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Components and specifications

Space segment: the spacecraft

Space Segment

Text version - of image RCM space segment

Credit: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is a trio of identical satellites flying in a low Earth orbit (altitude from 586 km to 615 km). Each of the spacecraft consists of a bus and a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload. There is also a secondary payload, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for ships, that is used independently or in conjunction with the SAR.

– The Making of a Satellite: The RADARSAT Constellation. (Credits: CSA, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.)



Number of satellites Three, equally spaced in a dawn-dusk plane
Bus Canadian SmallSat bus
Total mass 1400 kg
Antenna 9.45 
Power < 1600 W (peak); < 220 W (average)
Orbit 586–615 km Sun-synchronous maintained within a 100 m radius orbital tube
Polarization Single pol / dual co-cross selectable pol & compact polarimetry available on all modes; dual HH-VV available for specific modes; one quad-polarization mode
Imaging time (out-of-eclipse) 15 minutes/orbit average (peak 25 minutes/orbit every 3 orbits)
12.5 minutes continuous imaging
Lifetime 7 years (each satellite)

Ground segment

The RCM requires ground stations with vast coverage over Canadian maritime zones of interest in order to provide data within 10 to 30 minutes of acquisition.

The ground segment is used to:

The mission planning and operations of RCM is conducted by the CSA in collaboration with industrial partners. To fulfill this function, a state-of-the-art Primary Control Facility at CSA headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec, and a Back-up Control Facility in Ottawa, have been built.

In addition, the Department of National Defense, through the Polar Epsilon 2 Project, is also organized to order, process and receive data.

The Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, a division of Natural Resources Canada, hosts the SAR data archives through the Earth Observation Data Management System.

Shared Services Canada is responsible for communications infrastructure between the various subsystems of the ground segment.

Finally, a network of ground stations helps command and track the spacecraft and receive data, including:

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