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A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a small science satellite for Canada is seen as it is launched from a newly refurbished launch pad in Vandenberg Air Force Station September 29, 2013.

GENE BLEVINS/Reuters

The Department of National Defence has formalized an international partnership that, among other things, is aimed at avoiding satellite collisions.

The so-called Combined Space Operations Initiative involves the sharing of space-related information and resources among Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Defence Department says in a news release that the international space partnership will help Canada and its allies to more effectively co-operate on activities like identifying and understanding space objects and also ensuring uninterrupted satellite operations.

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National Defence notes that the Canadian Armed Forces rely on space for a wide range of functions that include weather information, navigation, communications, mapping and search and rescue.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson says in a statement that Canada has been a space-faring nation for more than half a century and in that time, the cosmos has become a more crowded and complex environment in which to operate.

He says that by extending its co-operation with its closest allies, Canada can share its expertise, solve common problems and ensure defence dollars are spent to maximum effect.

The international arrangement builds on several Canadian military space projects that include Sapphire, Canada's first dedicated military satellite, which detects man-made objects in orbit and transmits data that could help prevent close encounters involving satellites.

Sapphire, which was launched in 2013, is a metre-long satellite, that weighs about 150 kilograms.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates was awarded a $65 million federal contract to build the satellite.

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