Ten Years and Over Two Billion Kilometres for RADARSAT-1

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Friday, November 4, 2005


Longueuil, Quebec, November 4, 2005 - The Canadian Space Agency's RADARSAT-1 satellite today celebrates its tenth anniversary, having flown 2,354,120,900 km while orbiting the Earth. Launched on November 4, 1995, it was expected to operate only five years, and the quality of images it captured exceeded the standards of the time. It is still operating and surpassing the standards.

RADARSAT-1 was built to catalogue the vast expanse of Canada's Arctic. It does this quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively, providing 3,800 images per year to the Canadian Ice Service, the largest of its 600 clients.

"RADARSAT-1 has a unique set of instruments, capable of monitoring our planet day and night in all weather conditions," said the Honourable David L. Emerson, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency. "It has established an unparalleled international reputation and a standard in Earth observation that embodies Canadian innovation at its best."

Beneficial uses of RADARSAT-1

Canada's satellite has many achievements to its credit. To date, it is the first satellite to have mapped the entire continent of Antarctica. This may seem simple, but it is a delicate task fraught with risk. To obtain images of the icy continent, the satellite was rotated in orbit by remote commands, and then set back in its original orientation three weeks later. All credit goes to the ground team. Their ingenuity made these difficult manoeuvres a success.

For regions struck by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, or oil spills, RADARSAT-1 has and continues to provide crucial images to assist disaster management efforts under the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters.

Through the I-STOP project (Integrated Satellite Tracking of Oil Polluters), RADARSAT scans for anomalies on the water surface that may indicate oil spills. Technical experts examine images, an aircraft is sent to confirm the spill, identify the vessel, and gather evidence in support of possible future legal action. With readily available data from space, the enforcement work can be completed in hours.

Hydrologists can map and better manage precious water resources with the help of RADARSAT-1. Its data helps farmers decide on the best time and precise areas to fertilize and water their fields, which saves money and helps to protect the environment. Parks Canada uses RADARSAT-1 images to monitor the health and diversity of our national parks.

Despite anomalies that may arise, a dedicated team keeps RADARSAT-1 working even after 10 years. A couple of years ago, the satellite came close to signing off permanently. A solution needed to be found quickly when a mechanism that maintains the satellite's position showed signs of wear-this major problem could have caused the loss of the satellite. The team looked for some other way of controlling RADARSAT-1 in its orbit 798 km above the Earth. The challenge: to find an existing onboard system, with its own function, that could also control the satellite's orientation. The innovative system they developed is still operational. Interacting with the Earth's magnetic field, it allows the satellite to be controlled as precisely as with the original instruments.

"Canadians can be proud.  Radarsat is more than just a satellite--it is a humanitarian service that Canada provides to its communities across the country and to the world. It is Canada's "eye in the sky" that monitors our land and seas, helps us manage our natural resources and assists those in need when disasters strike," concludes Marc Garneau, President of the Canadian Space Agency.

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989, with headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec, the Canadian Space Agency is responsible for coordinating all civilian space-related scientific and technological research policies and programs, as well as those concerned with industrial development and international cooperation, on behalf of the government of Canada. The Canadian Space Agency provides services principally in the following four areas: earth observation, exploration and space science, satellite telecommunications and space awareness and learning. With overall responsibility for advancing Canada's space policies and programs, the Canadian Space Agency leverages international cooperation to champion world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of humanity.

  For information

Julie Simard
Media Relations Advisor
Canadian Space Agency
Tel.: (450) 926-4370

Christiane Fox 
            Office of the Honourable David L. Emerson
Minister of Industry
                                   (613) 995-9001

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