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Technical characteristics

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) spacecraft were built to respond to the needs identified by government users.

Operational modes

The system is designed as a medium-resolution mission primarily dedicated to regular monitoring of broad geographic areas. This provides a "big picture" overview of Canada's land mass and proximate water areas. Combined with higher-resolution imagery, the data are expected to dramatically enhance Canada's ability to manage resources and protect the environment, and to improve security by providing an operational surveillance system. The system also includes high-resolution modes at 1 m × 3 m, 3 m and 5 m, primarily designed for disaster management.

Mode Res.
m
Looks
rng × az
Swath Width
(accessible)
km
Nominal
NESZ
(dB)
Polarization Options
HH, VV, HV or VH VV or HH +HV HH+VVTable note 1 Compact HH+VV+
HV+VH
Low Resolution 100 m 100 8×1 500 (500) -22 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Medium Resolution 50 m 50 4×1 350 (600)Table note 2 -22 Yes Yes Yes Yes
High PRF m 50 4 × 1 350 -22 Yes Yes No Yes
Hign Incidence mTable note 5 50 4 × 1 133 -22 Yes Yes No Yes
Medium Resolution 30 m 30 2×2 125 (350) -24 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Medium Resolution 16 m 16 1×4 30 (350) -25 Yes Yes Yes Yes
High Resolution 5 m 5 1 30 (500) -19 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Very High Resolution 3 m 3 × 3 @35o 1 20 (500) -17 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Low Noise 100 4×2 350 (600)Table note 2 -25 Yes Yes Yes
Ship Detection var. 5×1 350 (350) variable Yes Yes Yes
Spotlight 1 × 3@35o 1 20 (350)
[5 km in az]
-17Table note 3 Yes Yes Yes
Quad-PolarizationTable note 4 9 1 20 (250) -24 Yes

Beam modes

RCM Imaging Modes

Text version of the RCM Imaging Modes image

Credit: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

The three-satellite configuration provides on average daily coverage of Canada's maritime approaches and frequent coverage of Canada's land, as well as daily access to 90% of the world to Canadian and international users. The satellites are equally spaced, 32 minutes apart within 100-m radius orbit maintenance at a 600-km low Earth orbit.

Nominal incidence angles per beam mode

The following tables list the nominal incidence angles at near range and far range for each beam of each imaging mode.

Low Resolution 100 m

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 6 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
SC100MA 19,02 55,08
SC100MHVA 19,02 40,68
SC100MHVB 27,10 46,17
SC100MHVC 34,32 50,94
SC100MHVD 40,64 55,08

Medium Resolution 50 m

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 7 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
SC50MA 19,02 46,17
SC50MB 27,10 50,94
SC50MC 34,32 55,08
SC50MD 40,64 58,71
SC50METable note 8 55,06 60,35
SC50MHVA 19,02 34,36
SC50MHVB 27,10 40,68
SC50MHVC 34,32 46,17
SC50MHVD 40,64 50,94
SC50MHVE 46,14 55,08
SC50MHVF 50,91 58,71

Medium Resolution 30 m

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 9 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
SC30MA 17,30 28,84
SC30MB 26,09 36,30
SC30MC 33,89 42,75
SC30MD 40,67 48,30

Low Noise

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 10 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
SCLNA 19,02 46,17
SCLNB 27,10 50,94
SCLNC 34,32 55,08
SCLND 40,64 58,71

Ship Detection

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 11 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
SCSDA 39,82 58,24

Medium Resolution 16 m

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 12 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
16M2 20,18 23,01
16M3 22,26 25,02
16M4 24,30 26,98
16M5 26,28 28,89
16M6 28,20 30,73
16M7 30,07 32,52
16M8 31,88 34,26
16M9 33,63 35,93
16M10 35,33 37,55
16M11 36,97 39,12
16M12 38,56 40,63
16M13 40,09 42,09
16M14 41,57 43,50
16M15 42,99 44,86
16M16 44,37 46,17
16M17 45,70 47,43

High Resolution 5 m

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 13 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
5M1 19,02 21,89
5M2 20,18 23,01
5M3 22,26 25,02
5M4 24,30 26,98
5M5 26,28 28,89
5M6 28,20 30,73
5M7 30,07 32,52
5M8 31,88 34,26
5M9 33,63 35,93
5M10 35,33 37,55
5M11 36,97 39,12
5M12 38,56 40,63
5M13 40,09 42,09
5M14 41,57 43,50
5M15 42,99 44,86
5M16 44,37 46,17
5M17 45,70 47,43
5M18 46,98 48,65
5M19 48,21 49,83
5M20 49,40 50,96
5M21 50,56 52,06
5M22 51,67 53,12
5M23 52,74 54,14

Very High Resolution 3 m

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 14 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
3M1 18,25 20,19
3M2 19,42 21,33
3M3 20,57 22,46
3M4 21,71 23,57
3M5 22,83 24,67
3M6 23,94 25,75
3M7 25,03 26,82
3M8 26,11 27,87
3M9 27,17 28,90
3M10 28,21 29,91
3M11 29,24 30,91
3M12 30,25 31,89
3M13 31,24 32,85
3M14 32,31 33,80
3M15 33,17 34,73
3M16 34,11 35,64
3M17 35,04 36,54
3M18 35,94 37,42
3M19 36,83 38,28
3M20 37,71 39,13
3M21 38,57 39,96
3M22 39,41 40,78
3M23 40,23 41,57
3M24 41,04 42,36
3M25 41,84 43,13
3M26 42,62 43,88
3M27 43,38 44,62
3M28 44,13 45,35
3M29 44,86 46,06
3M30 45,58 46,75
3M31 46,29 47,44
3M32 46,98 48,11
3M33 47,66 48,77
3M34 48,33 49,41
3M35 48,98 50,04
3M36 49,62 50,66
3M37 50,25 51,27
3M38 50,87 51,87
3M39 51,47 52,46
3M40 52,07 53,03
3M41 52,65 53,59
3M42 53,22 54,15

Spotlight

Beam Mode MnemonicTable note 15 Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
FSL2 19,42 21,33
FSL3 20,57 22,46
FSL4 21,71 23,57
FSL5 22,83 24,67
FSL6 23,94 25,75
FSL7 25,03 26,82
FSL8 26,11 27,87
FSL9 27,17 28,90
FSL10 28,21 29,91
FSL11 29,24 30,91
FSL12 30,25 31,89
FSL13 31,24 32,85
FSL14 32,21 33,80
FSL15 33,17 34,73
FSL16 34,11 35,64
FSL17 35,04 36,54
FSL18 35,94 37,42
FSL19 36,83 38,28
FSL20 37,71 39,13
FSL21 38,57 39,96
FSL22 39,41 40,78
FSL23 40,23 41,57
FSL24 41,04 42,36
FSL25 41,84 43,13
FSL26 42,62 43,88
FSL27 43,38 44,62
FSL28 44,13 45,35
FSL29 44,86 46,06
FSL30 45,58 46,75

Quad-Polarization

Beam Mode Mnemonic Incidence Angle Near (deg.) Incidence Angle Far (deg.)
QP6 23,94 25,75
QP7 25,03 26,82
QP8 26,11 27,87
QP9 27,17 28,90
QP10 28,21 29,91
QP11 29,24 30,91
QP12 30,25 31,89
QP13 31,24 32,85
QP14 32,21 33,80
QP15 33,17 34,73
QP16 34,11 35,64
QP17 35,04 36,54
QP18 35,94 37,42
QP19 36,83 38,28
QP20 37,71 39,13
QP21 38,75 39,96
QP22 39,41 40,77
QP23 40,23 41,57
QP24 41,04 42,36
QP25 41,84 43,13
QP26 42,62 43,88

Data availability

One of the most important project objectives is to increase data availability to the main operational users of SAR data in Canada. The system became available as soon as all the satellites were in orbit and declared operational in . The mission provides data continuity to RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 users, but the system is not designed to be identical. The mission focuses on core applications and products and the provision of best value for money for the Government of Canada.

Some advanced features, such as RADARSAT-2's Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) mode, are not included. The system performance requirements and data quality (radiometric accuracy) specified for RADARSAT-1 and 2 are maintained. Some aspects of the data quality that were not originally specified for RADARSAT (like ScanSAR beam discontinuities) are now specified based on experience gained through the RADARSAT mission.

For the main system users, the operations are simplified. Most of the acquisitions in Canada are pre-planned and data is made available to the users in near real-time. In some cases users process the data; in other cases, specific products are made available to user organizations.

Simulated RCM products

Since RCM products differ from RADARSAT-2 products in various ways (metadata structures, product formats, and acquisition modes), the CSA, in collaboration with the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (Natural Resources Canada), made simulated RCM products available to users before the RCM was operational. The purpose of providing these simulated products was to help users become familiar with the new format and adapt their processing chains accordingly, and minimize the impact of the changes on data users and maximize the use of RCM data when it became available.

Coverage, access and imaging time

The mission is designed to provide top-notch response to core needs, which can be summarized as:

The RADARSAT Constellation provides on average 15 minutes of imaging time per orbit per satellite, with peak imaging of 25 minutes per orbit per satellite outside the eclipse season.

Revisit and re-look

The RADARSAT Constellation provides a four-day exact revisit, allowing coherent change detection using an InSAR mode. It also provides an average daily global re-look capability for several imaging modes. Most of the applications considered require re-look at least daily and an exact revisit once to twice weekly (interferometric change detection applications). Very frequent re-look capability is critical to certain disaster management applications.

Timeliness and data latency

The timeliness and data latency requirement is highly variable according to the application area. For many ecosystem monitoring applications, data delivered several days or in some cases several weeks later may be sufficient. However, maritime surveillance and disaster monitoring have much more demanding timeliness requirements. For ship detection in Canadian and adjacent waters within Canadian ground station antenna masks, the RADARSAT Constellation provides 10-minute data latency from acquisition to delivery of data, and 30 minutes for other maritime surveillance applications. For global and Canadian disaster management applications, the Constellation provides 2-hour data latency from downlink to data delivery, and for ecosystem monitoring applications, 24-hour data latency from downlink to data delivery is provided.

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