In a deal worth $11.7 million over 5 years MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) will provide the Department of National Defence (DND) with operation and maintenance support for Canada’s Sapphire Satellite System which was developed and built by MDA.
The Sapphire System will provide space situational awareness of objects in deep space, from 6,000 to 40,000 km from earth and provide timely relevant and accurate tracking data on Earth-orbiting objects in space.
The Sapphire System will be the largest part of the Canadian Space Surveillance System, and will become the newest space-based sensor of the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.
MDA’s responsibilities under the contract will include relaying assigned taskings from the DND to the satellite, processing the collected information, and sending the data to the Sensor System Operations Centre (SSOC) operated by DND at the 22 Wing in North Bay, Ontario. Once the processed data is received the SSOC will correlate, identify, archive and transmit the information to the United States’ Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC).
Sapphire was to have launched later this year by an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle #20 (PSLV-20), however India’s launch manifest is behind schedule. At this time sources in India have indicated to SpaceRef that Sapphire will not launch until the second quarter of 2012 and could be pushed back further.
However before Sapphire’s launch on PSLV-20, India must first launch PSLV-16, PSLV-17, PSLV-18 and PSLV-19. India’s PSLV launches are coordinated by the Antrix Corporation who have stated they could launch every two months. However in reality the fastest turnaround they’ve had has been three months between launches and only once have they launched three PLSV launches in one year.
Along with Sapphire Canada’s NEOSSat and CanX-3A/UniBRITE nanosatellite will be launched on PSLV-20.