ARCHIVED - Joint Space Support Project – Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness System

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Backgrounder / November 2, 2011 / Project number: BG–11.026

In the Speech from the Throne on March 3, 2010, then-Governor General Michaëlle Jean noted the commitment of the Government of Canada to fueling Canadian innovation in high-tech industries, including the peaceful development of space. “Canada has been a space-faring nation for nearly 50 years,” she stated. “Our Government will extend support for advanced research, development and prototyping of new space-based technologies, especially in support of Arctic sovereignty.” The implementation of the Canadian Forces’ Joint Space Support Project (JSSP) is one way in which Canada is furthering these goals.

The goal of the JSSP is to enhance the Canadian Forces’ access to dependable, timely and accurate surveillance information within their deployed areas of interest. The initial phase of the acquisition of one of two space-related capabilities designed to meet this requirement, the Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness (URSA) system, was launched on November 2, 2011, with a $31.1-million contract investment. The contract for the URSA system was awarded following a competitive process which concluded on October 27, 2011. Delivery of the first of two URSA systems is expected by February 2013. A contract for in-service support has not been awarded at this time.

The URSA system is a mobile, deployable system that will allow the download of satellite imagery directly from commercial satellites, including Canada’s Radarsat-2, as they pass over areas of interest, providing up-to-date mapping and surveillance of operational theatres. This capability is meant to support deployed commanders in mission planning and in making tactical decisions where time is crucial. The Canadian Forces will be acquiring two URSA systems, one meant for international deployments and the other for domestic operations and training. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, Ltd. will be the provider of these systems.

Because the high-resolution imagery obtained by the URSA Systems will be unclassified, these images can be shared with other civilian agencies to assist in disaster relief, security, or other government activities requiring access to timely information derived from space. These images will also be timely, as the URSA systems will be capable of downloading imagery from an overhead satellite in approximately 30 minutes, allowing commanders to make decisions and plan operations with the most up-to-date information available. Moreover, the global and wide-area surveillance aspect of this capability will allow for a more cost-effective utilization of other sensor resources, such as vehicle patrols or unmanned aerial vehicles.

The JSSP will continue to work to achieve the second key capability of its mandate, space situational awareness (SSA), which will provide deployed Canadian Forces elements with information on threats posed by space objects to critical Canadian interests, and operational planning.

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