Canadian satellites have been very successful. They allow Canadians to communicate from coast to coast, study stellar phenomena, and learn more about the Earth. Canadian satellites have also been successful because they were innovative and well-designed. The Canadian Hermes, Alouette, and ISIS programs were all recognized for these achievements with awards.
Launched January 17, 1976, Hermes was one of Canada's award-winning satellites. Live news reports from remote locations exist because of Hermes. Before Hermes, television crews would videotape events and then fly the tapes to a production centre. Hermes showed that if you could get a dish to where news was happening, you could send this news to a satellite and then to anywhere in the country, or even the world. This allowed Canadians to find out what was happening in other areas in Canada, or in other countries in the world almost as soon as it happened.
Hermes was also revolutionary because it used new frequencies for sending and receiving signals. Hermes used the 14/12 gigahertz (GHz) frequency bands for communications; that is, it received signals from Earth at a frequency of about 14 billion cycles per second (or 14 GHz) and transmitted them back at about 12 billion cycles per second (12 GHz). Previous satellites operated in the lower frequency bands of 6/4 GHz. Hermes' use of the 14/12 GHz signal avoided interference with frequencies already in use.
In September 1987, the Communications Research Centre of the Department of Communications won an Emmy for outstanding engineering achievement in the Hermes program. An Emmy award is usually given for top television achievements. In this case, the award was in recognition of the first use of higher frequency bands for television braodcasting.
The Emmy is now on display at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.
Canada's first satellite, Alouette, was sent into space to study the northern lights, which occur in the ionosphere, a charged layer of the atmosphere. Alouette's performance exceeded everyone's expectations. Its intended lifespan was one year, but Alouette sent down information about the ionosphere for ten full years. Alouette produced over one million images of the top side of the ionosphere. On January 22, 1987, the Engineering Centennial Board Inc. recognized Alouette as one of the ten most outstanding achievements of Canadian engineering over the last one hundred years.
Click here to learn about Alouette in more detail.
After the successful launch in 1962 of Canada's first satellite, Alouette, Canada and NASA embarked on an international project for atmospheric studies. The ISIS (International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies) program launched Alouette 2 (in 1965), ISIS 1 (in 1969), and ISIS 2 (in 1971). In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the United Kingdom, France, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Finland became involved in the program.
Canada's Alouette and ISIS satellites all set records for longevity. Alouette was supposed to last for one year, but it sent down information on the atmosphere for 10 years. The ISIS satellites lasted 20 years!
Approximately 700 papers were published by scientists in 10 nations describing the Alouette/ISIS program and its results, making ISIS perhaps one of the most productive of any such program.
In 1993, the ISIS program was designated an International Milestone of Electrical Engineering by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).