Feb 23, 2013 / 7:18 am
There's a lot riding on NEOSSat and Sapphire, two Canadian satellites scheduled to be launched from India on Monday.
NEOSSat (Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) could perhaps have proven quite useful had it been in place before a destructive meteor recently exploded over Russia.
David Cooper, the CEO of Microsat Systems Canada, says NEOSSat will be on the lookout for "Aten" asteroids which, every once and a while, will cross Earth's path.
Atens are a group of near-Earth asteroids which orbit the sun elliptically and periodically cross Earth's orbital plane.
The Microsat executive said he suspects the space rock that streaked over Russia, causing numerous injuries, must have been an "Aten" asteroid.
"We're pretty lucky that it just grazed off the Earth's atmosphere and heated up and exploded, rather than having a trajectory which would have taken it right into the Earth," Cooper said from his office in Mississauga, Ont.
"If it had come down in the middle of New York City it would have made a lot more noise than it did."
He said that NEOSSat is designed to specifically look for Aten asteroids that can't be seen from the ground because of the scattering of the sun's light in the atmosphere.
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