Environment Space

NorthStar is working on a prototype Earth observation technology for tracking marine and coastal environments

NorthStar Earth & Space, a company that is building a constellation to track other satellites, has received financing from the Canadian government for a pilot Earth observation monitoring technology to tackle climate change. NorthStar, based in Montréal, said on 22 July that it is undertaking on a project with Canadian Coast Guard to closely monitor sensitive maritime and coastal areas utilising an airborne hyperspectral sensor system.

According to NorthStar’s CEO Stewart Bain, the programme builds on past airborne operations in which a hyperspectral imager was connected to planes to monitor land tracks to calibrate future satellites. The initiative will get 1.5 million Canadian dollars ($1.2 million) from Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), that is part of the country’s Department of National Defence.

It’s worth a total of 2.7 million Canadian dollars, and it’s made up of a sophisticated exchange of in-kind services between NorthStar and other partners. The initiative, which will run until the first quarter of 2024, is also supported by Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche Scientifique (INRS) Centre for Water, Land, and Environment.

NorthStar is also looking at comparable systems with partners in agriculture, pipeline monitoring, forestry, and water quality, according to Bain in an interview. The announcement on July 22 is one of the first for NorthStar’s Earth observation division, which recently signed a deal with Thales Alenia Space to develop three satellites for space situational awareness (SSA) services.

According to Bain, NorthStar chose “a couple of years ago” to decouple the necessity for both sides of company to run from same satellite, allowing one to wait for another if needed. “Putting a satellite to accomplish what we need in space situational awareness is cheaper and faster than the other component,” he said. For a limited time, NorthStar recycled an in-orbit satellite from a partner to calibrate systems for its three planned SSA spacecraft, dubbed Skylark.

The Skylarks are on schedule to deploy in first quarter of 2023, according to Bain. Under the current baseline plan, the SSA constellation will include 12 satellites by second quarter of the year 2025. NorthStar intends to deploy the first hyperspectral Earth observation satellites “a couple of years later,” while it is looking at ways to speed up the process.

“NorthStar’s overall idea is to offer information services to safeguard the environment,” Bain explained. “As a result, our mission is to enable humanity to protect our planet. As a result, we’re looking at the space and Earth environments, as well as all of these habitats, as a system of the systems. NorthStar develops a system-of-systems solution to the challenge, and information services and accurate, real-time information services are a key part of that.”

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