Employees at the Canadian Space Agency watched eagerly Wednesday morning as a rocket carrying the satellites some have worked on for 15 years took off.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the three satellites launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:17 a.m. Pacific Time.

The Radarsat devices were deployed into orbit about an hour later, and the first stage of the booster rocket landed northwest of Los Angeles.

The satellites will send 250,000 images to Earth every year and will examine ice flow in the far North, coastline erosion, and other aspects of climate change.

Magdalena Wierus, Project Engineer at CSA, was watching the launch intently from mission control in St. Hubert.

"The operations will be run from the CSA, our headquarters here in St. Hubert, so it's very exciting to be able to do that in Canada," said Wierus.

The satellites will also be used by Environment Canada's Ice Service, which informs mariners about ice coverage in northern waters.

Benjamin Deschamps said that will help provide more accurate information, and to track vessels travelling in Canadian waters.

"The ability to image more frequently in the North, up to four times per day in the Northwest Passage. The availability of the automatic identification system which is broadcast from ships, will allow us to match ships in images, to better discriminate between ships and icebergs," said Deschamps.

Each satellite was made in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, and is expected to continue being useful for seven years.

During that time researchers will use the information to measure permafrost changes, including how ground levels change in the far North.

The first photos will be broadcast back within the next week.


With notes from Kelly Greig