Launch: February 25, 2013
Canada is currently building NEOSSat (the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite), the world’s first space telescope dedicated to detecting and tracking asteroids and satellites. Slated for launch in 2013, it will circle the globe every 100 minutes, scanning space near the Sun to pinpoint asteroids that may someday pass near our planet. NEOSSat will also sweep the skies in search of satellites and space debris as part of Canada’s commitment to keeping orbital space safe for everyone. NEOSSat applies key technology already demonstrated in Canada’s very successful MOST satellite.
An Eye on Asteroids
The suitcase-sized NEOSSat will orbit approximately 800 kilometres high above the Earth, searching for near-Earth asteroids that are difficult to spot using ground-based telescopes. Because of its lofty location, it is not limited by the day-night cycle, and can operate 24/7. The hundreds of images that NEOSSat will generate per day will be downloaded and analyzed by the University of Calgary’s NEOSSat science operations centre. Through NEOSSat, Canada will contribute to the international effort to catalogue the near-Earth population of asteroids producing information that will be crucial to targeting new destinations for future space exploration missions.
Space Debris Surveillance
In its other capacity, NEOSSat will monitor orbiting space objects to help minimize collisions between objects. NEOSSat will keep track of the positions of both satellites and “space junk” as part of the High Earth Orbit Surveillance System (HEOSS) project by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and will be the first microsatellite used for this purpose. One of the major advantages of using NEOSSat in this capacity is that, unlike ground-based telescopes, NEOSSat will be able to track satellites and space debris in a wide variety of locations and not be limited by geographic location, the day-night cycle, or weather. The information produced by NEOSSat will bolster Canada’s contribution to international efforts to maintain the safety of Canadian and international assets, both civilian and military.