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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Eye in the Sky

Latest Canadian SAR satellite delivers higher resolution, more flexibility
RADARSAT-2
© Canadian Space Agency and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates
RADARSAT-2 is a second-generation Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite with a number of advancements, including three-meter ultra-fine beam for high-resolution imaging and increased data storage.
A RADARSAT-2 image of Greenland.
© Canadian Space Agency and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates
A RADARSAT-2 image of Greenland.
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By Barry Hochfelder

Fourteen times per day, RADARSAT-2 orbits the earth at 798 kilometers (495 miles). A product of a partnership between the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) in Richmond, British Columbia, the satellite is used in a number of applications, including marine surveillance, disaster management, mapping, and ice, geology, forestry, agriculture and hydrology.

Because of extensive shipping in Canadian waters, one of RADARSAT's most important functions is ice monitoring, which actually led to the development of the program more than a decade ago. Some of RADARSAT-2's capabilities include multi-polarization options that improve ice monitoring.

RADARSAT-2 was launched in December on a Soyuz vehicle from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is a second-generation Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite—RADARSAT-1 was launched in 1995—and has a number of advancements that include three-meter ultra-fine beam for high-resolution imaging, flexibility in selection of polarization, left- and right-looking imaging options, increased data storage and more precise measurements of spacecraft position and attitude.

Ultra-fine is used in marine surveillance where its images can be used to classify ships, as well as for oil-spill monitoring, and wind and surface-wave estimates. It also is useful in mapping, hydrology and geology.

The satellite consists of a bus module (solar arrays, payload support equipment and deployment structures), the payload (SAR antenna and sensor electronics) and the Extendable Support Structure (the mechanical interface between the bus and antenna, and is used to deploy the radar antenna and maintain it in stable, position).

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