The RADARSAT Constellation

Earth Observation has greatly evolved over the years and Canada's satellites, RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2, are a true measure of our advanced technology. In the wake of their global success, Canada is developing the RADARSAT Constellation of small satellites to further maximize our capability to carry out round-the-clock surveillance from space.

The Design

The RADARSAT Constellation containing three identical satellites will provide complete global coverage and offers daily revisits of Canada's vast territory and coastal approaches of all three Oceans: the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Pacific.

Circling the Earth every 96 minutes, the satellites of the RADARSAT Constellation offers daily access to 90% of the world's surface.

Each satellite has a capability to perform 12 minutes of active detection per orbit, for a total of 36 minutes, either continuously or in pre-programmed sequences. This 36-minute active detection is long enough to capture images over Canada from coast-to-coast-to coast, while the remaining time serves to recharge the batteries using solar energy.

With three satellites, Canada will be increasing its capacity to obtain imagery, thus enhancing the reliability of the system and providing data faster to government, scientific and commercial users.

The design and development of the three satellites began in 2005. Launches of these satellites are being planned between 2014 and 2015. Each satellite of the RADARSAT Constellation has an estimated lifetime of seven years.

The Applications

The RADARSAT Constellation provides a "big picture" overview of Canada's vast land mass, especially the Arctic, and navigable sea routes and coastal areas. The Constellation increases Canada's ability to monitor and manage its natural resources and environment, while enhancing the vigilant surveillance of our territory assuring Canada's safety, security and sovereignty.

Maritime Surveillance:

  • Ice and iceberg monitoring securing safe maritime navigation
  • Marine winds monitoring improving weather forecasts and meteorological research
  • Oil pollution monitoring and interception of polluting vessels
  • Ship detection supporting national security and fisheries monitoring

Arctic Monitoring

The Arctic is already experiencing an increase in shipping, due primarily to oil and gas development, and tourism. More activity can be expected as diminishing ice cover in the summer months makes Arctic marine transportation safer and more viable.

The RADARSAT Constellation supports Canada's need for monitoring ice, oil spills, shipping and other activities in the Arctic and the Northwest Passage by providing full coverage of the area every 10 hours.

Disaster Management Applications:

  • Regular collection of data to support risk assessment and dispatch of rescue, aid and relief
  • Detecting shifting infrastructure over large areas and land slides
  • Generating wide area coverage to map the extent of large flooded areas
  • Hurricane monitoring

Flood Monitoring

The RADARSAT Constellation's unique contribution to flood monitoring is its ability to capture images, day-and-night in all weather conditions. The RADARSAT Constellation assists the disaster management community by monitoring the extent, duration and impact of floods, identification of areas at risk of developing infectious diseases, while supporting the critical development of flood mitigation measures.

Operational disaster management services will be better served with the increased availability of global data images supplied by the RADARSAT Constellation.

Ecosystem Monitoring

  • Assuring support for the sustainable development of agriculture and forestry resources
  • Contributing to enhancing our understanding of climate change and its impact on ecosystems
  • Detection of changes over time in Canada's coastal areas, wetlands and wildlife habitats
  • Monitoring environmental impact of mineral exploitation


With the ability to provide unique data about crop structure, conditions and moisture content of the soil, coupled with day-and-night imaging capability regardless of weather, radar satellites are becoming an important source of information for agricultural professionals. Considering the spectrum of information that may be gathered, the RADARSAT Constellation represents a significant advance in the monitoring and mapping of the changing conditions of agricultural crops, farm management activities and soil moisture.

Key Canadian Government users of RADARSAT Constellation data

  • Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada
  • Canadian Coast Guard
  • Canadian Ice Service
  • Department of National Defence
  • Environment Canada
  • Fisheries & Oceans Canada
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
  • National Resources Canada
  • Parks Canada
  • Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Statistics Canada
  • Transport Canada