Canada’s Military Space Policy To Focus on Recon and Communications

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VICTORIA, British Columbia — Canada’s new military space strategy will focus on communications as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), with an emphasis on Arctic and maritime security.

The strategy is in its final stages of approval at the Department of National Defence, but military and industry sources say it will emphasize areas where Canada is already conducting research or has projects under way.

The department did not comment on when the strategy would be released or what it contains.

Canada has not developed a military space strategy since 1998. The new policy would provide the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence with guidance on space matters, as well as outline collaboration with other Canadian government departments, allies and industry.

The goals of the strategy would be to make better use of research and development, strengthen Canada’s space infrastructure and bolster its industrial capability.

It also would identify which space systems are essential to Canadian Forces operations.

In November, Air Force Col. Andre Dupuis, head of the Directorate of Space Development, told the Canadian Space Summit conference in Ottawa that the new policy will recognize “space as an operational environment.”

Kevin Shortt, president of the Canadian Space Society, which sponsored the summit, said according to the briefings he has received from the military, the strategy follows a November 2009 outline produced by the Directorate of Space Development.

“They’re building on the strengths they have in areas such as surveillance and communications,” Shortt said. “I think it’s a smart move, and they are quite clear in what they want from space.”

The strategy would deliver a space ISR program and a space satellite communications program, among other capabilities, according to the 19-page November 2009 document, titled “Canadian Defence Space Program.”

Military sources said that document is akin to a draft of the space strategy.

The ISR portion of the strategy is based on Canada’s synthetic aperture radar satellites, which include Radarsat 1 and 2 as well as a follow-on Radarsat Constellation Mission, expected in 2014 or 2015, according to Dupuis and the space program document.

The military’s Polar Epsilon project includes construction of two satellite reception stations on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts to receive Radarsat surveillance information for support of maritime operations.

Those ground stations are expected to be operational sometime this year.

Polar Epsilon 2 is a new military project designed to use information from the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM). Polar Epsilon 2 will design and integrate an automatic identification system for vessels into the RCM satellites. That would allow the Canadian Forces to track ships heading toward the country’s coasts.

The strategy also outlines the Joint Space Support Program (JSSP), expected to reach initial operating capability by October. Full operating capability will be in place by February 2012, Defence Department officials said.

JSSP would include direct in-theater download of commercial satellite imagery via a ground receiver terminal for use in mission planning, tactical reconnaissance, target acquisition and battle damage assessment. That portion of the project is called Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness.

The system would consist of a deployable mobile antenna, likely on a towed trailer and capable of being transported in a C-130 Hercules or similar aircraft, officers and industry representatives said. The system would be self-contained and include imagery processing equipment.

The satellite communications portion of the new space strategy would include a protected milsatcom system expected sometime next year; a wideband communications project in 2014, which would place small payloads on commercial satellites; and a new Polar Communications and Weather satellite sometime after 2016.

That Canadian polar mission would see the launch of two optical satellites in a highly elliptical orbit in 2016 or 2017 to provide continuous communication services and weather observation of the country’s northern regions.

The spacecraft are seen as key to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty efforts, providing support for military operations, as well as for civilian government agencies.

The aim of the program, also known as PCW, is to provide high-data-rate communications throughout the north, as well as near-instant weather information for the region.

In the last several years, the Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized expanding Canada’s presence in the Arctic.

As part of a multibillion-dollar program for the country’s north, Harper has promised his government will construct a new fleet of Arctic patrol ships and a new icebreaker, and establish an Arctic training base for the Canadian Forces.

Harper has cited the presence of oil, gas and minerals in the country’s Arctic region as one reason for the increased emphasis on a government presence in the north. He said those resources are critical to Canada’s economic growth.