May 09, 2013

Radarsat-1: Seventeen Years Of Technological Success

Estimated Article Reading Time: 3 min.

(9 May 2013) On March 29, 2013, Canada’s first Earth Observation satellite, Radarsat-1, experienced a technical anomaly after surpassing its expected lifetime by 12 years.

In the days since, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) assembled a joint CSA-industry team of engineers, who conducted an extensive investigation. Following numerous attempts to resolve the technical issue, the CSA, in consultation with its commercial distributor MDA Geospatial Services Inc.(MDA GSI) has concluded that Radarsat-1 is no longer operational after 17 years of outstanding service.

“Radarsat-1 is a great Canadian success story. It was among the first of the many world-leading technologies that have positioned Canada as a global leader in space,” said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). “Our Government has always been a strong supporter of the Canadian space sector and we are committed to ensuring it continues to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.”

“Radarsat-1 showcased Canadian technical innovation and fostered the creation of value-added applications development serving the needs of Canada and the world. Its successor, Radarsat-2, continues to build on this advanced radar technology and provides clients with greatly improved and diversified images of the Earth,” said Gilles Leclerc, Acting President of the CSA.

During its 90,828 orbits around the earth it provided 625,848 images to more than 600 clients and partners in Canada and 60 countries worldwide. It assisted with information gathering during 244 disaster events and literally mapped the world, providing complete coverage of the World’s continents, continental shelves and polar icecaps.

Among its many accomplishments, Radarsat-1 conducted Antarctic Mapping Missions (AMM) in 1999 and 2000 and delivered the first-ever, unprecedented high-resolution maps of the entire frozen continent. It also delivered the first stereo-radar coverage of the planet’s landmass, the first high-resolution interferometric coverage of Canada, and produced complete single season snapshots of all the continents.

The end of the Radarsat-1 mission does not impact the security of Canadian borders, coasts or northern territories. Radarsat-2 continues to provide users with critical, high-quality data. Archival images covering the past 17 years of operation are also still available.

The Radarsat Constellation Mission comprises three satellites, which will further maximize Canada’s capability to carry out around-the-clock surveillance from space. Just like Radarsat-2 was the successor of Radarsat-1, the Radarsat Constellation Mission, slated to launch in 2018, will become the successor of Radarsat-2. This is part of the Government’s plan to maintain Canada’s leadership in the global Earth Observation while ensuring Canada’s capability to carry out around-the-clock surveillance of its territory and maritime approaches.


Developed and operated by the CSA, Radarsat-1 monitors environmental changes and the planet’s natural resources. Launched November 4, 1995, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Radarsat-1 provides Canada and the world with an operational radar satellite system capable of the timely delivery of large amounts of data.

The sophisticated satellite is equipped with a powerful synthetic aperture radar instrument that acquires images of the Earth day-and-night, in all weather, through cloud cover, smoke and haze. As early as February 1996, it began providing information to government, scientists and commercial users in the fields of cartography, ice studies and observations, hydrology, oceanography, agriculture and forestry.

Radarsat-1, originally conceived to function for five years, has far surpassed its design lifetime and is in its 18th year of operation.


Launched in December 2007, Radarsat-2 is Canada’s next-generation commercial radar satellite. It offers powerful technical advancements that enhance marine surveillance, ice monitoring, disaster management, environmental monitoring, resource management and mapping in Canada and around the world.

Radarsat Constellation Mission

Through the cutting edge Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) the Government is ensuring Canada continues to have the tools necessary to assert its sovereignty, monitor and manage its resources, and keep watch over its vast territory and coastal areas.

RCM will provide complete coverage of Canada’s vast land mass, oceans and coastal approaches at least once per day and up to four times daily in the high Arctic, under any weather conditions. It will provide continuity and enhanced functionalities to the users of Radarsat-1 and Radarsat-2.

source: Canadian Space Agency