Emergency and disaster management

Canadian satellites

Canadian Communications Satellites

Canadian Communications Satellites (since 1972)
All Canadian communications satellites are commercial. The Canadian-based company Telesat is the main provider for Canadian government and corporate users. Its fleet includes Anik F2 (2004), which provides wireless broadband Internet connections in the most remote regions of Canada.


SCISAT (2003)
This small Canadian satellite monitors ozone in the stratosphere and helps scientists improve their understanding of ozone depletion, with a special emphasis on the changes occurring over Canada and in the Arctic.


RADARSAT-2 (2007)
Canada's next-generation commercial radar satellite enhances marine surveillance, ice monitoring, disaster management, environmental monitoring, resource management and mapping in Canada and around the world.


This hybrid small satellite gathers information to better understand the science of space weather, while demonstrating high-speed communications concepts through the use of space technologies.


NEOSSat (2013)
The world's first space telescope dedicated to detecting and tracking asteroids. It also sweeps the skies in search of satellites and space debris.


Sapphire (2013)
Canada's first operational military satellite monitors thousands of pieces of space debris, detects man-made objects in orbit, and provides data to the U.S.-led Space Surveillance Network dedicated to preventing collisions in space.


M3MSat (2016)
A microsatellite designed to test new technologies in space to advance Canada's ability to detect ships and manage marine traffic and improve the way we monitor the health and safety of satellites in orbit.


RCM (2018)
The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) will build on the success of previous RADARSAT missions. The three satellites will provide daily revisits of Canada's lands and oceans for maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring.

International satellites with Canadian participation


Cospas-Sarsat (since 1982)
The Department of National Defence (DND) has long provided payloads to support Cospas-Sarsat in low-Earth orbit (LEO). DND is currently developing new payloads that aim to dramatically decrease search time and save more lives.


Terra (NASA, 1999)
Canada's MOPITT is one of five instruments on Terra. It contributes to the study of environmental pollution by continuously scanning the atmosphere to gather long-term measurements of global carbon monoxide levels.


Odin (Sweden, 2001)
Canada's Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imaging System (OSIRIS) aboard Odin measures concentrations of ozone, aerosols and nitrogen dioxide in the upper atmosphere.


CloudSat (NASA, 2006)
This satellite gathers data on the structure, frequency and volume of clouds to help improve our understanding of how they influence weather. Canada has been participating since 1998 and collaborates in related scientific work.


This mission aims to identify the physical mechanism that leads to the explosive release of solar energy in substorms. Canadian scientists are involved in this mission by providing real-time monitoring of the visible consequences of substorms: the aurora borealis.


SMOS (ESA, 2009)
The purpose of this mission is to improve our understanding of the Earth's water cycle by mapping sea surface salinity and monitoring soil moisture on a global scale. SMOS also contributes to the study of the cryosphere. Canada has invested in this mission and supports scientific exploitation of its data.


Swarm (ESA, 2013)
By measuring the Earth's magnetic field from space, Swarm aims to separate the measured field according to its different sources: the Earth's core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere. This information will help scientists better understand how the core-generated magnetic field is evolving. Canada's space sector has contributed technology to the mission, and our scientists have access to its data.


Sentinel (ESA, 2014)
A family of six next-generation missions of the Copernicus program that will focus on different aspects of Earth observation. Canada is participating under the Canada/ESA Cooperation Agreement, and Canadian users benefit from simplified access to Sentinel data through a dedicated Data Hub.


Credit: NASA/JPL-

SMAP (NASA, 2015)
The purpose of this mission is to map soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state globally. SMAP's instruments measure conditions in the top 5 cm of soil. This data can be very useful, particularly for agriculture. Canada is collaborating in the scientific aspect of the mission.


EarthCARE (ESA/JAXA, 2019)
EarthCARE will deliver unprecedented data to scientists studying clouds, aerosols and radiation at accuracy levels that will significantly improve our understanding of these highly variable elements. Canada is contributing technology to the mission and will participate actively in science activities leading up to and during the mission.


SWOT (NASA, 2020)
This mission will survey 90% of the Earth's lakes, rivers and oceans using altimetry technology to provide a comprehensive picture of the world's oceans and freshwater bodies. Canada is contributing technology and will be an equal partner in the mission's science working group.

International satellites – Accessible data and services

Global navigation satellite systems

Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) provide positioning, navigation and timing information. Canadians benefit particularly from the use of the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS). Other systems include the European Union's Galileo, Russia's GLONASS and China's COMPASS (Beidou).

Earth observation satellite systems

Earth observation satellite systems are critical for environmental monitoring, meteorology, disaster response, agriculture and many other applications that can improve life on Earth. A number of programs and technologies exist worldwide. Canada benefits from increasingly open access to data from many of these systems.

Telecommunications satellite systems

Telecommunication satellite systems from around the world enhance access to the advanced services needed to compete in the global knowledge economy.

Emergency and disaster management banner

Playing a critical role in emergency situations

Credits: Boat: Canadian Coast Guard; helicopter: Royal Canadian Air Force, Master Corporal Rick Ayer

Did you know?

  • 1,500 Canadians have been saved with Cospas-Sarsat since 1982.
  • Around 18,000 people are helped and 2,200 lives are saved in Canada each year by Coast Guards using space technologies.

By providing accurate and timely information and connecting emergency response teams, satellites play a critical role supporting first responders and search and rescue teams in emergency situations.

First responders use navigation systems to locate and monitor individuals or identify the origin of a 911 emergency call. They can also use satellite imagery to better understand the extent of a situation.

Search and Rescue teams use satellites to find and rescue people in distress. The international Satellite System for Search and Rescue (Cospas-Sarsat) supports the detection and location of emergency beacons activated by aircraft, ships and backcountry hikers in distress. Globally, about five people are rescued each day by teams dependent on this system.

Assisting planning and relief efforts for major disasters

Credits: Photo: Public Safety Canada, Amélie Morin; map: Canadian Space Agency, Public Safety Canada and Effigis Géo-Solutions. RADARSAT-2 Data and Product © MDA (2012). All rights reserved. RADARSAT is an official mark of the CSA. EO-1/ALI data courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Disasters such as earthquakes, floods, wildfires and oil spills can be devastating. From predicting some disasters before they occur to providing critical information and services to responders on the ground, satellites are essential to effective planning and relief operations.

Images taken from space can provide an overall picture of the damage and show the areas that may be difficult to access because of the disaster. Satellites also ensure that rescue teams are connected (even when ground communications networks are down), making interactions on logistics possible and supporting telemedicine activities.

Pooling international resources to support disaster management

Established in 2000, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is a joint effort to put space technology at the service of rescue and emergency responders in the event of a major disaster. When the Charter is activated, its members make satellite images of devastated regions available to support relief efforts. Armed quickly with reliable and accurate information, response teams are better equipped to save lives and limit damage to property, infrastructure and the environment. The Canadian Space Agency is a founding member of the Charter.