23 May 2023 News

Canada to develop wildfire monitoring mission

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded a contract to Spire Global, Inc. subsidiary ExactEarth to deliver preparatory work for the implementation phases of a wildfire monitoring satellite.

The contract is the initial step towards CSA’s planned WildFireSat mission, which aims to monitor all active wildfires in Canada from space on a daily basis to support wildfire management, provide Canadians with more precise information on smoke and air quality conditions, and more accurately measure the carbon emitted by wildfires.

Spire will partner with Ororatech, the global industry leader in space-based thermal intelligence, for the contract. The two firms have previously worked together on the successful launch of Ororatech’s wildfire detection and monitoring mission on a Spire satellite in 2022.

Global wildfire losses from 2018-2022 totalled $69 billion, according to Munich Re, and Canada spends around a billion dollars a year fighting wildfires, with indirect costs estimated to be several times higher due to resulting property destruction, infrastructure damage, evacuations, health-related expenses and wider economic losses across business sectors such as forestry, energy and tourism.

In 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfire alone led to a total cost of around $9 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history. The mission will benefit the country’s forestry industry, wildfire managers, emergency services and Canadian communities, all of which are frequently impacted by wildfires.

OroraTech created the first global wildfire intelligence service for commercial and institutional customers. OroraTech partnered with Spire Space Services to launch its first payloads, a thermal infrared camera and data processing unit, on a Spire 6U satellite.

Spire helped OroraTech validate its initial concept quickly and cost-effectively to prove functionality in the orbital environment, handling not only the satellite platform but also taking care of integration and providing access to the company’s ground station network.

This has allowed OroraTech to advance towards its plan to provide data insights to customers every 30 minutes and within three minutes from detection at any place on Earth, while also demonstrating the range of applications supported by Spire across Earth Observation wavebands in addition to its radio frequency expertise.

“The Canadian Space Agency’s feasibility study contract is further testament to the use of cutting-edge satellite technology to improve wildfire monitoring and early detection methods. Data can be captured from remote areas of the world and processed quickly to identify current and future risks,” said Frank Frulio, General Manager of Spire Space Services.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with OroraTech on another exciting project, building upon the momentum generated from our previous mission together.

“At Spire, we have a strong track record of demonstrating the benefits that space can bring to life on Earth, and I can’t think of a more important and critical application than protecting our environment, people and property from destructive wildfires. We look forward to supporting the Canadian Space Agency on this important issue.”

The design and implementation of WildFireSat is anticipated to commence in spring 2024, with the project expected to be delivered in 2029.

Photo: A smoke column rises from wildfire near Lodgepole, Alberta, Canada, on 4 May 2023.

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