June 21, 2021
Photons Canada news

Canadian photonics in space on the WildFireSat

The WildFireSat system will consist of one or more satellites equipped with infrared sensors that will measure the energy emitted by wildfires. This energy is referred to as Fire Radiative Power (FRP). With FRP information, essential characteristics of wildfires such as fire intensity and rate of spread can be derived. It will also give us accurate data on carbon emission from wildfires.

Existing satellites with infrared sensors can observe wildfires. However, for a period of several hours in the afternoon and early evening, none of the required satellite images are currently available. This long blackout period corresponds to the most critical period of wildfire activity, i.e. the late afternoon “peak burn period.” During that period, higher daily temperatures, lower humidity and strong winds often result in a rapid propagation of wildfires.

In this illustration, coloured bars show the overpass times of various existing satellites that are used for wildfire management purposes: Terra (dark green), Aqua (blue), Suomi NPP (purple), Sentinel-3 (light green), Sentinel-2 (orange) and Landsat 8 (pink). WildFireSat aims to fill a crucial gap in peak burn wildfire monitoring, and to be used in conjunction with existing systems. (Credit: Canadian Forest Service)

WildFireSat will use infrared sensors to measure energy coming from wildfires. Normally, infrared sensors must be cooled down to extremely low temperatures using heavy cooling equipment with high energy demands. A satellite with such equipment is very large and expensive. One of the unique things about WildFireSat is that it will use an innovative type of infrared sensor, based on microbolometer technology, that does not need to be cooled. The CSA has invested in the development of this technology in recent years through its Space Technology Development Program. The use of this technology drastically reduces the weight and size of the satellite and the amount of power required to operate it, thereby considerably reducing the cost of the satellite.

Since this satellite is under development it has a list of call for ideas at Science opportunities with WildFireSat – Canadian Space Agency (asc-csa.gc.ca)

Link: WildFireSat: Enhancing Canada’s ability to manage wildfires – Canadian Space Agency (asc-csa.gc.ca)

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