Satellites Space

NorthStar is working on a model Earth observation system for tracking marine and coastal environments

NorthStar Earth & Space, a company that is building a constellation to track other satellites, has received financing from the Canadian government for a pilot Earth observation monitoring program to tackle climate change. NorthStar, based in Montréal, said on July 22 that it is working on a project with the Canadian Coast Guard to monitor sensitive maritime and coastal areas utilizing an airborne hyperspectral sensor system. According to NorthStar’s CEO Stewart Bain, the program builds on past airborne operations in which the hyperspectral imager was connected to planes to monitor land tracks to calibrate future satellites.

The project will get 1.5 million Canadian dollars ($1.2 million) from Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), which is part of the country’s Department of National Defence. It’s worth a total of 2.7 million Canadian dollars, and it’s made up of a sophisticated exchange of in-kind services between NorthStar and other partners. The initiative, which will run until the first quarter of 2024, is also supported by Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche Scientifique (INRS) Centre for Water, Land, and Environment. According to Bain in an interview, NorthStar is also looking at comparable systems with partners in agriculture, forestry, pipeline monitoring, and water quality.

The announcement on July 22 is one of the first for NorthStar’s Earth observation division, which recently signed a deal with Thales Alenia Space to develop three satellites for SSA (space situational awareness) services. According to Bain, NorthStar chose “several years later” to decouple the necessity for both sides of the organization to operate from the same satellite, allowing one to wait for the other if needed. “Putting a satellite to accomplish what we need in the space situational awareness is cheaper and faster than the other factor,” he said. For a limited time, NorthStar recycled an in-orbit satellite from a partner to calibrate systems for its three planned SSA spacecraft, dubbed Skylark.

According to Bain, the Skylarks are on schedule to launch during the first quarter of the year 2023. Under the current baseline plan, the SSA constellation will include 12 satellites by the 2nd quarter of 2025. NorthStar intends to deploy the first hyperspectral Earth observation satellites “a couple of years later” while exploring ways to speed up the process. “NorthStar’s overall idea is to market information services to safeguard the environment,” Bain explained.

“As a result, our mission is to enable humanity to protect our planet. As a result, we’re looking at the space and Earth environments, as well as all of these habitats, as a system of systems. NorthStar creates a system-of-systems answer to the challenge, and information services and accurate, real-time information services are a key part of that.”

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Andrzej Kowalski