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The satellite facility will provide access to important new Earth observation data for scientists and governments in Canada and abroad, Natural Resources Canada says. ((PrioraNet Canada))

A new satellite communications station in Inuvik, N.W.T., that officially opens Tuesday is expected to boost satellite observation of the Arctic region.

The Inuvik Satellite Station will provide commercial satellite operations services such as satellite control, testing and tracking, as well as data downloads from satellites, including those orbiting past both the north and south poles.

"This state-of-the-art Arctic observation facility will boost Canada’s ability to monitor our Arctic, help us to increase social and economic development in the North, and strengthen our competitive advantage in the fields of science and technology," said Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis in a statement Tuesday.

Natural Resources Canada said the facility will provide Canadian and international scientists and governments with access to new sources of Earth observation data.

Among other things, the Inuvik station will receive detailed images of sea ice and permafrost conditions, which could help scientists measure the effects of climate change. Researchers will also look at ocean currents and water cycles using the satellite data.

The Swedish Space Commission and Iunctus Geomatics Corp., a Lethbridge, Alta.-based company specializing in satellite imagery, will jointly run the station through a partnership called PrioraNet Canada Inc. Iunctus has been running a similar station at the University of Lethbridge since 2004.

According to the department, the facility did not receive a financial contribution from the federal government.

Facility used to launch satellite

The Inuvik station is already being used by the German space agency DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt), which financed the first of the facility's two independent, 13-metre antennas.

The facility was used to launch DLR's TanDEM-X satellite on June 21. The satellite will be used for applications such as measuring ocean currents and the Earth's water cycle.

According to DLR, the partners behind the station plan to develop it as a data hub for global Earth observation stations and for Arctic environmental research.

The Swedish Space Commission runs PrioraNet, which bills itself as the largest commercial network of ground stations for satellite communications in the world.

The Inuvik station is now part of that network, which has provided services to clients that include NASA, the European Space Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lockheed Martin and Sirius Satellite Radio.

Inuvik Mayor Denny Rodgers said Tuesday's opening of the satellite station will give the town's economy a needed boost.

"You have people coming in to monitor the satellite stations, so they're staying here [and] hopefully in the future they'll be living here. So that provides an economic benefit to us as well," Rodgers told CBC News.