VICTORIA, British Columbia – Canada’s Department of National Defence is moving ahead with a new microsatellite project for space domain awareness. 

The Redwing satellite will monitor objects in congested orbits and will be able to record and transmit tracking data from anywhere in its orbit, according to the department.

Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand announced March 9 that a contract worth $15.8 million Canadian dollars ($11.3 million) has been awarded to Magellan Aerospace of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Magellan is the prime contractor who will lead a team to design, build and operate the Redwing microsatellite hosting a suite of optical sensors.

“It is critical that we are aware of what’s happening in the space domain, so that we can monitor adversaries, support our allies, and safeguard our interests,” Anand told retired and serving military officers at the Conference of Defence Associations in Ottawa. “When launched in late 2026, this research and development satellite system will identify and help to reduce risks to Canada’s space infrastructure from space debris and human-caused interference.”

Redwing will transmit its information to ground stations that will be located in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and Happy Valley Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The design phase is expected to be complete by fall 2024 with the microsatellite built and tested by 2026. 

Redwing will operate from 2027 to 2033.

The research and development microsatellite will perform space domain awareness observations of Earth-orbiting space objects in low-earth orbit, geosynchronous orbit  and near Cislunar altitudes, according to National Defence.

Redwing will use autonomous tracking algorithms to monitor space objects performing unexpected maneuvers, said department spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier.

The department’s defense scientist will direct the satellite operations with Royal Canadian Air Force  support through 3 Canadian Space Division. Canadian military members will be involved in Redwing satellite orbital changes to develop proficiency in safe space operations, such as altitude station keeping, and space debris avoidance, Le Bouthillier added.

Magellan’s Winnipeg facility has already produced the platforms, or buses, for a variety of spacecraft including CASSIOPE and the RADARSAT Constellation Mission satellite.

David Pugliese covers space policy and developments in the space industry in Canada. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and a degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.