Com Dev senior mechanical technologist Roman Gawlik configures M3MSat on a test fixture for antenna pattern testing in the large anechoic chamber at the Canadian Space Agency's David Florida Laboratory. M3MSat is a joint project funded by Defence Research and Development Canada DRDC and the Canadian Space Agency. ( Credit: DRDC)

VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian government will put a maritime monitoring microsatellite into orbit in June on an Indian rocket, two years after it scuttled an earlier launch because of its sanctions against Russia.

The Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat), built by Honeywell’s Com Dev but owned by Canada’s Department of National Defence, had been scheduled for launch on board a Russian rocket in June 2014.

But after Russia annexed the Crimea and supported separatists in that part of Ukraine, the Canadian government halted the launch.

It was then rescheduled for a September 2015 launch on board an Indian rocket but that too was delayed. The Canadian Space Agency has announced it has secured a June launch date for the satellite, although no specific date has been released.

Canadian defense officials say they have been using other space-derived data in their monitoring of maritime traffic but proceeding with the testing of the automatic identification system (AIS) systems on board the microsat is still important.

Department of National Defence spokeswoman Dominique Tessier said the M3MSat mission will demonstrate an advanced AIS payload with a new antenna that hopes to produce better signal identification of vessels at sea, particularly those in high maritime traffic regions.

In addition, the Canadian Space Agency is testing a new payload called “Low Data Rate Service” which will ensure data continuity when AIS receivers cannot provide live coverage, explained Tessier. “The instrument will enable the collection of information on marine traffic in remote areas where there is no streaming infrastructure, and record the passage of boats,” she said.

The microsatellite will also carry a new system, the Dielectric Deep Charge Monitor, which was developed for the Canadian Space Agency.  The device will serve to measure static energy accumulated in satellites’ electronics, Tessier said. “The information it provides could help us improve the way we monitor the health and safety ‎of satellites and ultimately, allow us to extend the lifetime of satellites in orbit,” she noted.

An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will put M3MSat into orbit.

Credit: Credit: Honeywell (Formerly Com Dev)
Credit: Credit: Honeywell ‘s Com Dev International
Credit: Credit: Honeywell ‘s Com Dev International

Canadian space analyst Chuck Black said because of the delays in launching the microsat the technology on board was developed several years ago. But he noted that it is still worthwhile to test such capabilities.

In June of 2008, Com Dev announced that it had won a $8.6 million contract from the Canadian government to build M3MSat. At the time, the company said the satellite was expected to be launched in 2010.

The M3MSat is owned by Defence Research and Development Canada, the science agency for the country’s defense department. It will be operated by the Canadian Space Agency.

M3MSat will provide maritime surveillance and work in conjunction with another Canadian earth observation spacecraft, Radarsat-2.  After the launch, M3MSat will orbit the Earth from pole to pole at an altitude of 505 kilometers. It will travel over Canadian waters approximately ten times a day.

The Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will also carry another Canadian satellite from GHGSat Inc. of Montreal.

GHGSat will test a new way to measure greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities, according to the Canadian Space Agency, which helped fund the spacecraft.

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.