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Feds tell European Space Agency it's unhappy with plan to drop rocket in Arctic waters

The federal government has told the European Space Agency it's unhappy about plans to launch an environmental satellite on Friday that would drop a rocket stage likely containing toxic fuel in the sensitive waters of the Canadian Arctic.

Soviet-era rockets use fuel so toxic that almost every space program has moved away from it

The European Space Agency's Sentinel-5P satellite lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on Friday. (European Space Agency/The Associated Press)

The federal government has told the European Space Agency it's unhappy about plans to launch a satellite on Friday that would drop a rocket stage likely containing toxic fuel in the sensitive waters of the Canadian Arctic.

The European Space Agency's Sentinel-5P satellite was launched Friday by a Rokot missile from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia. The satellite will map the global atmosphere every day, helping study air pollution.

The second stage of the rocket, containing up to a tonne of unburned fuel, is expected to splash down in the waters off Baffin Island.

Brian Maxwell of Global Affairs Canada says they have concerns about the impact on the sensitive Arctic ecosystem.

The federal response comes after Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna added his voice to protests over the plan.

The environmental probe is designed to monitor trace gases. The mission will contribute to volcanic ash monitoring for aviation safety and for services that warn of high levels of UV radiation causing skin damage. The measurements will also help understand processes in the atmosphere related to the climate and to the formation of holes in the ozone layer.

It's the sixth satellite in the ESA's Copernicus program. Other Earth-observing Sentinel satellites launched earlier provide radar and optical imagery of the Earth, and monitor the condition of the world's oceans and ice sheets.

A similar launch is planned for next year. Both are to be launched from Russia using Soviet-era rockets using a fuel so toxic that almost every space program in the world has moved away from it.

The European Space Agency has told CBC News the fuel won't reach Earth's surface.

With files from Nick Murray

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