Earth observation

Earth Observation is the gathering of information about Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems using satellite, airborne, waterborne, and earth-based (in situ) sensors. It involves monitoring and assessing the status of and changes in natural and man-made environments.

Highlights of Canadian capabilities

Observing the Earth from space is of strategic importance in order to understand and monitor Canada’s resources, land mass, coastal waters and atmosphere, and ensure the safety and security of Canadians. Satellite imagery and expertise is also used to support global humanitarian efforts and sustainable development. In Canada, the Canadian Government is the largest user of data, products, and services derived from Earth observation (EO) systems. They are used by federal departments and their partners to carry out their respective mandates and for research activities fostering the advancement of science and innovation.

EO provides socio-economic benefits for Canadian citizens. With long-term consistent, comprehensive, and reliable observations of terrestrial, ocean, and atmospheric parameters, it supports and promotes environmental and economic sustainability in our country, including the development of industry and academia. EO data helps us to better understand and manage the impacts of climate change on our environment and ecosystems.

EO is now part of a global value chain that increasingly attracts new companies and entrepreneurs that are pushing the traditional boundaries in the Earth Observation sector. It is estimated that by 2028, the global EO market will exceed $12.1 billion. New government and commercial entrants are anticipated, with organizations from 50 countries expected to launch at least a first-generation EO satellite by 2028.

RADARSAT-2 data is used to support the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”. When the Charter is activated, its members make satellite images of devastated regions available to support relief efforts. RADARSAT-2 imagery regularly provides support to rescue teams on the ground. Armed quickly with reliable and accurate information, response teams are better equipped to save lives and limit damage to property, infrastructure, and the environment.

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), which launched on June 12, 2019, is Canada's new generation of Earth observation satellites. The RCM uses a trio of satellites to take daily scans of our country and its waters, collecting invaluable information. Over a dozen federal government departments use RADARSAT data to deliver important services to Canadians. The RCM will ensure the ongoing availability of this data so that the Government of Canada can continue to serve Canadians. The RCM is designed to provide effective solutions in three main areas consisting of maritime surveillance (ice, surface wind, oil pollution, and ship monitoring), disaster management (mitigation, warning, response, and recovery), and ecosystem monitoring (agriculture, wetlands, forestry, and coastal change monitoring).

Major projects


International partnerships

Legislation and regulations

Telecommunications Act

The Telecommunication Act is authorized by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to oversee the activities of spectrum licencing from Canada or by Canadian entitles abroad.

Should you have any questions regarding your licences or certificates you can visit Spectrum Support.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA)

The Remote Sensing Space Systems Act and its Regulations are authorized by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to oversee the activities of any remote sensing system operating from Canada or by Canadian entities abroad.

The Act requires an independent review of the RSSSA every five years. On April 5, 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs tabled in Parliament the second independent report of the RSSSA (PDF, 1.24 KB).

Find more information and assistance on the RSSSA visit Global Affairs Canada.

Government support

Strategic Innovation Fund

Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) spurs innovation for a better Canada. Specifically, it serves to simplify application processes, accelerate processing, and provide assistance that is more responsive and focused on results. SIF allocates repayable and non-repayable contributions to firms of all sizes across all of Canada's industrial and technology sectors, across several funding streams.

Canadian Space Agency

Space Technology Development Program (STDP)

The CSA’s Space Technology Development Fund (STDP) supports innovation to grow Canada’s space industry and reduce technological unknowns. The program issues contracts to Canadian organizations for the development of technologies to support future needs of the Canadian Space Program and non-repayable contributions to Canadian organizations to support the development of innovative technologies with strong commercial potential.


SmartEarth is the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) renewed funding initiative related to Earth observation applications development. It fosters a smart use of satellite data to develop solutions to key challenges on Earth and in our everyday lives.

European Space Agency

Canada is the only non-European cooperating state in ESA. The Cooperation Agreement between Canada and ESA allows Canada to be part of the ESA's decision-making process. Through this unique agreement, Canadian organizations can bid on tenders for ESA contracts related to activities and programs in which Canada participates. It provides opportunities for them to create alliances with European industry and access to space qualification or flight opportunities for their technologies and products.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NASA is responsible for unique scientific and technological achievements in human spaceflight, aeronautics, space science, and space applications that have had widespread impacts on the U.S. and the world. Canada has become a unique partner for NASA and one of the few partners entrusted with mission critical elements. The CSA is currently participating in several flagship missions including the International Space Station. More information on CSA-NASA collaborations can be found on the CSA's website.

Visit our Programs and Initiatives page to learn more about government programs that help support businesses develop and commercialise of space innovations.

Other resources

International Charter Space and Major Disasters

  • The International Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Each agency member has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

Visit our resources page to find out more about resources that can help you support your business.