Season 2 – Episode 09: The RADARSAT Constellation Mission

Just how many black rhinos could Canada into orbit? What exactly is a satellite constellation? What is the Canadian Space Agency doing to help protect Canadians from natural disasters? With the help of special guest Geneviève Houde, Systems Engineer for the CSA, we answer all of these questions in this week’s episode.

Nearly all of our episodes so far have focused on civil engineering monuments, and certainly all of them have been securely planted on earth. With this episode taking us off-planet and into orbit we have an opportunity to break down the difference between Civil Engineering and other disciplines needed for projects like the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (or RCM) such as Mechanical Engineering. The short version? If it moves, it’s not civil! So to make sure we’ve got all our facts straight we talked with CSA Systems Engineer about her history with the Canadian Space Agency and how the RCM works.

The RCM is project 15 years in the making, and an effort of 300 people from 50 companies across Canada, and 125 suppliers from 7 different provinces. This nationwide project reached earth’s orbit with the help of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in June 2019 and became fully operational in November. The “constellation” in RCM refers to this mission being made up of three separate satellites that circle the globe every 96 minutes, with their orbits evenly spaced to provide near complete coverage of the earth at any time. 

These satellites are just 3.6m high, barely 1m wide, and just under 2m deep, and weighing 1430kg each, roughly the weight of a black rhino! They orbit the earth at 600km high, twice the distance of the ISS, and their tiny size and massive distance combined makes them naked to the human eye. But this distance is no obstacle for the RCM’s imaging technology, and neither is smoke, rain, clouds, or other atmospheric obstructions. Using Synthetic Aperture RADAR the RCM sends packets of information to earth which reflect back up to the satellites for three main purposes: maritime surveillance, disaster management, and ecosystem monitoring.

Surveillance can be a bit of a scary topic, so we take some time to ease John’s conspiracy concerns while also discussing how you can access the RCM’s images yourself, with the help of a resource provided by the CSA.

Geneviève Houde: bio | headshot

Canadian Space Agency: website | facebook | twitter | instagram | RADARSAT Constellation Mission Project | how to access RCM images


Image Gallery

Image of the RADARSAT Constellation | RCM vibration testing | RCM Illustration

Image Credits: Canadian Space Agency

RCM Ready to be launched

Image Credit: SpaceX


Learn more at: | Facebook | Instagram

Music by: John Julius –

Edited by: Astronomic Audio

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