50th Anniversary of Alouette 1 Satellite Launch
With the launch of Alouette 1 on September 29, 1962, Canada became the third country in the world with a satellite in space. Alouette 1 was an engineering feat and a scientific success. It fostered the development of a uniquely Canadian space programme.
From its orbit 1000 km above Earth, Alouette probed the ionosphere below. For 10 years it sent data to ground stations where it was stored on magnetic tapes for analysis. Scientists studied the regular patterns in the ionosphere caused by the sun's radiation and found many new features related to the Earth's magnetic field. The data confirmed that in the North, the ionosphere is too unsettled to predict.
In the wake of Alouette's success, the government moved to support space communications and the growth of a Canadian space industry. This led to Canada becoming the first country to have its own geostationary communications satellite system (Anik satellites), followed by earth observation satellites (RADARSAT), satellite-aided search and rescue (SARSAT), and space robotics (Canadarm) supplied to NASA space shuttles and the International Space Station.