Polar Communications and Weather Satellite Project One Step Closer to Reality

The Canadian government today released a Request for Information (RFI) for the Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) Project signalling that is prepared to move forward with a project seen as crucial in ensuring Canada’s sovereignty over the Canadian arctic and would provide reliable 24/7 tactical narrowband and wideband communication, weather imaging and space weather monitoring.

SpaceRef has learned that the government favors a constellation of satellites, the number to be determined, rather than a single satellite. The lifespan of each satellite would nominally be 15 years of operations. There would also be the need for new ground segments.
Each satellite would have either identical or different payloads with the following capabilities:
a. A multi‐band Wideband communications capability for high data rate for military
and commercial communications services;
b. A Narrowband (i.e. UHF) capability for tactical military communication services;
c. A meteorological imaging capability;
d. A space weather capability for measuring the characteristics of the satellite’s local
space environment throughout the orbit;
e. Any other suggested, suitable mission payloads that could be considered due to
the nature of possible orbits to be considered.
The government will hold the first Industry Day on Monday, November 25, 2013 at a location to be determined. The closing date for the RFI is January 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm EST.
Should the PCW Project move forward it is estimated the start date would be November 2016 with contractors providing a schedule;
1. to develop the PCW ground and space segments;
b. to build the PCW ground and space segments; and
c. to launch and commission the PCW satellites and ground infrastructure.
According to the RFI “The PCW Project is envisaged as a Canadian‐led mission to address broad Whole of Government (WoG) priorities in the North. At the same time, there is strong interest and potential for International Partners to contribute to the mission. The benefits of a multifaceted, collaborative polar constellation venture are wide‐ranging. A polar constellation could not only satisfy WoG Canadian and potential International Partners in Arctic communications and weather requirements, but could also provide a globally‐unique, tactical communications capability to Allies and an improved weather monitoring capability to support global weather and sea ice forecasting. From a Canadian perspective, enhanced satellite communications and weather monitoring capability would support the missions of DND, Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), Transport Canada (TC), EC, and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), to name but a few.”
The PCW constellation would:
a. Extend the defence, safety, security, and sovereignty of Canadians by supporting
the missions of DND/Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), AANDC, CCG, DFO, Nav Canada, TC, EC, and NRCan, among others.
b. Facilitate, enhance the safety, and reduce the environmental impact of Northern
natural resource development;
c. Improve the availability and accuracy of weather information in the region to
support the safety of Canadians and to enable economic activity;
d. Improve the monitoring and understanding of space weather phenomena and
better protect vulnerable space and terrestrial infrastructure;
e. Support the viability and safety of growing air and marine traffice in the polar
f. Support innovative and productive Arctic research;
g. Enable possible International Partnerships and opportunities with other Arctic
nations; and
h. Enhance the connectivity of high‐northern communities to the broadband
information backbone infrastructure.
Secondary objectives would include:
a. Partial Narrowband communication services outside of the Arctic to the fullest
extent possible;
b. Partial Wideband communications services to the Antarctic Region;
c. Monitoring of the local (to the satellite) space environment to provide diagnostics
of PCW satellite anomalies or communication degradation;
d. Continuous recording of the ionizing radiation data over the whole PCW orbit to
provide the unique space environment dataset related to the PCW orbits;
e. Added knowledge on the behaviour of space weather variables in relation to the
monitoring and forecasting of Space weather on PCW orbits and to fill existing
gaps in space environment models used for design of new missions;
f. The capacity to support other missions, subject to resource availability.
The project will be lead by Canada but the government is open to international partners participating.
Since MDA was contracted in 2009 by the government to develop the mission concept it would seem likely that MDA would become the lead contractor for the project should it go forward.
The RFI with complete requirements and initial system details is available for download at Public Works Canada website.
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About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.