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Canada launches 2 satellites aboard Indian rocket

OTTAWA, Feb. 26 — Canada' s first military satellite and a Canadian space telescope considered the world' s first space object-tracking experimental microsatellite were among seven satellites launched Monday from Sriharikota, India aboard a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket.

Sapphire, the Canadian military' s space-based electro-optical sensor that weighs about 150 kilograms and is about the size of a dishwasher, will track man-made space objects about 800 kilometres above Earth to improve what the Department of National Defence here refers to as "space situational awareness."

Beginning in July, Sapphire satellite data will contribute to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN), which catalogues and tracks more than 22,000 man-made objects larger than 10 centimetres in space.

Sapphire will assist both Canada and the United States in detecting and avoiding collision of the growing number of space debris orbiting Earth, and specifically help Canada reduce the risk of loss of telecommunications, weather and Earth-observation satellites, and global positioning systems.

Joining Sapphire for the rocket ride Monday was Canada' s Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat), a space telescope that will detect and track space objects, debris, other satellites and, for the first time, potentially dangerous asteroids.

Dubbed Canada' s "Sentinel in the Sky," the suitcase-sized NEOSSat will orbit about 800 km above Earth searching day and night for near-Earth or Aten asteroids and space objects difficult to detect using ground-based telescopes bound by geography and often restricted by the day-night cycle and weather.

Circling the globe every 100 minutes, the microsatellite will, on a daily basis, generate hundreds of images that will be downloaded and analyzed by a science facility at the University of Calgary, and be used to compile an international catalogue of asteroids critical to identifying new destinations for future space exploration missions, according to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that tested NEOSSat prior to its launch.

The satellite will also monitor orbiting space objects to help minimize collisions between them, and track the positions of both satellites and so-called space junk as part of Canada' s High Earth Orbit Surveillance System project.

Two other satellites developed in Canada were also launched Monday from India.

Each about the size and weight of a car battery, the cube-shaped nano-satellites will study the brightest stars in the night sky and help astronomers better understand those most luminous stars, including massive blue stars that are the precursors to supernova explosions, according to a CSA backgrounder. (PNA/Xinhua)

HBC/EBP

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