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Three Canadian radar satellites from California ready to launch – Spaceflight Now



Technicians prepare the Radarsat Constellation Mission satellites for encapsulation in the nose of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: MDA / SpaceX

SpaceX teams working at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California completed preparations before a Falcon 9 rocket with three Canadian-built radar observation satellites was launched into orbit on Wednesday.

A few minutes after the start on Wednesday morning, the first stage of the Falcon 9 returns to a landing zone in Vandenberg for SpaceX's second onshore rocket landing in California.

The 70-meter-high Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch Wednesday at 10:17 am (7:17 pm PDT; 1417 GMT) from the Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg, a military base some 225 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles.

There is a 13-minute start window for starting on Wednesday, otherwise the Falcon 9 missile will have to wait to fly another day. [1,458,593] Three 1,430-pound spaceships are being packed on the Falcon 9 rocket to continue a series of Canadian missile-launched radar observation satellites since 1995.

The Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) consists of three identical satellites, MDA's, a Canadian division of Maxar, were built. The Canadian Space Agency is leading the project to provide the Canadian government with radar images for national security, scientific research and environmental monitoring.

"We still have a number of milestones to check, but so far so good," said Mike Greenley, MDA Group President, in a telephone interview with Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday.

The Radarsat Constellation Mission follows Canada's previous radar observation satellites Radarsat 1 and 2, which were launched in 1995 and 2007.

extremely important for Canada, "Greenley said about RCM.

The RCM project will cost the Canadian government approximately $ 900 million ($ 1.2 billion), including the development of satellites, takeoff and planned seven-year operation, to Steve Iris, the RSM mission manager at the Canadian Space Agency.

This makes RCM one of the most expensive Canadian-led space missions in history and one of the most expensive payloads ever launched by SpaceX.

Each RCM satellite has a C-band radar instrument with a deployable antenna array, transmitters and receivers.

Unlike optical cameras, radars can look through clouds day and night and make observations. The radars send out signals and measure the waves reflected off the earth's surface to obtain information about structures, ships, forests, ice and crops.

Artist concept of the Radarsat constellation mission. Credit: MDA

"Earth observation is crucial, and radar-based Earth observation offers Canada excellent opportunities to deal with the sovereignty and safety of Canadians," Greenley said.

A dozen Canadian government agencies, including the military, are setting radar data. This broad deployment is expected to continue with RCM.

"In addition to our resource-based economy, which requires the monitoring of our forests, mining, energy, and agribusiness, our northern latitudes, which are sensitive to climate change, gain space-based radar systems that cover the earth in all weathers Day and night watching, "said Magdalena Wierus, Project Manager, Radarsat Constellation Mission of the Canadian Space Agency.

Most of Canada's long coastline is located in remote Arctic regions, away from terrestrial observation posts.

"We have a large part of northern Canada with a low population density, and there is not much infrastructure for surveillance there, and there is the greatest impact from climate change, especially permafrost," Iris said in a press conference the start. "With the constellation mission, we can monitor this region every day and monitor minor changes such as the deformation of the ground by the melting of the permafrost. We can do that four times a day. That's a big advantage over what we do now.

When observed in Spotlight mode, each of the three RCM satellites has a best resolution of 1 meter (3.3 in azimuth and 3 meters in range, which is comparable to the imaging performance of Radarsat 2.

With three satellites However, RCM can cover more areas.

600 kilometers, "said Wierus." One of the main improvements of the constellation is that together they are able to accurately locate a point on Earth every four days compared to Radarsat 2, which had an accurate retrieval every 24 days.

"Why is this important?" This is because we can use these images to measure, for example, changes in ground motion that help us better understand what It happens on Earth, "she said," The RCM can map any location on 90 percent of the Earth's surface daily, but will mainly map Canadian territory. "[196590InadditiontomonitoringmaritimetrafficandtheenvironmentRCMsatelliteswillmonitorthemovementoficebergsandicebergstheretreatandgrowthofglaciersandicesheetsTheobservationsatelliteswillalsomonitornaturaldisasterssuchasfloodingandwaterpollution

"The primary requirement of government users was the daily capture of the Canadian landmass and maritime approaches, including four-time images of the Arctic day," said Wierus. "RCM is able to cover all regions of Canada within 24 hours, which was not possible with Radarsat 2."

Wierus said the Canadian Space Agency is investigating ways in which the data collected by the Radarsat Constellation mission can be disseminated to the outside world by the Canadian government, which allows international scientists, businesses and the public to access the RCM images.

The three satellites of the Radarsat Constellation mission during encapsulation in the payload fairing of the SpaceX rocket Falcon 9. Photo credits: MDA / SpaceX

In addition to the radar image sensor, a radio receiver is installed in each RCM spacecraft to collect identification messages from seagoing vessels.

Anger or rogue ships that do not want to be found, "Wierus said.

According to Greenley, MDA supports the Canadian government in developing an Open Data Access Policy for RCM. Radarsat 2, which is still in operation, is a commercial satellite partially funded by the Canadian government, with additional private sector investment from MDA, which is now part of Maxar.

MDA owns Radarsat 2 while the Canadian government owns the RCM satellites

The Canadian government expects to use approximately 250,000 RCM images per year, more than required by the government for images from previous radarsat missions.

The launch on Wednesday will be the seventh mission of the year for SpaceX and the second of the Vandenberg company in 2019.

After launch, the Falcon 9 rocket will feature 1.7 million pounds of thrust from the nine Merlin 1D main engines The first stage flying south across the Pacific and a mixture of highly cooled kerosene and liquid oxygen consume propellant gases.

The starter scheduled to launch the Radarsat Constellation mission on Wednesday will use a first stage booster that flew on March 2 on a mission f from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the first Crew Dragon spaceship SpaceX on an unmanned test flight to the International Space Station.

At T + plus 2 minutes and 13 seconds, the first-stage main engines are shut down, followed by a booster disconnection about four seconds later. The second stage of the Falcon 9, which is powered by a single Merlin engine, fires at T + plus 2 minutes and 24 seconds to accelerate the RCM satellites into orbit.

The composite protective cover covering the RCM satellites at take-off is dropped at T + plus 2 minutes, 49 seconds, once the rocket has risen above the dense lower layers of the atmosphere.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is perpendicular to the Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The starter to compete in the Radarsat Constellation mission uses a first-stage booster, previously flown on a Kennedy Space Center mission in Florida on March 2, to launch SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft on a non-flown test flight to send to the International Space Station. Credit: SpaceX

In the meantime, the first stage begins with maneuvers to return to Vandenberg. Starting with a Boost-Back-Burn, three first-tier Merlin engines are used to lift the missile's downspeed and reverse the course back to the starting location.

After the boost-back fire, the booster reboots some of its engines for a wake-up fire, followed by firing the first-stage mid-engine for a final brake maneuver as it approaches a landing pad (approximately a quarter mile). 400 meters) from the starting point of Falcon 9 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

After landing a four-lane landing gear, landing stage 4 of the Falcon 9 is expected to land at about eight minutes after take-off. Pad, formerly known as the Space Launch Complex 4-West, was once a companion to the SLC 4E site first used by Titan rockets and now SpaceX's Falcon 9 vehicle.

Rocket landing is scheduled for Wednesday Following the launch of an Argentine Earth Observation satellite last October, this is the second landing on land with a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster in Vandenberg.

SpaceX has recorded thirteen additional Falcon 9 missile landings at Cape Cape after launching from the East Coast along with 26 successful returnees to the company's ocean-going drone vessels.

The company warned residents near Vandenberg of a supersonic blast during the rocket landing on Wednesday.

"There it is The inhabitants of Counties Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo may hear a sonic boom during the landing attempt," SpaceX said in a statement. "Residents of Santa Barbara County are most likely to hear the sound bang, though the experience of the residents depends on weather conditions and other factors."

This satellite view shows landing zone 4 (bottom left) and Space Launch Complex 4-East (right) below) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: Maxar

The second stage of the Falcon 9 will continue its mission with the RCM satellites, initially placing the payloads in a provisional parking orbit about 8.5 minutes before take-off. After coasting over the Antarctic, the upper stage is re-ignited for four seconds after liftoff for approximately 50 minutes to transport the RCM satellites into a nearly 600-kilometer orbit with a 97.7-degree orbit to the equator

The satellites are mounted on a donor specially designed by Ruag Space, a Swiss based company, which has a tilting mechanism to ensure that the RCM spaceships have enough room to separate from the rocket in orbit.

The satellite The distances are staggered every four minutes, with the last of the three distances being 62 minutes before the start of the mission.

Canadian ground controllers expect to receive the first radio signals from the satellites within two hours of launch to confirm that all spacecraft are alive and well.

The satellites will expand their 9.5-square-meter flat-panel radar antennas within the first few days of t The mission, according to MDA. The radars will be turned on for the first time 10 or 11 days after launch to perform functional checks and record the first test images.

The full commissioning and calibration campaign will take three to six months The Canadian Space Agency will declare the RCM satellites operational and ready for regular observations, officials said.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .


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