Jeffrey LewisCanadian Space Surveillance

The National Post reports that the Canadian Department of National Defence is conducting a $65-million program, Project sapphire, to join the United States Space Surveillance Network. Canada will launch “a satellite with an optical sensor to look at objects in deep space — approximately 6,000 kilometres to 40,000 kilometres from Earth,” according the director of the Canadian Forces surveillance of space project. The satellite will be launched “sometime between 2008 and 2010.”

I am trying to finish an article for the journal Astropolitics on the the importance of a cooperative monitoring in outer space; now I have more work to do. During the UNIDIR/DFAIT workshop on outer space security in March, several of us were talking about how important multilateral collaboration in tracking space objects would become. CDI/’s Theresa Hitchens makes the case:

This is good news — especially considering that the Air Force may in the future restrict orbital data more tightly than they do now. The international community needs to build multinational or at least independent space surveillance capabilities in the future, not just for debris monitoring/collision avoidance but also for possible arms control purposes as more countries weigh the option of weapons in space.

Looks like the Canadians were one step ahead of us.

As for the “defence analyst with the left-wing think tank the Polaris Institute” quoted by the Post trashing the project as a “potentially key element of the U.S. ballistic missile shield”, I can only say: calm down. The possible contribution of the satellite to ABM and ASAT missions is meager, especially when weighed against the value from multilateral collaboration in tracking space objects.