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.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Beautiful performance. Anyone run across any announcements that a bloc 5 is going to fly for the 4th time?

  • Lee

    Nope. And of those that have flown multiple times, not one has been turned around in less than 76 days… Next day reflight, here we come! Or not.

  • schmoe

    The one 4th flight of an individual Falcon 9 booster that has been announced is the In-Flight Abort Test. Originally assigned to booster no. B1048 but now has been switched to B1046.

    I would also suspect the next Starlink launch to be the 4th flight of a Falcon 9 booster.

  • duheagle

    Not so far. I would, though, expect the first fourth flight of a Block 5 to occur on the next Starlink deployment mission. And the first fifth flight on the third Starlink deployment mission, etc.

  • duheagle

    Thanks. I hadn’t seen anything about the in-flight abort test. Agree entirely about Starlink deployment missions being guinea pig missions anent Block 5 longevity.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The launch space does not really require the 24 hour turn around. That’s a bit of a red herring for this era space operations. If I were Space X I’d leave that goal to the BF(x) program. The real question is how many refurbs and launches can they get out of a block 5? If the number really is high SpaceX might be able to throttle down the production rate to a very low level. Their evolution into operating this way has been much slower than predicted. But that’s okay. Progress is being made while they feel out the capabilities of block 5.

  • Lee

    I agree that 24 hour turn around isn’t necessary. But Musk and many here have been touting that as a capability of F9B5, because they claim the F9B5 is reusable instead of refurbishable. The F9B5 clearly still requires quite a bit of refurbishment. I was hoping they would get the turn around time down, but it really hasn’t come down much over time. I think that portends what might also be the case with SHS or BF(x) or whatever they are calling it. I can’t keep up 🙂

  • Jeff2Space

    True. But honestly I care more about cost of refurbishment rather than how long it takes to refurbish. Obviously time is a part of this since you’re paying the people working on the booster a salary, but there are other costs which come into play (like replacement parts).