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Canadian Radarsat satellites launched aboard SpaceX rocket

Images will be used to track of sea ice, vessels, surface winds and oil pollution, and for disaster management.


LOS ANGELES — Three satellites for the Canadian Space Agency’s Earth-monitoring Radarsat program were launched into orbit from California on June 12 aboard a reused SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The rocket lifted off from fog-shrouded Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:17 a.m. and arced over the Pacific west of Los Angeles.

The Radarsat Constellation Mission satellites were deployed a few minutes apart from the upper stage about an hour after liftoff.

The identical satellites, supplied by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) Ltd., headquartered in Vancouver, will bounce signals off the Earth’s surface to create images, even during adverse weather conditions.

The images are used for a range of purposes, including tracking of sea ice, vessels, surface winds and oil pollution, as well as disaster management – especially the recurring problem of flooding – and monitoring of agriculture, forestry and land changes.

The spacecraft were designed to operate in the same orbital plane at an altitude of about 373 miles (600 kilometres), separated from each other by about 9,072 miles (14,600 kilometres) while circling the globe in about 96 minutes.

The program’s first orbiter, Radarsat-1, was launched in 1995 and is now inactive. Radarsat-2 was launched in 2007 and is still operational, but the new three-satellite constellation is designed to greatly increase coverage, according to the space agency.

The $1.2-billion government-owned project replaces the RADARSAT-2 satellite.The new system will provide a major upgrade over its older counterpart, able to revisit an exact point on Earth every four days versus every 24 days for RADARSAT-2.

The satellite trio will be able to scan Earth day or night and in any weather conditions. They have the capacity to capture an image of a given location on about 90 per cent of the world’s surface, but they will be primarily used to keep tabs on Canadian territory for the federal government.

The system targets specific areas for imaging rather than making continuous images.

Primary control of the satellites is from the space agency’s headquarters in in Saint-Hubert, Que.

Each satellite is expected to have a seven-year lifespan.

Files from Canadian Press

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