Falcon 9 Launches Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission

Falcon 9 first stage descends toward a landing as the second stage orbits Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) on Wednesday, orbiting three satellites that will improve the nation’s ability to conduct maritime surveillance, monitor its ecosystem and climate change, and undertake disaster relief efforts.

The booster lifted off on time at 7:17 a.m. PDT, piercing a thick layer of fog at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Deployment of the three RADARSAT spacecraft was completed just over one hour after liftoff.

Falcon 9’s first stage successfully touched down at Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg. The booster previously launched SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its first demonstration mission in March 2019.

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is the evolution of the RADARSAT Program and builds on Canada’s expertise and leadership in Earth observation from space. It consists of three identical C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites.

Built by MDA, a Maxar company, the three C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites will provide daily revisits of Canada’s vast territory and maritime approaches, including the Arctic up to 4 times a day, as well as daily access to any point of 90% of the world’s surface.

The RCM will support the Government of Canada in delivering responsive and cost-effective services to meet Canadian needs in areas like maritime surveillance, ecosystem and climate change monitoring, and helping disaster relief efforts. For example:

  • The RCM will help create precise sea ice maps of Canada’s oceans and the Great Lakes to facilitate navigation and commercial maritime transportation. Each satellite also carries an Automatic Identification System receiver, allowing improved detection and tracking of vessels of interest.
  • The highly accurate data collected by RCM will enable farmers to maximize crop yields while reducing energy consumption and the use of potential pollutants.
  • Like RADARSAT-2, the RCM will support relief efforts by providing images of areas affected by disasters to help organize emergency response efforts and protect the local population.

This was SpaceX’s seventh successful launch of 2019. Six flights have used the Falcon 9 while the other one involved a Falcon Heavy.