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RADARSAT data to serve Canadians

Canada's third generation of Earth observation (EO) satellites, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), has been operational since . It provides solutions to key challenges for Canadians in the areas of maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystems monitoring, among others. Over a dozen federal government departments and agencies use RCM data to deliver important services to Canadians in these areas. The RCM ensures the ongoing accessibility of satellite EO data so that the Government of Canada can continue to serve Canadians. Based on current acquisitions, federal departments and agencies are using 250,000 RCM images per year, a fiftyfold increase from RADARSAT-1 days.

How RADARSAT data is used to serve Canadians

Satellite EO data increases the government's capacity to make science-based decisions on matters ranging from natural resource management to climate change. It is also used in a number of ways to support the government in delivering responsive and cost-effective services. Here are a few examples:

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) uses satellite EO data to better understand the extent, health and diversity of Canada's agricultural landscape. The AAFC produces a yearly crop inventory (digital maps) for all of Canada using RCM data, combined with other data sources. Farmers and farming consultants in turn use these maps to assess soil and crop properties, enabling them to make better decisions on how to optimize crop profitability and farm sustainability. In collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), soil moisture maps are produced to improve weather forecasting and climate models, develop predictions of water runoff and flood levels, understand the carbon cycle and estimate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian Ice Service, part of the ECCC, is one of the largest users of RADARSAT data, producing ice charts for clients such as the Canadian Coast Guard. The Canadian Coast Guard distributes ice routing recommendations and other ice information to mariners. Ship captains navigating in the Arctic and people travelling in northern regions use this information to ensure safe travel. RADARSAT data is also used to support coastal mapping, ocean modelling and wind speed estimation.

The Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution (ISTOP) program, operated by ECCC in conjunction with Transport Canada (TC), uses RADARSAT imagery to detect and report on illegal and accidental oil pollution in our waters in the ongoing effort to minimize or eliminate marine pollution. Public transportation agencies need reliable monitoring technologies to provide advance warnings of pending failure of valuable assets such as bridges. By using two separate sets of satellite imagery with different viewing geometries, it is possible to derive measurements of bridge displacements within an accuracy of a few millimetres.

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are also major users of RCM imagery. The Polar Epsilon project leveraged RADARSAT-2 to provide DND/CAF with Arctic surveillance in support of Canada's sovereignty, near-real-time ship detection, and maritime surveillance. Combining RCM images with space-based Automatic Identification System (AIS) data enables the identification of ships and the detection of dark ships (those that are supposed to transmit AIS signals but do not), both in Canadian waters and elsewhere. RCM images are used to gather intelligence, conduct surveillance, and provide reconnaissance in support of deployed operations overseas. These missions benefit from RCM imagery and capabilities through the Polar Epsilon 2 project. The RCM carries AIS receivers, which accelerate the detection of dark ships.

In collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), DND/CAF are developing an Ocean Feature Project to generate a four-dimensional ocean model. It links ocean surface features extracted from RCM imagery to other ocean data, accessed through a geospatial interface, for use by ocean/acoustics analysts, command personnel and system operators.

The DFO, through its enforcement branch, uses RADARSAT data to help monitor and act against illegal fishing around the world. Illegal fishing is a major issue impacting ecosystems and vulnerable coastal states, and is underpinned by the ability of vessels to operate anonymously at sea. The RCM's maritime surveillance capabilities can assist in pinpointing those vessels and determining where patrol activities should be focused. Large marine protected areas can be scanned for unusual activity, and the borders of small islands can be monitored for intrusion. The RCM allows the DFO to expand its ability to monitor activity and share real-time information with its international partners in the fight against illegal fishing. The DFO is also investigating how satellite imagery can help monitor whales in navigational areas, under the Oceans Protection Plan.

The DFO uses RADARSAT data to help monitor and act against illegal fishing around the world. (Credit: DFO)

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) uses satellite EO data to support its activities related to First Nations' capacity to plan, build, operate and maintain community infrastructure. ISC's use of satellite EO data supports baseline mapping for Indigenous communities and monitoring permafrost.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) uses satellite imagery along with ground validation data to map, monitor and characterize Canada's land, vegetation, water, snow, ice and infrastructure in support of responsible development of natural resources, climate change action, emergency response, and northern priorities. Under the leadership of the RCM Chief Scientist at NRCan, scientists from across the department and in other government departments and agencies are developing methods, tools, technologies and capabilities for using the various modes of the RCM for diverse applications. At NRCan's Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, researchers are also creating analysis-ready data and value-added products to support downstream research, operations and evidence-based policy- and decision-making in a range of disciplines and priority areas within the department and across the Government of Canada. NRCan also uses RADARSAT data to develop maps to support emergency response to wildfire, ice break-up and flood emergencies.

Public Safety Canada coordinates the use of satellite EO data for emergency response, management, and mitigation at the national and provincial/territorial levels. The Government Operations Centre is responsible for activating the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" when emergencies occur in Canada, such as the major floods that affected several Canadian regions in the springs of and . Flood maps are provided by the NRCan Emergency Geomatics Service.

Chief Warrant Officer Olstad, 4th Canadian Division Sergeant-Major, and members of 4th Canadian Division unload sandbags used to assist residents of Constance Bay, Ontario, in barricading water during Operation LENTUS on . (Credit: Master Corporal Donnie McDonald, 4 Canadian Division Headquarters Public Affairs)

Parks Canada uses satellite data to fulfill its mandate related to the conservation of natural and cultural resources of the Canadian heritage sites under its purview. Satellite EO data is used for monitoring national parks and glaciers and for mapping land cover.

The Public Health Agency of Canada uses satellite EO data to assess risks associated with the environment or climate change, in order to prepare for and respond to health and security events. For example, EO technology has been used to improve risk mapping for communicable diseases such as Zika fever, malaria, and water-borne cholera.

While enjoying the great outdoors, we might be at risk for mosquito- and tick-borne diseases. Satellite data can help us pinpoint the risk areas so we can be prepared.

Other departments and agencies like the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Global Affairs Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Statistics Canada also use RADARSAT data for special projects and research and development.

A whole-of-Government mission

Working in collaboration with industrial partners, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is the Government of Canada lead on RCM mission planning and operations. NRCan provided critical support to mission planning, including introducing and evaluating new imaging modes, building a data simulator for users to test proxy RCM data in applications before launch, developing calibration methods, and building new systems to pre-process RCM data that make it easier for users to extract relevant information from the expected large volumes of RCM data.

To support operations, a state-of-the-art Satellite Operations Control Centre at CSA headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec, and a back-up facility in Ottawa, have been built. Over the past five years, new antennas and supporting infrastructure to support the RCM were installed at NRCan's three ground stations, and NRCan will be responsible for data downlinking, network transmission and ensuring that the CSA's telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) transmissions are delivered to the satellites. NRCan also hosts and disseminates the RCM's data archives through a new, robust Earth Observation Data Management System (EODMS) for Canadians to download RADARSAT and other satellite EO data.

In addition, because of the Polar Epsilon 2 project, the DND/CAF are equipped to receive and process data. Shared Services Canada is responsible for communications infrastructure between the various subsystems of the ground segment, and for the IT infrastructure required for satellite data reception, processing and storage. The RCM data is hosted at the Enterprise Data Centre in Barrie, Ontario. NRCan provides support during the critical launch and early orbit phase of the RCM.

This Inuvik Satellite Station Facility near the Mackenzie River Delta, 200 km above the Arctic Circle, is run by NRCan, who uses it to collect important data to better understand our planet and its changes. (Credit: Peter Clarkson)

The RCM is a truly whole-of-Government satellite mission. Developed in close consultation with multiple government departments and agencies, it enables over a dozen of them to continue delivering important services to Canadians.

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