The Sapphire satellite has reached full operational capability. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C., which developed the satellite for National Defence, announced yesterday that Sapphire had completed its commissioning and had now transitioned into operations “as a contributing sensor to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.”

With the declaration of full operational capability, Sapphire now begins a five-year operational phase.

The satellite is DND’s first dedicated operational military satellite, able to track man-made space objects in Earth’s orbit between 6,000 and 40,000 km in altitude. In contributing data to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, the satellite provides Canada with an important seat at the table. In a recent interview with Vanguard, MGen Mike Day, Chief of Force Development, noted that Sapphire’s contribution to space situational awareness allows Canada to “get data back tenfold.”

Earlier in the week, MDA also announced a US$4.9 million contract with the US. Air Force to continue operational support and further enhance the flight path safety system that aids the design of airport approach and departure flight paths. The original flight path safety system developed by MDA for USAF has been deployed worldwide since 2004, focused on the design of flight paths for aircraft fitted with ground-based navigation equipment.