The Contribution of Space Technologies to Arctic Policy Priorities

3.3 Navigation The impacts of climate change in the Arctic are making the region increasingly accessible. As a result, the northern sea routes are expected to attract growing levels of ship traffic through the Northeast and Northwest Passages. Low ice conditions also exposes new areas for resource exploitation, contributing to increased Arctic traffic and higher demand for navigation services in the region. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are the navigation technology of choice by the majority of vessel operators. In addition to supporting vessel traffic and industrial operations, GNSS also provide individuals travelling on ice and on land with accurate and reliable location information. GNSS have some limitations in higher latitudes as the geosynchronous satellites used for augmentation of GNSS signals do not reach to the high Arctic. Also, the declination of current GNSS satellite orbits leads to low elevation angles in polar areas. Furthermore, heightened ionospheric activity at the poles can result in signal delays and variability in location response. Currently, the system that is in most common use is the US Global Positioning System (GPS), but other GNSS, such as Russia’s GLObal NAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and the emerging EU Galileo system, are also applicable for this task. GPS and GLONASS are mature systems, having been operational since the mid-1990s. Galileo is not scheduled to be fully operational before 2019, but the addition of the planned full constellation of Galileo navigation satellites will provide more position fixes that will improve the accuracy of navigation and positioning in the Arctic. GNSS have some limitations in higher latitudes. For example: geosynchronous satellites used for augmentation of GNSS signals do not reach to the Arctic region; the declination of current GNSS satellite orbits leads to low elevation angles in polar areas; and heightened ionospheric activity at the poles can lead to lower positioning and navigation accuracies. The addition of the planned full constellation of Galileo navigation satellites will provide more position fixes that will improve the accuracy of positioning required to achieve more efficient transportation in the Arctic. 3.4 Earth Observation Earth Observation (EO) is a powerful tool in the Arctic context. Given the Arctic region’s spatial extent, remoteness and isolation, remote sensing is frequently the only cost effective and technically feasible means of obtaining reliable information in a timely fashion. While modern space-borne sensors satisfy a wide range of monitoring and mapping applications, capabilities of particular relevance to the Arctic include the mapping and characterization of snow and ice cover (land and sea ice), the systematic monitoring of shipping routes to detect vessels and icebergs, the assessment of land stability within permafrost regimes, and the description of land cover and land cover changes, often within the context of climate change. EO is used to address both operational as well as science objectives. There are a large number of current and proposed EO satellites operating across the range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Due to prevalent cloud cover combined with the absence of solar illumination for much of the year in the Arctic, synthetic aperture

sustainable economic development, sovereignty, and indigenous rights and social development.

The following sections provide an overview of the application of the different categories of satellite systems in the Arctic and their current status. Although the use of space-based technologies is frequently limited to a single type of application, or even a single mission, it should be noted that new opportunities for applications will arise from the simultaneous use of two or more types of these technologies. It should also be noted that some satellite systems are multipurpose and can fall into more than one of the categories (e.g., many earth observations systems could also be categorized as surveillance or weather and climate systems, and many science missions primarily serve weather and climate change applications). 3.1 Communications Space-based systems are among the best methods for providing communications across the vast, but sparsely populated, Arctic. Where satellite-based communications are available, the technology is critical for environmental, economic, security and social concerns in the Arctic. Applications to support both the local community, civilian government (coast guard and local authorities), as well as the military, require a range of connection speeds, which can mostly be satisfied below 75 0 N with the existing geostationary communications satellites (Inmarsat, Eutelsat, Iridium, Globalstar). Capacity is currently sufficient above 75 0 N, mostly because there are few settlements in this area and they require only voice or LDR communications. However, this will change as new businesses and commercial activities push further north and demand increases for high band width applications (such as health/wellness, marine and air transportation, entertainment). Current systems will be unable to provide adequate service (speed or capacity) above 75° latitude north, thus creating a gap in capabilities. Several systems are currently being explored to bridge this service gap that involves multiple satellites in highly-elliptical polar orbits. Some of these projects are scheduled for launch in the next few years and beyond (e.g., Iridium NEXT, CASSIPE, KosmoNet, Inmarsat Global Xpress, PCW/Canada, Polar Milsatcom/USA, Meridian/Russia). 3.2 Weather and Climate Operational and science-oriented activities related to the monitoring of weather and climate rely heavily on global networks of dedicated meteorological satellites. As with communications satellites, many of the space-based weather observation platforms are geostationary in near-equatorial orbits and are also unable to provide data on high-latitude atmospheric conditions. The more northerly remote areas of Europe and Canada are on the periphery of such system’s ‘field of view’. EUMETSAT, ESA, and NOAA have been working since the late 1990s to jointly develop satellite systems that monitor weather and climate change over the poles. Current weather satellite systems that collect data over the polar regions employ Low-Earth Orbits that provide high-quality spatial resolution information over high latitudes but on a narrow flight path – sometimes taking 6 hours before the same area is imaged again. (e.g., Metop). Several missions are proposed to be implemented over the next 10 years to address the deficiencies of these systems. (e.g. Arktika, CARVE, CASSIOE).


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