Minimize Inuvik

Inuvik Satellite Station Facility

The Government of Canada established the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (ISSF) in 2010. It was built north of the Arctic Circle to take advantage of the strategic geographic location. Situated above the Arctic Circle, the Inuvik satellite station is uniquely positioned to track and receive data in real-time from polar-orbiting satellites for scientific, mapping, weather, surveillance and other purposes. 1)


Figure 1: Photo of the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (image credit: NRCan)

Canada has the second largest landmass and the longest coastline of any country in the world. Observing Canada's territory from space, including the Arctic, is a powerful and cost effective tool to monitor our land, water and borders. From space, satellites can provide information on: 2)

• Natural resources

• Environmental monitoring

• Shipping and navigation

• Safety, sovereignty and security.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has been managing satellite station facilities in collaboration with the private sector since 1972. NRCan's satellite station facilities are strategically located across Canada to ensure coverage of Canada's landmass and waters. These facilities include:

Prince Albert Satellite Station (PASS, established 1972). PASS is located in Saskatchewan (53º 11'60'' N; 105º 44' 99'' W)

Gatineau Satellite Station (GSS, established 1986). GSS is located in the Province of Quebec (45º 35' 6'' N; 75º 48' 36'' W)

Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (established 2010). Inuvik is a CCMEO/NRCan-controlled facility located just outside the town of Inuvik (68º 19' N; 133º 32' W) and north of the Arctic Circle.

Together these three stations provide satellite imagery coverage of all areas of Canada. In addition coverage extends into the continental United States and over all three oceans (Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic).


Figure 2: Coverage provided by NRCan's satellite ground station receiving stations (image credit: NRCan)

The ISSF is located on land owned by the GoC (Government of Canada) and is administered by the CCMEO (Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, part of Natural Resources Canada (CCMEO/NRCan). CCMEO/NRCan manages the ISSF and is responsible for matters related to controlled activities as defined under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA). CCMEO/NRCan is collaborating with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. to further develop the site and offer common services at the facility.

The ISSF currently hosts four 13 m antennas; one owned by the GoC through CCMEO/NRCan; one owned by DLR (German Aerospace Center) ; one owned by SSC (formerly the Swedish Space Corporation); and one owned by a partnership between SSC and CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) of France..

There are four 13 m remote sensing antennas at the ISSF. These are - in order from the ISSF entrance as shown in Figure 3 - owned and operated by France's CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) in partnership with SSC (Swedish Space Corporation), DLR (German Aerospace Center), Natural Resources Canada, and the SSC.


Figure 3: Photo of ISSF (Inuvik Satellite Station Facility ) as seen from the entrance (image credit: NRCan)

NRCan owns the infrastructure:

• A 13 m diameter antenna that can provide Reception and Telemetry, Tracking and Control (TT&C) services.

• An operations building for use in the maintenance and control of the GoC antenna with space to support additional infrastructure.

The antenna is operational for RADARSAT-2, NEOSSat and SCISAT. It will be able to support current and future satellites presently under development including the RCM (RadarSat Constellation Mission) of CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

Figure 4: This video highlights the technology behind the daily downlink of satellite data. Natural Resources Canada owns and operates three ground stations, one near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, one near Gatineau, Quebec and the newest, near Inuvik, Northwest Territories. The addition of the Inuvik station allows the network to provide satellite data covering 98% of Canada's landmass (video credit: NRCan, Published 28 November 2017)



Status and some background of ISSF

• December 3, 2020: The Inuvik Satellite Station Facility is an international, multi-use science and technology facility with an emphasis on Earth Observation. The Government of Canada (GC) established the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (ISSF) in 2010. Situated above the Arctic Circle, the Inuvik satellite station is ideally positioned to track and receive data in near real-time from polar-orbiting satellites for scientific, mapping, weather, surveillance and other purposes. 3)

- The ISSF is located on land owned by the GC and is administered and managed by the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO), part of Natural Resources Canada.

- The ISSF currently hosts antennas owned by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR); the SSC (Swedish Space Corporation); by a partnership between SSC and CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales); and C-Core – Canadian Research and Development Corporation.

- NRCan also owns and operates its own infrastructure at the ISSF:

- I-CAN1 – a 13 meter diameter antenna providing Reception and Telemetry, Tracking and Control (TT&C) services. I-CAN1 provides satellite support services for:


b) NEOSSat


d) M3MSat

e) RCM (RADARSAT Constellation Mission)

- A building supporting I-CAN1 operations with space to support additional IT infrastructure.

- The ISSF has proven to be an opportunity for engagement and collaboration. On National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21 2019), NRCan held the official unveiling of the Antenna as Canvas project. The goal of this project is to honor the cultures and deep history of the Indigenous people in the Inuvik region as well as acknowledge the diversity of people in Inuvik. The five antennas at the ISSF each display Indigenous artwork that reflect the diverse cultures and communities of the Inuvik region.


Figure 5: Since June 2019, the satellite ground stations that make up the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility have been decorated with artworks by local indigenous artists. They symbolize important aspects of the traditional way of life of Inuvik's indigenous people. - Local artists Ronnie Simon, Sheree McLeod, Anick Jenks and students from the East Three Secondary School Art Club created the artwork which represents Inuvialuit, Gwich'in, Métis, and the town of Inuvik respectively (image credit: NRCan)

• April 8, 2019: An expansion of data reception capabilities is in expansion mode for Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (ISSF) in Canada's Northwest Territories. This expansion marks the next step in a long-standing and productive collaboration between SSC and NRCan. 4)

- As global Earth Observation activities continue to evolve, the growth of SSC capacity at the ISSF (Inuvik Satellite Station Facility ) will enable many more customers to receive Earth observation data in support of their mission objectives.

- SSC began operations at the ISSF in 2012. This spring, SSC will begin installing its new infrastructure that will expand its data reception and TT&C capabilities at the ISSF. It will also extend the "KINUVIK" solution of complete polar coverage provided by the coupling of SSC's ground station in Kiruna, northern Sweden and the ISSF in Inuvik.

- Over the years, SSC has built strong relationships in Canada and the Northwest Territories, which have helped to grow the ISSF, and allowed SSC to gain valuable experience working within the Canadian regulatory environment.

- Leif Österbo, Head of Satellite Management Services at SSC stated that SSC's newest developments at the ISSF will further strengthen their capability to offer services which require high security and resiliency, as well as increase their adaptability to support new types of space services.

- Prashant Shukle, Director General of CCMEO/NRCan added that the addition of new SSC infrastructure at the ISSF is another step towards building the ISSF as a global Earth Observation destination. They look forward to continued collaboration on complementary activities that benefit Inuvik, and Sweden and Canada.

• CFOSAT (Chinese-French Oceanography Satellite) of CNSA and CNES was launched on 28 October 2018 on a Long March 2C vehicle of China from JSLC (Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center). CNES will provide a polar station network based on two Earth stations located in at ISSF (Inuvik Satellite Station Facility in (Canada) and Kiruna (Sweden). The system has therefore the capability to download the science data on every orbit.

• On 16 October 2017, the DLR antenna located on the International Satellite Station Facility (ISSF) in Inuvik tracked for the first time a satellite of the European Commission to receive X-band data. The satellite referred to is the Sentinel-5P satellite, a mission for monitoring the atmosphere, launched on Friday, 13th of October. 5)

- Following this debut many further X-band receptions will be conducted by the DLR system at the ISSF which lately has become a Copernicus Core Ground Station and therefore will serve the European Copernicus Program by receiving data from the ECs Sentinel Fleet. CCMEOs ISSF hosts additionally to the DLR antenna system antennas from SSC (Swedish Space Corporation SSC) and from CCMEO (Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation).

• 2016: The Earth observation satellite market is growing rapidly, with more than an estimated 150 new satellites and hundreds more nanosatellites expected to become operational by 2023. The exponential increase in demand for imagery and more frequent satellite coverage will speed the development of higher capacity, higher quality, and more cost efficient satellites. Together, these market forces are driving the need for high-latitude satellite access facilities and services that are capable of supporting increased data volumes, and enabling global data distribution. 6)

- The Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (ISSF) is a high-latitude polar facility designed to meet the growing demand for efficient Telemetry, Tracking, and Control (TT&C) and reception. The ISSF's prime location and world class infrastructure provides fast and reliable access to data downlink to ensure timely and reliable services.

- CCMEO/NRCan ( Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation/Natural Resources Canada) created the ISSF in anticipation of the industry's growth trajectory, providing cost-effective and efficient antenna hosting and related services. It currently supports three antenna tenants (including SSC, DLR and CCMEO's own antenna), and is capable of supporting many more.

- Ideal Location: Located in the high Arctic at 68.9 degrees North, the ISSF can access 11 of 14 daily passes by polar orbiting LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites. The site shares similar latitude to other facilities in Alaska and provides existing infrastructure to support remote operations.

- Reliable, High-bandwidth Fibre in Canada's North: The ISSF will benefit from the presence of a fibre Point of Presence (PoP), which terminates in its facility. When completed in 2016, the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link (MVFL) will provide dedicated bandwidth to ISSF clients, and will be scalable to accommodate the most demanding broadband requirements. A redundant fibre loop scheduled for completion in 2017 will provide reliable 99.9999% system availability, further benefiting operationally focused customers. 7)


Figure 6: Coverage provided by the ISSF (image credit: MDA/Maxar)

- Flexible Business Model: As exclusive prime contractor for the ISSF, MDA is able to provide customers with service- and hosting-based options for satellite access:

a) Service-based Model: Customers subscribe to antenna access as a service, and pay for each subscribed pass. This option requires a minimum commitment to secure access.

b) Hosting-based Model: MDA is the prime contractor providing engineering services for new customers who wish to install antennas, shelters and other infrastructure at the ISSF.

• August 10, 2015: Airbus Defence and Space has signed an agreement with CCMEO (Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation) providing Canadian governmental and institutional data users free access to TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X satellite imagery for pre-operational use. 8)

- A delegation from the Northwest Territories (NWT) of Canada led by the Honorable Robert R. McLeod, Premier of NWT, along with senior officials from the Government of Canada recently visited Airbus Defence and Space in Ottobrunn, Germany. On this occasion, the long-lasting relation between Airbus Defence and Space and the Government of Canada was reinforced by the signature of this agreement.

- The main goal of the agreement is to support current efforts of Canadian agencies working on the development of operational monitoring concepts that exploit the benefits of using Canada's C-band radar mission together with the German X-band satellites for maritime surveillance, disaster management and environmental monitoring. Additionally the free data provision will support study purposes and capacity building through professional training and education.

- The TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X radar satellite missions were established in 2007 and 2010, respectively, as a PP (Public-Private Partnership) between the German Space Agency (DLR) and the Geo-Intelligence Program Line of Airbus Defence and Space. Since the launch, the missions benefited from Canada's Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (ISSF), which thanks to its location above the Arctic Circle provides access to most of the satellite's orbits in a timely manner. The new Mackenzie-Valley-Fibre-Link currently under development for Inuvik will be providing further shortened access time to data as well as NRT (Near-RealTime) monitoring for large parts of Northern Canada in support of maritime surveillance and natural disaster monitoring.

• July 31, 2015: Inuvik's satellite station prepares for expansion; a Canadian antenna joins two others from Germany and Sweden. 9)


Figure 7: Canada's satellite antenna, which will collect data on forest fires, ice conditions and shipping traffic, joins two others in Inuvik, from Germany and Sweden. (image credit: Stuart Salter)

- The Canadian government launched its first satellite antenna in Inuvik, NWT (North West Terretories), Thursday night (31 July 2015).

- In addition to the launch of the antenna, the government also announced $3.7 million in funding to be put towards roads and access to the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (ISSF).

- The antenna — 13 m in diameter — was installed earlier this year, but had to undergo tests to ensure it functioned. "It is ready to go," said Stuart Salter, who is a consultant on the project.

- The antenna, which will collect data on forest fires, ice conditions and shipping traffic, joins two others in the town from Germany and Sweden.

- Located above the Arctic Circle, "the Inuvik satellite station is uniquely positioned to track and receive data in real-time from polar-orbiting satellites for scientific, mapping, weather, surveillance and other purposes," according to Natural Resources Canada.

• On 10 August 2010, the German Remote Sensing Data Center inaugurated its satellite acquisition station, a 13 m L/S/X-band antenna, in the north of Canada, in Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories. The highest representative of the Canadian government at this event was the Prime Minister of the Canadian Northwest Territories, Floyd Roland. The delegation of DLR was headed by Professor Johann Dietrich Wörner. The first acquisition antenna of DLR (German Aerospace Center) opens perspectives to develop Inuvik as an international location for satellite data reception. 10)

- The data from TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X are received by the German Remote Sensing Data Center at its stations in Neustrelitz, Inuvik (Canadian Arctic) and GARS O'Higgins (Antarctic). The satellites are operated by the German Space Operations Center at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen.


1) "Inuvik Satellite Station Facility," Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), 13March 2019, URL:

2) "Satellite Facilities," NRCan, URL:

3) "Inuvik Satellite Station Facility," NRCan, 3 December 2020, URL:

4) "Canadian-Swedish cooperation to strengthen Earth Observation capabilities at the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility," SSC, 8 April 2019, URL:,c2781794

5) "Premiere: Copernicus-Satellite Data received at Inuvik Groundstation," DLR/EOC (Earth Observation Center), 17 October 2017, URL:

6) "Satellite Access Services," MDA/Maxar, URL:

7) "Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link," URL:

8) "Free Provision of TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Data for Government Studies and Professional Training in Canada," GIS Resources, 10 August 2015, URL:

9) David Thurton, Kyle Muzyka,"Canada announces first satellite antenna in Inuvik," CBC News, 31 July 2015, URL:

10) "Prime Minister of the Canadian Northwest Territories visits the EOC," DLR/EOC, August 2010, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (