Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Canadian Satellites 1962-76
Souvenir Mail

This article deals with the Canadian satellite program from 1962 to 1976 showing souvenir mail created to mark each of the following satellite launches:

 1. Alouette-I (1962)

2. ISIS Program
a) Alouette-II (1965)
b) ISIS-I (1969)
c) ISIS-II (1971)

Telecom Canada (Communication Satellites)
a) Anik-I (1972)
b) Anik-II (1973)
c) Anik-III (1976)
4. Communication Technology Satellite "Hermes" (1976)

Today's vibrant Canadian aerospace industry owes its existence to the pioneering efforts of the scientists who participated in the Canadian satellite programs discussed in this article.

1. Alouette-I

On September 29, 1962, with the launch of Alouette-I, Canada became the third nation after the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. to design and build a space satellite. Alouette-I was a tremendous success. With a design-life of one year to study the ionosphere, Canada's first satellite continued providing scientific observations for ten years.

In 1958 the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invited international collaboration for its satellite program. Dr. John Chapman and Eldin Warren scientists at Canada's Defence and Research Telecommunication Establishment (DRTE) submitted a proposal to design and build a satellite to monitor the ionosphere from above. The DRTE proposal was accepted and after three and a half-years of design and construction, Alouette-I was flown to California and launched from the Pacific Missile Range, Vandenburgh on September 29, 1962.

Dr. John Chapman (1921 - 1979) , the father of Canada’s involvement in space and satellite telecommunications, was inducted into Canada's Telecommunications Hall of Fame in 2005.

The above cover commemorating the launch of
Alouette was autographed by Dr. John H. Chapman,

and by Dr. Dr. Hartley Zimmerman, chairman of the Defence Research Board, who suggested the name
"Alouette" for this first Canadian satellite:

The insert illustrates Alouette's mission:

Here are examples of other souvenir covers marking the
Alouette launch:

Poland and Alouette

In 1966, Poland issued a set of three stamps commemorating satellites from France, USSR and Canada:

Alouette stamp

Romania and Alouette

In 1993, the Romanian post office produced a commemorative cancel featuring the
Alouette to pay tribute to Romanian scientist Theodor V. Ionescu whose theory of multiple gyromagnetism was demontrated by the Alouette satellite:

Bucharest, Romania, February 17, 1993


After Alouette-I, Canada negotiated with NASA and entered the joint International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) program in which four satellites would be built and launched, three from Canada and one from the U.S. The three Canadian satellites in the ISIS program were Alouette-II (1965), ISIS-I (1969), and ISIS-II (1971). The Canadian government's intention was that by the end of the program there should be a Canadian aerospace industry.

a) Alouette-II

The first Canadian ISIS satellite launched was Alouette-II from Vandenburgh, California, November 29, 1965:

This letter was inserted in the above cover:



On January 5, 1966, Canada Post Office issued a 5 cent commemorative stamp, designed by Harvey Thomas Prosser, celebrating the Alouette-II launch.


National Archives of Canada

Approved Model

National Archives of Canada

First Day Covers


An unpaid letter taxed double the deficiency (10 cents) from Pembroke to Cobden, January 8 1966
Alouette-II stamps paying the tax, Cobden MOON cancellation, January 10 1966



3. Telecom Canada

In 1969, the Canadian government shifted its focus to communications satellites creating Telesat Canada, a joint venture between the federal government and Canada's major telecommunications carriers. On November 9, 1972, the first geostationary domestic communications satellite, Canada's Anik-I was launched.
The first Anik series, developed by Hughes Aircraft Company, consisted of three satellites: Anik-I (1972), Anik-II(1973), and Anik-III(1976). The satellites were designed for a seven year life-span but remained active for ten years. Subsequent Anik series were successfully launched but are not within the scope of this article.Telecom Canada meter:

a) Anik-I


b) Anik-II


c) Anik- III

Dandan Guam Tracking
May 10, 1975

4. Communications Technology Satellite Program

In 1971 Canada entered into an agreement with NASA to develop and launch an experimental Communications Technology Satellite (CTS). CTS was designed and built in Canada by a joint government and industry team. CTS was successfully launched on January 17, 1976 from Cape Canaveral. On May 21, 1976, it was officially inaugurated and named
Hermes by Governor General Jeanne Sauve. Hermes was the first satellite capable of broadcasting television and radio programs directly to inexpensive home receivers.