RADARSAT Constellation Mission: Agricultural Science from Space

RADARSAT Constellation Mission: Agricultural Science from Space


Canada has a rich legacy in space-based monitoring. It was 1995 with the launch of RADARSAT-1; 2007 with the launch of RADARSAT-2, and in June 2019, all things being good, we’re going to see the launch of the RCM mission. And what we’re going to see is that three satellites are going to be put on one rocket and they’re going to be put up into space on the same orbital plane. The data coming from these satellites together are going to provide wall-to-wall coverage over Canada’s terrestrial landmass. From a science perspective, RCM is going to have some new modes on it. Imagine monitoring Canada coast-to-coast every two to three days. We will be able to, quite literally, watch the crops grow. So, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada truly has had representatives at every step of the way feeding into the decision-making process and the science regarding the RCM mission. We are really interested in the use of the RCM from the agricultural monitoring — monitoring the state and change in Canada’s production systems to better inform the sector. From the very first day that that satellite is in orbit and collecting and sending data down, we want to hit the ground running, and that means that we have to know how to use that data from day one so that Canadians can make the best use of that space asset. It’s going to be super exciting seeing those first data streams coming down. We’ve worked very, very hard to build new operational systems to take in this data and use it, and I think that’s going to be a very special day for us. So, in my case for example, I’m taking that raw data, developing a method to identify what crops are being grown in the field, what the health of that crop is; how much water is in the soil. One of the biggest differences between this RCM mission and the previous missions is that a lot of the imaging data is going to be made available free and open to other players in the agricultural sector. For example, all levels of government, municipalities, territories, provinces, the private sector, and academia. What we’re going to see is similarly innovative applications and uses of those data to support Canada’s agriculture sector as a whole. The one thing I know is that when you put scientists together with an absolutely astounding asset like the RADARSAT constellation, we really have no idea what kind of innovation is going to come out. There was a great investment in this mission. It’s going to be launched and it’s going to provide a wealth of information that’s going to have significant returns to Canadians in terms of the economic benefits. This is really a very exciting time for radar remote sensing and this is a really cool place to do research. As Canadians we should be proud of this technology. We should be proud of Canada’s involvement in the development of synthetic aperture radar. And I think we should be starting to ask the question, where do we go in 10 years from now, and how are we going to make this better?

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