June 28, 2021
Photons Canada news

Canadian Photonics in space and its benefits

Canada has participated with photonics instruments in space exploration for years. Currently it has the following Earth Observation (EO) operational satellites: RADARSAT Constellation Mission (CSM), RADARSAT-2 (MDA) and SCISAT (CSA) which uses a Fourier transform Spectrometer.

The WildFireSat (CSA) using thermal imaging is in its early stages, the planned mission will increase Canada’s ability to monitor wildfires in the country. It is supposed to launch in 2026 and have a 2 to 5 years mission duration.

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is Canada’s new generation of Earth observation satellites. Launched on June 12, 2019, the three identical satellites work together to bring solutions to key challenges for Canadians. The constellation of three satellites provides daily images of Canada’s vast territory and maritime approaches, as well as images of the Arctic. It has daily access to 90 percent of the world’s surface. The RCM is equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS), allowing improved detection, and tracking of ships. It is used in a number of ways to support the government in delivering responsive and cost-effective services. Here are a few examples:

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) uses EO data to understand the extent, health and diversity of Canada’s agricultural landscape. The AAFC produces a yearly crop inventory (digital maps) for all of Canada using RADARSAT-2 and RCM data, combined with other data sources. This enables farmers to make better decisions on how to optimize crop profitability and farm sustainability.

The Canadian Ice Service, part of the ECCC, is one of the largest users of RADARSAT data, producing ice charts for clients such as the Canadian Coast Guard. The Canadian Coast Guard distributes ice routing recommendations and other ice information to mariners. Ship captains navigating in the Arctic and people travelling in northern regions use this information to ensure safe travel.

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are also major users of RADARSAT-2 imagery. The Polar Epsilon project leveraged RADARSAT-2 to provide DND/CAF with Arctic surveillance in support of Canada’s sovereignty, near-real-time ship detection, and maritime surveillance. Combining RADARSAT-2 images with space-based Automatic Identification System data enables the identification of ships and the detection of dark ships (those that are supposed to transmit AIS signals but do not), both in Canadian waters and elsewhere.

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) uses EO data to support its activities related to First Nations’ capacity to plan, build, operate and maintain community infrastructure. ISC’s use of EO data supports baseline mapping for Indigenous communities and monitoring permafrost.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) uses satellite imagery along with ground validation data to map, monitor and characterize Canada’s land, vegetation, water, snow, ice and infrastructure in support of responsible development of natural resources, climate change action, emergency response, and northern priorities. At NRCan’s Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, researchers are also creating analysis-ready data and value-added products to support downstream research, operations and evidence-based policy- and decision-making in a range of disciplines and priority areas within the department and across the Government of Canada.

Public Safety Canada coordinates the use of EO data for emergency response, management, and mitigation at the national and provincial/territorial levels such as the major floods that touched several Canadian regions in the springs of 2017 and 2019. Flood maps are provided by the NRCan Emergency Geomatics Service.

Parks Canada uses space-based data to fulfill its mandate related to the conservation of natural and cultural resources of the Canadian heritage sites under its purview. EO data is used for monitoring national parks and glaciers and for mapping land cover.

The Public Health Agency of Canada uses EO data to assess risks associated with the environment or climate change, in order to prepare for and respond to health and security events. For example, EO technology has been used to improve risk mapping for communicable diseases such as Zika fever, malaria, and water-borne cholera.

Other departments and agencies like the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Global Affairs Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Statistics Canada also use RADARSAT data for special projects and research and development.

Link: RADARSAT data to serve Canadians – Canadian Space Agency (asc-csa.gc.ca)

Link: Earth observation satellites – Canadian Space Agency (asc-csa.gc.ca)

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