Canada and the ENVISAT Program

ENVISAT Satellite Image

(Credit: ESA)

ENVISAT Image

Launch: March 1, 2002
Status: Active

Maintaining Canada’s Niche in Remote Sensing from Space

Much like Canada, the European Space Agency has been using satellites to "keep an eye" on the Earth’s environment for almost a decade.

Through the Co-operation Agreement between the Government of Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA), Canada chose to participate in the ENVISAT environmental satellite program. Canada’s co-operation with ESA provides an ideal platform for the sharing of knowledge and expertise and the promotion of the use of advanced specialized technologies developed by Canadian space companies. It also offers unique opportunities to participate directly in select ESA programs, activities and decision-making, like the ENVISAT program.

ENVISAT will complement RADARSAT-1 and assure data continuity between RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2. The satellite has an important role in the preparation for RADARSAT-2 but also for future Canadian missions, such as a hyperspectral sensor mission. ENVISAT data will help develop Canadian knowledge and expertise, keeping Canada at the forefront of remote sensing from space.

ENVISAT Illustration
(Photo: ESA)

ENVISAT is a multidisciplinary mission continuing and extending the science and application objectives of the ERS-1 and 2 missions. The number and quality of instruments included with the Polar Platform allow for an unprecedented wealth of data to be brought to European and Canadian users. As such ENVISAT is part of coherent European and Canadian Earth Observation (EO) programs ensuring the long-term provision of continuous data sets, essential for addressing environmental and climatological issues, as well as aiming at the growth of applications and commercial use of EO data.

Overview of ENVISAT’s mission

The earth’s ocean, the land with its plant and animal life, the ice covered regions (cryosphere) and all levels of the atmosphere (troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere) are all parts of an interconnected system – the Earth system. A change in any one part affects what happens elsewhere in the system.

ENVISAT carries instruments to collect information that will help scientists to understand each part of the Earth system and to predict how changes in one part will affect others.

Many of ENVISAT’s instruments are a development of those that flew on the ESA’s Earth-observing missions of the 1990s (ERS-1 and -2). This means that scientists have observations stretching back over 10 years. It will be possible, therefore, to make comparisons between conditions observed during ENVISAT’s lifetime and those recorded during the past 10 years.

Why does ENVISAT matter?

  • How fast are the ice caps melting?
  • What is the state of the rain forests?
  • What is the state of the El Niño current?
  • What concentrations of "Greenhouse" gases are to be found in the atmosphere?
  • Is the ozone hole growing?

ENVISAT will help to answer questions important for the future of all humanity. Scientists and policy makers need the kind of data that ENVISAT and other Earth-observing satellites collect so that they can make informed decisions about how to protect earth’s environment.

State-of-the-Art Research

As part of ESA’s data policy to maximize the beneficial use of data from ENVISAT and to stimulate a balanced development of scientific, public and commercial use of data, ESA launched an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the use of ENVISAT data. Canada is well represented in the group of chosen projects within the ESA AO. Canadian universities, government departments and industries submitted a wide range of project subjects that were accepted. Projects range from coastal zones and oceans, ice monitoring, geology, disaster management and calibration and validation.

Through Canada’s participation in the design, construction and deployment of ESA’s ENVISAT, the Canadian Space Agency is building Canadian knowledge and expertise, rewarding Canadian innovation with opportunity and strengthening Canada’s economy by leading the world in Earth Observation.