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Radar Love

January 10, 2013

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (ticker MDA on TSX), a software/satellite company, today announced the signing of a $706 million contract with the Canadian Space Agency to build, launch and provide initial operations for the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM).

RADARSAT-1 and -2, which have been serving Canada and the world for 17 years. Its unique radar technology enables data imagery to be made as if the clouds, or even snow or ice was not there.

The new RCM is a constellation of three satellites providing around-the-clock coverage. Information obtained from RCM can include repeat imaging of the same area at different times of day, dramatically improving the frequency of monitoring coastal zones, northern territories, Arctic waterways and other areas of strategic and defence interest. RCM will also incorporate automated identification system technology, which when combined with the powerful radar images, supports the immediate detection and identification of ships worldwide. This daily coverage will provide high-resolution, all-weather imagery of 95 percent of the world on a daily basis. RCM will also support ecosystem and water-quantity monitoring, including wetlands and coastal change mapping and monitoring. It will impact fisheries tracking, ice and iceberg detection, and pollution and coastal-zone monitoring.

The information provided by the RCM satellites will enable MDA to meet a larger range of recurring monitoring needs in growing market segments such as oil and gas, mining, defence and security, well into the next decade. The mission development has begun in 2005, with satellite launches planned for 2018. The core mission includes three satellites, but the constellation is designed to be scalable to six satellites. This allows the system to address future requirements as they arise with greater flexibility. For example, new functionality could be added to a fourth satellite and these functions could be made available to all constellation users. In this fashion, RADARSAT Constellation is a paradigm shift from earlier RADARSAT missions. Instead of launching a single satellite, the capabilities of the system are distributed across several satellites, increasing revisit, and introducing a more robust, flexible system that can be maintained at lower cost and launched into orbit using smaller, less expensive launch vehicles.


The Canadian government is supporting the RADARSAT program in a strong way with these three new satellites. Of primary interest to the military, it may be useful for arctic shipping, off shore ice monitoring, and environmental research. MDA has a web-based image ordering capability.



Credit: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.