investments.

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