An Overview of Canadian Military Space in 2014 – Part 1

Arguably 2014 was a watershed year in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) military space program. Up until this year the military space program was focused on delivering capability that could be used by the Navy, Army and Air Force as joint force enablers but rarely were those capabilities tightly integrated into operations, nor were they exploited to their maximum advantage. To do so requires a cadre of highly specialized space professionals. 2014 was the year that the CAF Space Cadre began providing 24/7 support to the Commander of Joint Operations Command.

Operationalization of the CAF Space Capabilities

The maturation of the CAF’s Space Cadre can be traced back to the Department of National Defence’s (DND) decision back in 2011 to appoint a Director General (DG) Space. Up until then, the Department was satisfied to pursue space projects that either directly supported the ability of the services to conduct operations or contributed to the very important CAN-US defence partnership. For decades Canada provides both capabilities and personnel in support of NORAD’s aerospace warning mission1, which included space surveillance and missile warning.

Canada’s earliest material contribution to space operations were the Baker-Nunn telescopes at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake and CFB Chatham and personnel assigned to United States Air Force (USAF) units conducting missile warning and space surveillance. The appointment of a Director General Space indicates an evolution in the thinking within the department on the relevant importance of the mission, not only to the department but to the United States2 as well. Instrumental in the process was the increasing reliance of modern western military operations on space capabilities and the growing realization, aided by Schriever Wargames3, that an adversary would try to disrupt those capability across the entire spectrum of military operations.

CAF Space Organizational Chart. *OUTCAN (Out of Canada) Space Operations report Administratively to Deputy Commander NORAD, but support DG Space’s operational roles. Credit: Andre Dupuis/SpaceRef.

The Director General Space reports to the Vice-Chief of Defence Staff through the Chief of Force Development. Space capabilities are considered Joint enablers, serving the Navy, Army and Air Force, and are organized under the Vice-Chief’s organization. The Director General Space is a relatively small organization, with an end-goal manning of approximately 150 personnel.

He is responsible for the CAF space capabilities, from the acquisition of space systems (force development), to the management of the space cadre (force generation), to operations (force employment). The Director General, as a Brigadier General, has a somewhat unique position within the CAF structure. Force development and force generation are headquarter staff functions and report through the Chief of Force Development to the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. However, in his role as a force employer he is responsible for the operational readiness of the space cadre and the execution of space operations in support of the Commander of Joint Operations Command. Arguably few officers within the Canadian Forces have this breadth of duties4. The Director General Space draws his staff from across the Navy and Army, with the majority of staff coming from the Air Force. The cadre draws heavily from staff with previous space operations experience or with specialized engineering or acquisition experience.

The Officer Commanding Canada’s cadre of Space Operators supporting US space operations is part of the United States 14th Air Force, headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) California (CA). This Lieutenant Colonel is responsible for the approximately 35 Canadian personnel supporting the US Joint Force Component Commander Space (Vandenberg AFB, CA), Commander 21 Space Wing (Peterson AFB, CO) and Commander 533 rd Training Squadron (Vandenberg AFB, CA). In his duties as the Officer Commanding the cadre he is responsible for the administration, discipline and training of the personnel stationed across Air Force Space Command installations, including Beale AFB CA, Buckley AFB CO, Cape Cod AFB MA, Cavalier AFB ND, Clear AFB AK, Peterson AFB CO, Thule AFB Greenland and Vandenberg AFB CA. Canadian personnel are primarily employed in missile warning and space surveillance activities but several have training, standards, mission planning and headquarters responsibilities.

The Director of Space Strategy and Plans is a Lieutenant Colonel with a broad portfolio and is the primary point of contact for national and international engagements related to developing: Memorandums of Understanding, strategy, exercises and war games, coordinating space related research and development, and supports DG Space’s departmental, national and international engagement activities. The Director works closely with staff from the Associate Deputy Minister – Policy, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, the Canadian Space Agency and other government of Canada space stakeholders to develop common strategies and goals. The Director has similar duties with the department’s international space partners.

The Director of Space Operations and Readiness is responsible for the operational support provided to the Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command. As a newly established Lieutenants Colonel position, the Director manages the training, operational standards and the daily operational activities of the space watch, known as the Canadian Space Operations Centre (CANSpOC). Established with 24 personnel, the CANSpOC provides a wide range of services to the Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command, including missile warning, notification of space launches, satellite conjunction analysis (through its partnership with the US Joint Space Operations Center), re-entry predictions, reporting of satellite electronic interference, reporting of GPS accuracy, status reporting of Canadian and allied space systems that support CAF operations (Sapphire, SATCOM systems, missile warning sensors, space weather events, etc) reporting of space events, warnings and threat assessments and both deliberate and contingency planning. In addition, the CANSpOC can deploy up to two teams anywhere in the world to provide space-related operational support and advice to a deployed task Force Commander5.

Original plans for the CANSpOC also included an ability to independently conduct space surveillance tasks like satellite conjunction analysis. This capability would rollout in later years and would depend on an agreement between all stakeholders, most importantly the US Joint Space Operations Center and the Canadian Space Agency.

International Agreements

The growth in the CAF ability to conduct space operations draws directly from the international agreements it has signed over the past several years, culminating in the Combined Space Operations Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was announced publicly by the United Kingdom in May of 20146, however a formal signing of the agreement by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia did not occur until September 20147.

The effort to bring together these four allies was officially announced on Februay 23, 2012 by Gen. Robert Kehler, then Commander of US Strategic Command. In a speech to the Air Force Association, Kehler announced that US Strategic Command had entered into a “Period of Discovery” to define concepts around a Combined (multinational) Space Operations Center8. The policy driver to bring together in the United States its closest allies in enhanced space operations stems from the release of the Department of Defence and Intelligence Community’s National Security Space Strategy, which at the time, fundamentally changed the United States perspective on collaboration with allies from total reliance on US capabilities to exploring “the development of combined space doctrine with principles, goals, and objectives that, in particular, endorse and enable the collaborative sharing of space capabilities in crisis and conflict.9

Most, if not all, formal space agreements with the United States Department of Defense, fall under or are managed through a bilateral umbrella agreement between the Under Secretary of Defence for Policy and the DND’s Associate Deputy Minister (Policy), called the Space Cooperation Forum. The Forum was established in 2010 and provides a venue to harmonize, coordinate and collaborate more effectively across national security space policy, strategy and operations.

Combined Space Operations

The scope of the Combined Space Operations (CSpO) MOU, as described by Mr Doug Loverro, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Space Policy is to provide timely and accurate warning and assessment of threats, to provide support to national users, joint and coalition forces, and to protect and defend space capabilities while maintaining appropriate levels of readiness.10 It is interesting to note that in the DoD press release it emphasised the fact that CSpO is not an Operations Centre, something that Gen Kehler stated was the goal of the period of discovery11.

In essence, the agreement enables information sharing between the Canadian Space Operations Centre (CJOC, Ottawa), the United States Joint Space Operations Center (Vandenberg AFB CA), the UK Space Operations Coordination Centre (RAF High Wycombe, UK) and the Australian Space Operations Centre (Canberra, AU). Although the United States bring the preponderance of space capabilities to the table, all partners play an important role in space operations.

Next to the United States, Canada has a perhaps the most robust space operations capability. The 24/7 CANSpOC watch, Canadian manning at US space units, the Canadian Space Surveillance System (the Sapphire satellite and its associated ground systems), the contributions Polar Epsilon is making to space-based maritime domain awareness to North American security, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission planned for launch in 2018, the significant investment in military satellite communications and the continuing investment is space as outlined in the Defence Acquisition Guide12, are strong indications to our allies that the CAF recognizes the importance of space operations and are willing to invest.

The United Kingdom has for many years played an important role in military space. Since 1963 the Royal Air Force has operated a ballistic missile warning radar at Royal Air Force Station Fylingdales. This radar is a highly capable missile warning radar and has the ability to provide space situational awareness data, both of which are shared with the United States.

Australia is playing an increasingly important role in national security space, especially given China’s growing space capabilities. Australia provides a unique vantage point to monitor Chinese space activities and to leverage their geographic position Australia has acquired a radar which is capable of monitoring Chinese launches and can provide satellite tracking data, both of which will become important contributors to the CSpO13. In addition, Australia also acquired a ground-based Space Surveillance Telescope developed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to complement the coverage provided by their space surveillance radar14. Both systems will be operated at a site near Exmouth, on Australia’s west coast.

Exmouth, Australia, location of their space surveillance radar. Credit: Google Maps/SpaceRef.

Canada Leads the World in Space-Based Maritime Surveillance

The DND continues to leverage the government of Canada’s investment in MDA Corporation’s RADARSAT-2, through the Polar Epsilon ground stations. Polar Epsilon (PE) consists of two ground stations, one on the east coast near Masstown, Nova Scotia and the other on the west coast near Aldergrove, British Columbia and they are primarily designed to enhance maritime surveillance of the ocean approaches to Canada and have been fully operational since 2011.

Polar Epsilon is a world-leading system that allows for the near-real-time detection of ships in Canada’s maritime area of interest. As RADARSAT-2 flies over Canadian waters, the radar images are simultaneously transmitted to the ground stations, where they are converted into ship tracks that are then feed into the Maritime Security Operations Centres (MSOC) located in either Halifax or Victoria. The true power of the systems comes from two unique characteristics of the system: RADARSAT-2’s ability to cover very wide swaths of ocean on a single radar pass and the software suite that can very quickly analyse the radar imagery and detect the presence of ships with minimal human-in-the-loop processing. As a result, PE can display tracks on a command and control system inside the MSOC in less than 8 minutes from the time RADARSAT-2 passes overhead. This ability is unmatched by any other space-based radar system in the world.

To enhance the value of the space-based ship detections, the Department of National Defence is leveraging the data services provided by exactEarth of Cambridge, Ontario. exactEarth operates a large constellation of satellites and hosted payloads that collect Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea15. AIS is a system that allows ships to exchange information about their location, supplementing radar in the management of vessel traffic and includes information such as a ship’s unique identifier, position, course and speed. The government of Canada acquires exactEarth’s data and feeds it to the Maritime Security Operations Centres and, when paired with the RADARSAT-2-derived Polar Epsilon data, Canadian maritime security stakeholders have, by far, the most accurate and reliable maritime surveillance picture of any country in the world.

exactAIS® tracking of the Go Quest (black track) and Elsbeth III (green/yellow track) escorting the SpaceX Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship into the Atlantic Ocean for the first stage recovery scheduled for February 8, 2015 after the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the DSCOVR satellite. Credit: exactEarth.

International events had an unforeseen impact on joint project between Defence Research and Development Canada and the Canadian Space Agency aimed at improving the surveillance of Canadian waters. This past June, the long awaited launch of the Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Micro-Satellite (M3MSat), which was to be launched on a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, was cancelled as a result of the Canadian government sanctions against Russia. The launch delay represents another bump in the long road to get M3MSat in space. A contract was signed back in 2008 to build and launch the micro-satellite, with an expected launched date of 201016.

Despite the long delays, Defence officials still believe M3MSat will be one of the most effective space-based AIS receivers ever developed. In October at the International Astronautical Conference in Toronto, COM DEV, as the prime contractor for M3MSat, announced it has secured a new launch in 2015 on an Indian Polar Space Launch Vehicle. No exact date for the launch was provided however, according to Spaceflight Now, there are two PSLV launches scheduled in 2015, one in March, the other in May17.

Part 2 is now available and includes; The Future of Space-Based Maritime Surveillance; Bringing Satellite Imagery to the Soldier in the Field; Surveillance of Space; Satellite Communications and a look at 2015.

By Andre Dupuis for SpaceRef.

Mr. Dupuis is the President of Space Strategies Consulting Ltd. (SSCL) and a former Director of Space Requirements, Department of National Defence.

3., page 22.
4. This is equally true of DG Cyber. The Commander of Special Operations Command is the best example within the Canadian Armed Forces of an organization with a robust mission that includes force development, force generation and force employment activities.
7. DND New release, 22 September 2014.
8. SpaceNews article 24 February 2012.
9. US National Security Space Strategy, Unclassified Summary, January 2011. Page 9.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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