Vanguard Magazine

Dec/Jan 2013

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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S SPACE Dr. James fergusson is the director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. SAPPHIRE Canada's first dedicated military satellite 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. The significance of Sapphire is threefold. First, it represents Canada's first dedicated military satellite, even though a private contractor will fly it, and it can also serve civil science functions. Prior to Sapphire, Canada's contribution to military space was limited to the provision of personnel to various components of the U.S. military space infrastructure in relation to the NORAD early warning mission. In addition, Canada contributed to the U.S. SSN by providing two ground-based Baker-Nunn cameras, located at Cold Lake, Alberta and St. Margaret's Bay, New Brunswick until their retirement in 1981 and 1992, respectively. Thus, Sapphire is milestone for Canada's engagement in military space. Second, Sapphire provides a major contribution to the SSN as space continues to grow in strategic significance. The ability to monitor objects in space is essential to NORAD's early warning mission of a ballistic missile attack on North America. This mission requires the capacity to track objects in space to differentiate between objects that may be de-orbiting for a variety of reasons and ballistic missile warheads, thereby avoiding potential dangerous assessment errors. This capacity continues to increase in importance as space becomes more and more congested, particularly in the strategically essential GEO orbits. Moreover, the importance of precise observations of objects in GEO will grow with the development of on-orbit servicing systems in the near future. Finally, Sapphire is key to Canada's longstanding strategy of ensuring a binational, rather than national approach to the defence of North America via NORAD. During the Cold War, this was largely assured because Canadian real estate was essential to the defence of North America from the Soviet air-breathing threat. Since then, Photo: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates 22 DECEMBER 2012/JANUARY 2013

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