High Level Area Wildfire Threatens Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link to Inuvik Ground Stations

European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellite image of the High Level, Alberta wildfire. Credit: European Union.

The Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link that provides a vital high-speed communication to Inuvik and which went operational a year ago, is now threatened at its southern terminus in High Level, Alberta by the Chuckegg Creek wildfire.

The town of High Level began evacuation of residents on May 20.

The northern terminus for the fibre link is in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, the home of both the privately owned Canadian Satellite Ground Station Inuvik and the government owned Inuvik Satellite Station Facility.

The fibre link is an important communication link for residents and business in Inuvik. According to the latest update by the Alberta government earlier this morning, there are two active wildfires in the High Level Forest Area and both are out of control.

Fire activity on the north end of the Chuckegg Creek fire, May 28, 2019.
Fire activity on the north end of the Chuckegg Creek fire, May 28, 2019. Credit: Government of Alberta.

Media reports from last evening, including one from Global News that states the Chuckegg Creek fire “is about three kilometres southwest of High Level, where crews have been creating a fire break to protect the town.” That same reports quotes Alberta Wildfire information officer Victoria Ostendorf as saying yesterday afternoon “we are still experiencing the main area of spread away from the town of High Level.”

The two ground station facilities service a variety of customers, both commercial and government. Notably, the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility will be used by the government owned RADARSAT Constellation Mission which is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on June 11. The RADARSAT Constellation Mission is a trio of next-generation Earth observation satellites whose mission includes maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring.

The Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link provides very fast data movement from the ground stations in Inuvik to customers down south. Should the southern terminus of the fibre link in High Level be damaged or destroyed, data from the ground stations will use other links to move the data, though at slower speeds.

SpaceQ spoke with Steve Iris, the Canadian Space Agency mission manager for the RADARSAT Constellation Mission who said while the flow of data would be slowed down, the agency has other ground station facilities where they could access the data and that the overall effect would be limited. It should also be noted that the RADARSAT Constellation Mission will still need to be commissioned after launch and won’t go into full service until this fall.

SpaceQ attempted to contact the private Canadian Satellite Ground Station Inuvik for a comment but did not hear back in time for publication. As this story develops SpaceQ will provide updates.

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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