Canadian Spaceflight History
Canadian Spaceflight History

Canadian Space History

Canada has a rich history as a spacefaring nation. On September 28,1962, Canada became the third country to design and build its own satellite when Alouette 1 was placed in orbit. Ten years later, Canada became the first country to have its own geosynchronous communications satellite with Anik 1. In 1981, the second flight of the U.S. space shuttle tested out the Canadarm or Remote Manipulator System. The Canadarm has been a vital part of the U.S. Space Transportation System ever since.

The Canadian Astronaut Program began in 1983, and on October 5, 1984, Marc Garneau became Canada's first astronaut when he flew aboard Challenger on the STS-41G mission. He was followed into space by Canadian astronauts Roberta Bondar, Steve MacLean, Chris Hadfield, Robert Thirsk, Bjarni Tryggvason, Dave Williams and Julie Payette.

Canada is also contributing to the development of the International Space Station with the Mobile Servicing System, which is helping astronauts build and service the ISS. The first part of this system, Canadarm2, was installed on the ISS in April 2001. The Mobile Base System was added the following year, and Dextre, or the Canada Hand, began operations on the station in 2008.

NASA photo

Canada's history in space is much bigger than the astronauts and the Canadarm. Canada continues to launch communications satellites and other satellites like RADARSAT. In the 1960s, Dr. Gerald Bull spearheaded an effort to launch a satellite with a cannon.

Canadian engineers played a crucial role in the early U.S. human space program. NASA hired 32 engineers from Canada and the United Kingdom when the Canadian government cancelled the CF-105 Avro Arrow program in 1959. These engineers were involved in Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, and their story is told for the first time in Chris Gainor's first book, Arrows to the Moon. Chris' book, Canada in Space: The People & Stories Behind Canada's Role in the Exploration of Space, covers the history of Canada's space program and information on Canada's other contributions to the exploration of space.

Click here for book and web sources on Canada's spaceflight history.


Canada

Canada's Spaceflight Chronology

October 4, 1957 - The space age began with the launch of Sputnik 1 in the Soviet Union. In Canada that day, the CF-105 Avro Arrow was rolled out for the first time. The Arrow first flew the following March and was cancelled in February, 1959.

January 31, 1958 - Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, was launched.

November 8, 1958 - Nike-Cajun sounding rocket launched from Churchill, Manitoba, with the first Canadian payload.

December 31, 1958 - Canada's proposal to build an ionospheric research satellite was submitted to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The proposal, which was approved by NASA the following March, led to a research program into the ionosphere, a layer of charged particles high in Earth's atmosphere. The ionosphere is of interest to scientists because radio waves are reflected off the ionosphere. The satellite that came out of this proposal was called Alouette.

April 1959 - NASA hired 25 engineers from Avro Canada who lost their jobs when the Avro Arrow was cancelled. Another seven Avro engineers later joined NASA. Although many of this group came from the United Kingdom, the Canadians in the Avro group included Jim Chamberlin, who conceived and designed the Gemini spacecraft, and played key roles in the Mercury, Apollo and shuttle programs, and Owen Maynard, who was one of the key designers and builders of Apollo.

September 5, 1959 - Black Brant 1, the first test vehicle of a line of Canadian built sounding rockets, was launched from Churchill.

April 12, 1961 - Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he flew aboard the Soviet spacecraft Vostok 1. The first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, flew his Mercury capsule in a suborbital flight three weeks later.

September 1961 - Dr. Gerald Bull of McGill University in Montreal began the High Altitude Research Program, or HARP. Using a giant cannon based in the Barbados, Bull and his group planned to launch projectiles into space and eventually into orbit. HARP was supported by the Canadian and U.S. governments, but ended in 1967 when the Canadian government withdrew funding.

September 28, 1962 - Alouette 1, Canada's first satellite, was launched atop an American Thor-Agena rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. With this launch, Canada became the third nation to build its own satellite. Canada's Alouette and ISIS satellites were designed to probe the ionosphere. Alouette was built by the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment under the leadership of Dr. John H. Chapman.

Canadians in Space

November 29, 1965 - Alouette 2 launched.

January 30, 1969 - Launch of ISIS 1, which continued the ionospheric research of the two Alouettes.

July 20, 1969 - The Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle landed on the Moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board, the first humans on the Moon. Eagle's four legs, which were made by Héroux Machine Parts Ltd. of Longueuil, Québec, were left behind on the Moon. Five other lunar modules landed on the Moon before Apollo ended in 1972.

September 1, 1969 - The Canadian government created Telesat Canada, a corporation with mixed private and government ownership to operate Canadian domestic communications satellites. Telesat, which launched Canada's Anik, Nimiq and MSAT communications satellites, was privatized in 1993.

March 31, 1971 - ISIS 2, the last of the series, was launched.

November 9, 1972 - Anik A1, Canada's first communications satellite, and the world's first domestic communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit, was launched from Cape Canaveral.

April 20, 1973 - Anik A2 launched.

May 7, 1975 - Anik A3 launched.

January 17, 1976 - The Communications Technology Satellite or Hermes was launched atop a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral. Hermes was one of the first satellites to test direct-to-home broadcasting, and was a cooperative venture between the Canadian Department of Communications, NASA and the European Space Agency.

January 24, 1978 - A nuclear powered Soviet satellite, Cosmos 954, re-entered the atmosphere. Parts of the satellite, including radioactive materials, reach Earth in Canada's Northwest Territories. A large military operation recovered the materials.

December 15, 1978 - Anik B launched.

April 12, 1981 - The first flight of the U.S. space shuttle lifted off from Cape Canaveral.

November 12, 1981 - The space shuttle Columbia began the second shuttle flight, the first flight with the Canadarm or Remote Manipulator System on board. The next day, astronauts Joe Engle and Richard Truly ran successful tests on the Canadarm, which becomes standard equipment on space shuttle flights. The Canadarm is used to move, deploy and recover satellites and experiment packages, inspect the shuttle, move astronauts, and help assemble the International Space Station.

August 26, 1982 - Anik D1, the first commercial communications satellite built by a Canadian prime contractor, was launched from Cape Canaveral. The Anik D and E satellites were built by Spar Aerospace, which also built the Canadarm and RADARSAT 1. Spar has since left the space business.

November 12, 1982 - During the first commercial flight of the shuttle, Anik C3 was deployed from the payload bay of Columbia.

June 8, 1983 - The Canadian Astronaut Program was announced in Ottawa by NASA and the National Research Council of Canada. Advertisements appeared in Canadian newspapers inviting qualified persons to apply to join the Canadian astronaut team.

June 18, 1983 - Anik C2 launched from the shuttle Challenger.

December 5, 1983 - The names of the first Canadian astronauts were announced: Marc Garneau, Ken Money, Roberta Bondar, Steve MacLean, Bob Thirsk, and Bjarni Tryggvason.

October 5, 1984 - Marc Garneau became the first Canadian to fly in space when Challenger lifted off for the eight-day flight of STS-41G.

November 8, 1984 - Anik D2 launched from the shuttle Discovery.

April 12, 1985 - Anik C1 launched from Discovery.

January 28, 1986 - The loss of the space shuttle Challenger on its 10th flight ended commercial flights on the shuttle and caused a long hiatus for the Canadian Astronaut Program. Along with the crew of seven astronauts, one Canadarm was lost with the Challenger.

March 1, 1989 - The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) was formed, taking over from the National Research Council as Canada's primary space agency. In 1993, the CSA established its headquarters in St. Hubert, Québec, near Montreal.

April 4, 1991 - Anik E2 launched on an Ariane rocket from the French spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana.

September 12, 1991 - NASA launched UARS, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which carried the Canadian WINDII (Wind Imaging Interferometer) instrument that measured wind, temperature and airglow emissions in the upper atmosphere.

September 26, 1991 - Anik E1 launched from Kourou.

Arrows to the Moon

January 22, 1992 - Roberta Bondar became the first Canadian woman to fly in space on STS-42 aboard the shuttle Discovery, which carried a series of life sciences and materials processing experiments for an eight-day flight.

June 9, 1992 - The Canadian Space Agency announced new astronaut selections: Chris Hadfield, Dafydd (Dave) Williams, and Julie Payette.

October 6, 1992 - The Swedish satellite Freja was launched from Jiuquan in China. Onboard were two Canadian instruments, the Cold Plasma Analyzer, a precursor of the Thermal Plasma Analyzer that flew on the Nozomi probe to Mars, and the UV Imager.

October 22, 1992 - Steve MacLean flew into space aboard Columbia on STS-52 for a 10-day mission.

November 4, 1995 - RADARSAT 1 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Radarsat was Canada's first Earth resources satellite and used an advanced radar imaging system. It remained in service until March 2013.

November 12, 1995 - Chris Hadfield flew aboard the shuttle Atlantis on STS-74. The crew delivered a new docking module to the Russian Mir space station during its eight-day flight, and Hadfield became the only Canadian to visit Mir, which operated from 1986 to 2001.

April 20, 1996 - The Canadian mobile communications satellite MSAT was launched from Kourou.

April 23, 1996 - The Priroda module was launched to the Mir space station. Priroda was the final module to be added to Mir, and it contained a Canadian experiment facility, the Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM). This facility allowed experiments to be carried out in the microgravity of space without being affected by movements of astronauts or equipment on Mir. MIM is one of many Canadian experiments that have flown on the shuttle, Mir, and the International Space Station (ISS).

May 19, 1996 - Marc Garneau returned to space aboard the shuttle Endeavour on STS-77 for a 10-day mission.

June 20, 1996 - Bob Thirsk flew aboard Columbia for 17 days on the STS-78 mission. The flight included many life science experiments.

August 7, 1997 - Bjarni Tryggvason flew aboard Discovery on the STS-85 mission, which spent nearly 12 days in space with a number of different experiments.

April 17, 1998 - Dave Williams flew aboard Columbia on STS-90, the 16-day Neurolab mission.

July 3, 1998 - Japan launched its first Mars probe, Nozomi, which carried a Canadian instrument, the Thermal Plasma Analyzer. After a series of problems, Nozomi passed by Mars in December 2003 without entering Mars orbit as planned.

November 20, 1998 - The first segment of the ISS was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Two weeks later, space station assembly begins with space shuttle mission STS-88. The crew used the Canadarm and the Canadian Space Vision System to join a Russian module with an American-built segment of the ISS.

May 20, 1999 - Nimiq 1, Canada's first direct broadcast satellite, was launched by a Proton rocket from Baikonur.

May 27, 1999 - Julie Payette flew aboard Discovery on STS-96 and became the first Canadian to visit the ISS during the nearly 10 days she spent in space.

December 18, 1999 - The MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere) instrument from Canada was launched onboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. MOPITT studied carbon monoxide and methane in the atmosphere.

November 21, 2000 - Anik F1 launched from Kourou.

November 30, 2000 - Marc Garneau made his third and final space flight aboard Endeavour on STS-97. After this 11-day flight to the ISS, Garneau returned to Canada and served as president of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 to 2005.

April 19, 2001 - Chris Hadfield flew to the ISS aboard Endeavour on the 12-day STS-100 mission. Three days after launch, Hadfield became the first Canadian to walk in space when he and U.S. astronaut Scott Parazynski installed Canadarm2, the first part of the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), on the ISS. The MSS is Canada's contribution to the ISS and will help astronauts service the exterior of the ISS.

June 5, 2002 - The second part of the Canadian-built MSS, the Mobile Base System, was launched to the ISS aboard the shuttle Endeavour on STS-111. Six days later, the 1,450-kg. work platform was operational after being attached to the station's U.S.-built Mobile Transporter. The transporter and the Mobile Base System will carry Canadarm2 and various experiments, tools, structures and equipment to where they are needed on the station.

December 30, 2002 - Nimiq 2 was launched from Baikonur to provide direct broadcast services to Canadian television viewers.

February 1, 2003 - The shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry, causing the death of its seven astronauts. The accident took place at the end of a long research mission that included Canadian experiments into crystal growth and bone loss in space.

June 30, 2003 - MOST (Microvariability and Oscillations of STars) became Canada's first scientific satellite in more than 30 years when it was launched atop a Rockot launch vehicle from Plesetsk in Russia. The telescope aboard MOST will search for extrasolar planets and information on stars that will help scientists better determine the age of the universe. A tiny nanosatellite called CanX-1 built by University of Toronto students to demonstrate technologies was launched at the same time.

August 12, 2003 - SCISAT, a Canadian-built satellite designed to probe the changes that take place in the ozone layer and other parts of the Earth's upper atmosphere, was launched by a Pegasus booster which was dropped from an aircraft offshore from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

July 17, 2004 - Anik F2 launched by an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou. NASA photo

August 9, 2005 - The shuttle Discovery completed the STS-114 mission safely after two weeks in space. This first shuttle flight after the Columbia disaster of 2003 featured the first use of a Canadian-built boom extension to the Canadarm that was designed to inspect the shuttle's underside for damage to its insulation tiles. Damage of this type led to the loss of Columbia.

September 9, 2005 - Anik F1R, the first Anik to be built in Europe, launched by a Proton rocket from Baikonur.

September 9, 2006 - Steve MacLean returned to space aboard the shuttle Atlantis on the 12-day mission of STS-115. The mission resumed construction activities on the ISS following the loss of Columbia with the delivery of a truss containing solar panels and radiators to the station. During the flight, MacLean became the second Canadian to walk in space. In 2008, MacLean became President of the Canadian Space Agency.

April 10, 2007 - Anik F3 was launched by a Proton rocket from Baikonur.

August 4, 2007 - NASA's Mars Phoenix spacecraft was launched toward Mars carrying a Canadian-built weather station to explore the climate of the Red Planet. Mars Phoenix landed successfully near the Martian north pole on May 25, 2008.

August 8, 2007 - Dave Williams joined the crew of STS-118 on a flight to the ISS aboard the shuttle Endeavour. During the 13-day mission, Williams took part in three space walks, a Canadian record.

December 14, 2007 - RADARSAT 2 was launched from Baikonur atop a Soyuz rocket. The new Radarsat, which features many technical improvements over the first Radarsat, is a joint venture between the Canadian government and contractor MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.

March 11, 2008 - The Endeavour STS-123 mission was launched carrying Dextre, also known as the Canada Hand and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. The sophisticated robot was installed by Endeavour's astronauts on the ISS six days later. Dextre, which is the third and final part of the Mobile Servicing System, Canada's contribution to the ISS, is used to remove and replace smaller components on the station's exterior.

April 28, 2008 - Canada's second nanosatellite, CanX-2, was successfully launched with other satellites atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. The CanX satellites are built by researchers at the Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS).

May 31, 2008 - American astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who was born in Montreal and spent his early childhood there, was launched aboard Discovery on STS-124 and served aboard the ISS as flight engineer and science officer for Expeditions 17 and 18. After 183 days in space, Chamitoff returned to Earth aboard STS-126 on Endeavour on November 30, 2008. He later flew aboard Endeavour on STS-134, the second last shuttle mission, in May 2011.

September 20, 2008 - Nimiq 4, which provides direct-to-home television services, was launched by a Proton rocket from Baikonur. The Nimiq 3 designation was given to another satellite that was leased by Telesat after having been launched and used by another company.

May 11, 2009 - American astronaut Andrew J. Feustel, who holds dual American and Canadian citizenship, was launched on board Atlantis for the 13-day mission of STS-125, which was the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. A native of Michigan who married a Canadian and obtained a Ph.D. in geological sciences from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Feustel carried out three space walks on STS-125. He later flew aboard Endeavour on STS-134, the second last shuttle mission, in May 2011.

May 13, 2009 - Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques were announced as Canada's newest astronauts.

May 27, 2009 - Bob Thirsk set off from Baikonur aboard the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft to became the first Canadian astronaut to undertake a long duration stay in space. At launch, Thirsk became the first Canadian to fly aboard a spacecraft other than the space shuttle. After arriving at the ISS two days later, Thirsk and his two crewmates joined Expedition 20 on the station, the first expedition to be made up of six rather than two or three people. Thirsk returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-15 on December 1 after having spent 189 days in space as part of the Expedition 20 and 21 crews.

July 15, 2009 - Julie Payette became the last Canadian astronaut to fly on the space shuttle with the launch of Endeavour for the STS-127 mission. During the 16-day flight to the ISS, Payette marked the first time two Canadians were on orbit at the same time by working alongside Bob Thirsk and the rest of the Expedition 20 crew.

September 18, 2009 - Telesat's Nimiq 5 direct-to-home communications satellite was launched from Baikonur atop a Proton rocket.

September 30, 2009 - Guy Laliberté, billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil, became the world's seventh and Canada's first space tourist when he lifted off from Baikonur aboard Soyuz TMA-16, bound for the ISS. During his 11 days in space, Laliberté hosted a star-studded television spectacular to promote his One Drop Foundation, which raises issues related to water. His 'Poetic Social Mission' ended with a return to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft.

July 21, 2011 - The return of the shuttle Atlantis from the STS-135 mission marked the end of the Space Shuttle Program and the retirement of the original generation of five Canadarms that were used aboard the shuttles. One of the five arms was lost with Challenger in 1986.

May 17, 2012 - Telesat's Nimiq 6 direct-to-home communications satellite was launched from Baikonur on a Proton rocket.

December 19, 2012 - Chris Hadfield was launched from Baikonur aboard Soyuz TMA-07M for a long-duration flight on the ISS as part of Expedition 34. Hadfield and two crewmates arrived at the station two days later. When Expedition 35 began on March 13, 2013, Hadfield became the first Canadian to command the ISS. He returned to Earth on May 14, 2013 on board Soyuz TMA-07M after 146 days in space.

February 25, 2013 - Four Canadian satellites - including Canada's first dedicated military satellite, Sapphire, a satellite aimed at detecting asteroids flying near Earth as well as orbiting space debris, NEOSSAT, and two BRITE nanosatellites carrying tiny space telecopes - were launched on a PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India.

April 16, 2013 - Telesat launched the Anik G1 satellite from Baikonur atop a Proton rocket. The satellite offers a whole range of communications services.

September 29, 2013 - Cassiope, a Canadian satellite carrying a package of experiments aimed at observing the effects of solar storms on Earth's ionosphere and a payload of experimental communications relay equipment, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.


Look up sources on Canadian spaceflight history. Read about Canada's contribution to the Apollo program.

Find out more about Chris Gainor and his books To A Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers, Arrows to the Moon, Canada in Space and Who Killed the Avro Arrow?

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