New Sats Will Give Canada ‘Complete Picture’ of Maritime Activity

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Canada’s military plans to boost its maritime surveillance capability by orbiting a new satellite constellation by 2018.

The Canadian government announced in late January that it would proceed with the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM), a constellation of three radar-imaging satellites that will keep eyes on maritime and Arctic areas and help monitor forestry and agriculture resources.

The Canadian Space Agency has let a CAN $706 million (US $691 million) contract to pay MDA of Richmond, British Columbia, to build, launch and initially operate the RCM.

Canada also plans to upgrade ground stations to handle the anticipated flood of data from its new orbiting eyes. Officials expect to release a request for proposals for this work within a year.

Although the constellation will be used to provide information for a number of Canadian government departments and agencies, the Canadian Forces sees the system as key to its future surveillance needs.

“One satellite can give you a spotty picture of what’s going on,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Col. Andre Dupuis, the Department of National Defence’s director of space requirements. “Three satellites will give us a complete picture every single day of every ship in our area of responsibility, all the way out to about 2,000 nautical miles. ”

The RCM satellites’ synthetic aperture radar will be able to detect ships 25 meters in length or larger. The radar can conduct surveillance day or night and through heavy cloud cover.

The Department of National Defence is also funding an Automatic Identification System (AIS) package for installation on RCM. For navigational safety, the International Maritime Organization requires ships larger than 300 tons to carry an AIS beacon, which allows other ships or land-based receivers to track a vessel’s identity, speed and course.

Polar Epsilon 2

Dupuis said the Canadian military also has a separate project related to RCM called Polar Epsilon 2.

That project is focused mainly on upgrading existing ground stations in Canada, now in operation for Radarsat-2, to be capable of accepting data from RCM. The project will include work on the stations to accept the AIS data and a better radar picture.

Ground station antennas will likely have to be modified for the AIS capability and new synthetic aperture radar processors installed to allow the enhancement of RCM imagery.

Full article: New Sats Will Give Canada ‘Complete Picture’ of Maritime Activity (Defense News)

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