Canadian RADARSAT-1 images assist in global emergencies


Radarsat-1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canada‘s Earth Observation Program made a giant leap on November 4, 1995 when RADARSAT-1 was launched and placed on its orbit some 800 kilometres above the Earth.

In the last fifteen years, RADARSAT-1 has mapped the world, capturing images day and night in all weather conditions. Its data is used to plan emergency response and relief efforts both here in Canada and across the world, under the International Charter on Space and Natural Disasters.

In October 2000, images of the Po River in Italy were captured to help monitor the rising flood waters. Back home, RADARSAT-1 images helped Canadian rescuers during the Red River flooding in Manitoba in 1997. RADARSAT-1 is an integral part of coastal and maritime pollution surveillance. In December 2008, the satellite provided images of the salvage operations after the Irving Whale oil spill off the coast of the Maritimes.

RADARSAT-1 is recognized around the world for its consistent, reliable performance. In Canada and for clients in over 60 countries, RADARSAT-1 provides images used in ice services, cartography, agriculture, oceanography, hydrology, and forestry. In January 1999, 276 images of Canada were compiled, resulting in the first mosaic of Canada – an instantaneous snapshot of the entire country.

To sustain RADARSAT’s internationally competitive position and meet Canada’s increasing need in Earth observation, the Canadian Space Agency developed a follow-on radar satellite program. In 2007, RADARSAT-2 was launched, a new generation satellite with enhanced capability. It has been performing flawlessly since then, ensuring continuity in collecting earth images.

Based on all these remarkable successes, the Canadian Space Agency is working on the next phase of the RADARSAT program by developing the RADARSAT Constellation. Made of three small earth observation satellites, the RADARSAT Constellation will provide complete coverage of Canada’s land and oceans offering daily access to images of 95% of the world to Canadian and international users. These satellites are planned for launch in 2014 and 2015.

Fifteen years later, the RADARSAT program continues to survey the globe, helping us to better understand our home planet. Its success is a tribute to the ingenuity and perseverance of the Canadian engineers and scientists who developed and built the original RADARSAT-1 satellite. With an estimated life expectancy of five years, RADARSAT-1 is celebrating this year fifteen years of operations – a great Canadian success story.


About Mario Carr

Mario Carr has a Physics degree from McMaster University and hosts this blog. He is the director of publicity for the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and has helped to raise the profile of the group. He writes an astronomy column and appeared on CHCH-TV to talk about the night sky. Mario is the founder of the Carr Marketing Group in Burlington, Ontario and can help with your marketing, communications, publicity and public relations needs. He can be reached at or
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