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Canada to launch Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite

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(LPAC)—The Canadian Space Agency has announced that it will launch, from atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the suitcase-sized Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) toaday. Built on the principles applied in Canada’s small Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars (MOST) space telescope, launched in 2003, NEOSSat is reportedly the first satellite specifically designed to find asteroids and space debris.

According to NEOSSat planetary scientist Alan Hildebrand, this small telescope (only 5.9 inches long) is aimed at searching the sky near the Sun, to find asteroids of two classes, the Atira (those entirely inside the Earth’s orbit), and the Aten (those which spend most of their time inside the Earth’s orbit, and once in a while cross it).

Hildebrand, in an interview with, said that the plan is to "better understand the Atira class of asteroids," "how big is it, what is the distribution, how many asteroids in the solar system."

The asteroids that NEOSSat is seeking are far away from Earth, and thus would have to be relatively large to be seen, Hildebrand said. The satellite will be 800 km above Earth, and will circle the Earth every 100 minutes, scanning the space near the Sun 24/7. The data will be analyzed primarily at the University of Calgary. [nbs]