TAMPA, Florida – NorthStar Earth & Space, a startup developing a constellation for tracking other satellites, has secured funding from the Canadian government for a prototype Earth observation monitoring system to fight climate change.
Montreal-based NorthStar said on July 22 that it was working with the Canadian Coast Guard on the project, using an airborne hyperspectral sensor system to monitor sensitive marine and coastal environments.
The initiative builds on airborne missions that NorthStar has already conducted, according to startup CEO Stewart Bain, where a hyperspectral imager was attached to the plane to monitor land runways in order to calibrate its future satellites.
Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC), part of the country’s Department of National Defense, is investing C $ 1.5 million ($ 1.2 million) in the project.
It is worth C $ 2.7 million in total, including a complex exchange of in-kind services from NorthStar and other partners.
The Water, Territory and Environment Center of the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS) of Quebec also supports the project, which will continue until the first quarter of 2024.
Bain said in an interview that NorthStar is also considering similar systems with partners he declined to disclose in pipeline, agriculture, forestry and water quality monitoring.
The July 22 announcement is one of the first for the Earth Observation side of NorthStar, which recently contracted Thales Alenia Space build three satellites to provide spatial situational awareness (SSA) services.
NorthStar decided “a few years ago” to decouple the need for both sides of the business to operate from the same satellite, Bain said, leaving one to wait for the other if necessary.
“It’s cheaper and faster to put a satellite to do what we need to do in situational awareness than for the other component,” he said.
NorthStar has reused a partner’s orbiting satellite for some time to calibrate the systems that its next three SSA spacecraft, called Skylark, will use.
Bain said the Skylarks are on track to be ready for a Q1 2023 launch.
The SSA constellation aims to reach 12 satellites by the second quarter of 2025 as part of its current baseline.
NorthStar plans to launch the first hyperspectral satellites for Earth observation “a few years later”, although he is looking for ways to speed up deployment.
“NorthStar’s philosophy at all levels is to sell information services to protect the environment,” Bain said.
“Hence our objective, which is to give humanity the means to preserve our planet. So we look at the space environment and the terrestrial environment, and all of these environments, as a system of systems.
“NorthStar is developing a system of systems solution to the problem, much of which consists of accurate, real-time information and information services. “