RADARSAT satellites: Technical comparison

The RADARSAT Constellation is a trio of Earth observation satellites and is the evolution of Canada's RADARSAT Program. Its objective is to ensure C-band data continuity, enhanced operational use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data and improved system reliability over the next decade.

Contrary to RADARSAT-2, the RADARSAT Constellation is equipped with an Automated Identification System (AIS) for ships. It will be used independently or in conjunction with the radar, allowing improved detection and tracking of vessels of interest.

The comparative tables and infographics below set out the system characteristics and beam modes of the RADARSAT satellites.

System characteristics

General

RADARSAT-1 RADARSAT-2 RADARSAT Constellation
Owner Government of Canada MDA, a Maxar company Government of Canada
High resolution m × 8 m
(stripmap mode)
m × 3 m
(spotlight mode)
m × 3 m
(spotlight mode)
Total mass at launch 2,750 kg 2,200 kg 1,400 kg
Mission life 5 years 7 years 7 years (each satellite)
SAR antenna dimensions 15 m × 1.5 m 15 m × 1.5 m 6.75 m × 1.38 m
Solar arrays (each) 2.21 m × 1.32 m 3.73 m × 1.8 m 2.2 m × 1.7 m main power
(one panel vs. two for RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2)
0.5 m × 1.6 m
(keep-alive power)
Bus 3.55 m × 2.46 m 3.7 m × 1.36 m 3.6 m × 1.1 m
Look direction Right-looking
  • Routine left- and right-looking operation
  • Increased re-visit time for improved monitoring efficiencies
  • Right-looking
  • Multiple satellites will eliminate the need for left- and right-looking to increase revisit

Orbit

RADARSAT-1 RADARSAT-2 RADARSAT Constellation
Altitude 793–821 km 798 km 586–615 km
Inclination 98.6 degrees 98.6 degrees 97.74 degrees
Duration of one orbit 100.7 min 100.7 min 96.4 min
Descending node 6 hours 6 hours 6 h +/- 15 minutes
Ascending node 18 hours 18 hours 18 h  +/- 15 minutes
Sun-synchronous 14.29 orbits per day (14 7/24) 14.29 orbits per day (14 7/24) 14.92 orbits per day (14 11/12)

Radar

RADARSAT-1 RADARSAT-2 RADARSAT Constellation
Active antenna C-Band C-Band C-Band
Centre frequency 5.3 GHz 5.405 GHz 5.405 GHz
Bandwidth 30 MHz 100 MHz 100 MHz
Polarization HH HH, VV, HV, VH HH, VV, HV, VH, Compact Polarimetry
Polarization isolation > 20 dB > 25 dB > 30 dB
Aperture length 15 m 15 m 6.75 m
Aperture width 1.5 m 1.37 m 1.38 m
Mass 679 kg 750 kg 400 kg approximate
Deployment mechanism Extendable support structure (ESS) ESS Simple strut deployment with a kinematically decoupled internal support structure

Beam modes

RADARSAT Constellation

Beam modes Nominal swath width (km) Approximate resolution (m)
Low Resolution 100 m 500 100 × 100
Medium Resolution 50 m 350 50 × 50
Medium Resolution 30 m 125 30 × 30
Medium Resolution 16 m 30 16 × 16
High Resolution 5 m 30 5 × 5
Very High Resolution 3 m 20 3 × 3 @ 35°
Low Noise 350 100 × 100
Ship Detection 350 Variable
Spotlight 20 [5 km in azimuth] 1 × 3 @ 35°
Quad-Polarization 20 9 × 9

RADARSAT-2

Beam Mode RADARSAT-2

Text version of image RADARSAT-2 beam modes

Credit: MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates Ltd.

Beam modes Nominal swath width (km) Maximal spatial resolution (m)
Selective Single or Dual Polarization
Transmit H and/or V, receive H and/or V
Fine 50 8
Wide Fine 150 8
Standard 100 25
Wide 150 25
ScanSAR Narrow 300 50
ScanSAR Wide 500 100
Ocean Surveillance 530 Variable
Polarimetric
Transmit H and V on alternate pulses /
receive H and V on any pulse
Fine Quad-Pol 25 12
Wide Fine Quad-Pol 50 12
Standard Quad-Pol 25 25
Wide Standard Quad-Pol 50 25
Single Polarization HH
Transmit H, receive H
Extended High 75 25
Extended Low 170 60
Selective Single Polarization
Transmit H or V, receive H or V
Spotlight 18 1
Ultra-Fine 20 3
Wide Ultra-Fine 50 3
Extra-Fine 125 5
Multi-Look Fine 50 8
Wide Multi-Look Fine 90 8
Ship Detection 450 Variable

RADARSAT-1

RADARSAT-1 beam modes

Text version of image RADARSAT-1 beam modes

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

Beam modes Nominal swath width
(km)
Nominal resolution (m)
Fine 45 8
Standard 100 30
Wide 150 30
ScanSAR Narrow 300 50
ScanSAR Wide 500 100
Extended High 75 18-27
Extended Low 170 30

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