Canada was the third country, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to design and build its own satellite. The Alouette-1 satellite was launched on September 29, 1962 with the mission of studying the ionosphere (the uppermost part of the atmosphere) for one year. It ended up continuing its mission for 10 years, producing more than one million images. That success was followed by the Alouette-2 in 1965, and two joint Canada-U.S. satellites called ISIS 1 and ISIS 2, launched in 1969 and 1971 to study the ionosphere and the Northern Lights.
Since then, Canada has continued to make important contributions to space-based research about the earth and its atmosphere, both by launching its own satellites and contributing to international missions. SCISAT, launched in 2003, is a Canadian mission currently studying the ozone layer using sensitive spectroscopic measurements. Canadian scientists also contributed ultraviolet imagers to the Swedish Viking and Freja satellites in 1986 and 1992, a gas spectroscopy system to measure carbon monoxide for NASA’s Terra satellite in 1999, a key radar system for NASA’s CloudSat mission to take three-dimensional images of clouds in 2006, and a host of other important tools.
This slideshow illustrates Canada’s history of designing and building its own research satellites. Images include the Allouette satellite from 1962, SCISAT from 2003, RADARSAT-1 from 1995, RADARSAT-2 from 2007, the RADARSAT Constellation set for launch beginning in 2012, and a map illustrating the daily coverage the latter will provide of Canada.