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.
rng × az
Swath Width
Polarization Options
HH, VV, HV or VH VV or HH +HV HH+VVTable note 1 Compact HH+VV+
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
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.

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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