RadarSAT 2 – General Information

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RADARSAT-2 is an Earth observation satellite that was successfully launched December 14, 2007 for the Canadian Space Agency by Starsem, using a Soyuz FG launch vehicle, from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. RADARSAT-2 was previously assembled, integrated and tested at the David Florida Laboratory near Ottawa, Ontario before the start of its launch campaign.

The end of the spacecraft and ground segment commissioning period was declared on April 27, 2008 after which routine commercial operation started. The Satellite has a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) with multiple polarization modes, including a fully polarimetric mode in which HH, HV, VV and VH polarized data are acquired. Its highest resolution is 1 m in Spotlight mode (3 m in Ultra Fine mode) with 100 m positional accuracy requirement. In ScanSAR Wide Beam mode the SAR has a nominal swath width of 500 km and an imaging resolution of 100 m. Its left looking capability allows the spacecraft the unique capability to image the Antarctic on a routine basis providing data in support of scientific research.

The prime contractor on the project is MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), who have previously built projects such as the Canadarm. Other collaborating companies included EMS Technologies and Alenia. EMS Technologies Space & Technology/Montreal division was bought by MDA in 2005. RADARSAT-2 is owned and operated by MDA;

RADARSAT-2 is a follow-on to RADARSAT-1 which mission terminated in April 2013. It has the same orbit (798 km altitude sun-synchronous orbit with 6 p.m. ascending node and 6 a.m. descending node). Some of the orbit characteristics are 24 days repeat cycle (=343 orbits), 14.29 orbits per day, each orbit being 100.75 minutes duration. It is filling a wide variety of application, including sea ice mapping and ship routing, iceberg detection, agricultural crop monitoring, marine surveillance for ship and pollution detection, terrestrial defence surveillance and target identification, geological mapping, mine monitoring, land use mapping, wetlands mapping, topographic mapping.

On 4 July 2009, Canada’s Department of National Defence announced their intention to increase RADARSAT-2 usage for surveillance of Canada’s coastlines and the Arctic. To carry out this new project, the satellite’s owner MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Richmond, B.C., was awarded $25-million contract to carry out upgrades (called project Polar Epsilon) to enhance the satellites capabilities to detect surface ships. The upgrades consisted of creating new beam mode (OSVN and DVWF) that target improvements in maritime vessels detection over a broad area, as well as upgrading the RADARSAT-2 ground segment to improve conflict resolution with other government users. Two new ground stations for the data reception have been built, one on the east coast at Masstown, N.S., and the other at Aldergrove, B.C. (west coast). These two new stations are mainly used for the Polar Epsilon project.

As of January 2014, RADARSAT-2 is entering its 6th operational service year. Numerous enhancements have been added to the original capabilities both on the ground and on the space segments. The operational performance is well within the specification with an acquisition success rate above 98% (Acquisition successfully executed Vs Acquisition loaded on the Spacecraft for execution) and a percentage of availability of 99.98% (hours of outage Vs total hours in a year). The usage of SAR data have been steadily growing from an average of 3.5 minutes per orbit in 2008 to an average of 10.8 minutes per orbit in 2013.