RADARSAT Constellation


(Credit: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.)

Launch: 2018
Status: In development

The RADARSAT Constellation is the evolution of the RADARSAT Program with the objective of ensuring data continuity, improved operational use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and improved system reliability.

The three-satellite configuration will provide complete coverage of Canada's land and oceans offering an average daily revisit, as well as daily access to 95% of the world to Canadian and International users.

The mission development has begun in 2005, with satellite launches planned for 2018.

Objectives

The RADARSAT Constellation is the evolution of the RADARSAT Program with the objective of ensuring C-band data continuity, enhanced operational use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and improved system reliability over the next decade.

Characteristics

The baseline mission includes three satellites, but the constellation is designed to be scalable to six satellites. This allows the system to address future requirements as they arise with greater flexibility. For example, new functionality could be added to a fourth satellite and these functions could be made available to all constellation users. In this fashion, RADARSAT Constellation is a paradigm shift from earlier RADARSAT missions. Instead of launching a single satellite, the capabilities of the system are distributed across several satellites, increasing revisit, and introducing a more robust, flexible system that can be maintained at lower cost and launched into orbit using smaller, less expensive launch vehicles.

The greatly enhanced temporal revisit combined with accurate orbital control will enable advanced interferometric applications in between satellites on a four-day cycle that will allow the generation of very accurate coherent change maps.

Design and Development

The RADARSAT Constellation mission will ensure C-band data continuity for RADARSAT users, as well as adding a new series of applications enabled through the constellation approach. The first satellite of the constellation will be launched to ensure that there is no data gap at RADARSAT-2 end of life. The system does not aim to reproduce RADARSAT-2, but rather to meet core demands at better value for money, and enable new applications. The mission development has begun in 2005, with satellite launches planned for 2018.

Main applications

The RADARSAT Constellation mission is being designed for three main uses:

  • Maritime surveillance (ice, wind, oil pollution and ship monitoring);

  • Disaster management (mitigation, warning, response and recovery); and

  • Ecosystem monitoring (forestry, agriculture, wetlands and coastal change monitoring).

In addition to these core user areas, there are expected to be a wide range of ad hoc uses of RADARSAT Constellation data in many different government applications, federally and provincially, and in the private sector, both in Canada and internationally.

Three-satellite constellation daily coverage of Canada

For example, while the mission design initially focused on maritime security requirements, land security, particularly in the Arctic, will be dramatically enhanced. The system offers up to four passes per day in Canada's far north, and several passes per day over the Northwest Passage.

The increase in revisit frequency introduces a range of applications that are based on regular collection of data and creation of composite images that highlight changes over time. Such applications are particularly useful for monitoring changes such as those induced by climate change, land use evolution, coastal change, urban subsidence and even human impacts on local environments.