Canon launching a spacecraft featuring 5D Mark III and PowerShot cameras

An image from the original Canon CE-SAT 1 satellite (Image credit: Canon)

The Canon CE-SAT 1B has a 5D Mark III, PowerShot S110 and a 3,720mm lens, and launches into space in July. Canon is once again taking astrophotography to the next level, with the imminent launch of its CE-SAT 1B spacecraft in July.

However, while astrophotography usually involves taking photographs of the stars, Canon will be turning the genre on its head by pointing a camera towards Earth – one that's capable of resolving a 90cm object on the ground, from space! 

So what kind of camera tech is inside such a remarkable imaging satellite – the cutting-edge Canon EOS R5? 
The company's dedicated full-frame mirrorless astrophotography camera, the Canon EOS Ra? 

Actually, no. The primary camera detector inside the CE-SAT 1B ("Canon Electric Satellite") is none other than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III – which may be old, but is one of the best Canon cameras ever made. 

As surprising as the main camera may be, its secondary detector is even more surprising: a Canon PowerShot S110, which is being used as the satellite's wide-angle camera system. 

The main telephoto camera, though, is the 5D Mark III. And, according to Gunther's Space Page, it has been outfitted with a 40 cm diameter Cassegrain telescope with 3720 mm focal length, which "provides an 1m ground resolution from a 600 km orbit with a 6 km × 4 km frame size."

So what of the launch itself? The Canon CE-SAT 1B will rideshare with Rocket Lab’s Electron, which will lift off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1, located on Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island. The launch window opens on 04 July New Zealand time. The mission, brilliantly, is called Pics Or It Didn't Happen. 

Canon CE-SAT 1 satellite (Image credit: Canon)

“We’re looking forward to getting these next generation Canon spacecraft on orbit and helping them kickstart their constellation,” said Curt Blake, CEO of Spaceflight – the organization that organizes these satellite rideshares. “Our ability to find the most expedient rides to space for our customers is critical, especially when their business plans require a frequent cadence of launches.

The next in this cadence is set to take place later this year, featuring the more advanced CE-SAT-11B that features three cameras. 

“This launch is very critical for Canon Electronics as we are launching a satellite where we have remarkably increased the ratio of in-house development of components compared to the previous launch,” added Dr Nobutada Sako, group executive, Satellite Systems Lab, Canon Electronics Inc. 

The previous launch saw the original CE-SAT 1 lift off from India in 2017. According to Canon, the CE-SAT-IB due for launch in July "will go through a 2 year demonstration experiment for forthcoming mass production."

James Artaius