The Canadian Space Agency awards 8 contracts for studies of future Earth Observation systems

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission satellites were recently installed on their dispenser and inserted into the rocket fairing at SpaceX facilities in Vandenberg Air Force Base. Credit: MDA/SpaceX.

The Canadian Space Agency today announced eight contracts worth over $4 million for studies that will explore possible future Canadians Earth Observation systems. The contracts stem from the Option Analysis Studies for Earth Observation for Service Continuity request for proposals which was issues this past January. The CSA will evaluate the studies to determine what path to take when it needs to replace the RADARSAT Constellation Mission which launched last year.

The eights companies that each received contracts worth $574,862 were:

  • C-Core
  • MDA Systems Ltd.
  • Airbus DS GmbH
  • Polar View Canada Limited
  • AstroCom Associates Inc.
  • Space Strategies Consulting Ltd.
  • UrtheCast Corp.

UrtheCast is a bit of surprise as the company is filed for court protection with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on September 4, 2020.

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission is expected to be in service until at least 2026. The studies are looking at systems that could be in use between 2026 and 2041.

On Wednesday the Canadian Space Agency will host a webinar to discuss its Space-Based Earth Observation strategy.


The CSA defined the Option Analysis Studies for Earth Observation for Service Continuity consultation as follows:

The third generation of RADARSAT-brand satellite systems, the three-satellite RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), has been launched in 2019 and is expected to operate until at least 2026. Once operational, this system will provide Canada with continued and independent access to SAR data, a critical Earth Observation capability that supports a wide range of Government operations.

Given the significant planning and financial investments required to deliver a major satellite project, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and key federal partners are beginning planning for the next generation of SAR Earth Observation systems in order to ensure that Canada is able to seamlessly maintain this capability and enhance the operational services beyond 2026.

To this end, the CSA have consulted key federal partners to gather inputs on Canada’s future Earth Observation needs, with a focus on the SAR data needs, with the objective to provide the recommendations on the way forward to ensure EO Service Continuity for Canada.

Any new EO systems will take into account what’s already been done and how it was achieved and the NPP delves into this in the background objectives;

Based on its experience in developing and launching three iterations of the RADARSAT family of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites, and through extensive consultation with partner departments across the federal government, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has developed a more thorough understanding of all of the elements that are needed to ensure it is able to capture, store and disseminate useful EO data over Canada and other areas of interest to the GoC and industry. In particular, the CSA is focused on identifying a suitable end-to-end solution – that includes a space segment, ground infrastructure, and data exploitation- that is able to provide a centralized access to user-friendly data products and applications meeting GoC needs while also helping to support growth and competitiveness across Canada’s EO Industry.

The NPP then states what opportunities need to be taken into consideration when looking at future EO systems;

Given this evolved understanding of what the GoC’s future space-based EO system aspires to be, the following opportunities have to be taken into consideration, as key objectives of a RCM follow-on system. It should be noted, however, that these considerations are, in addition to the primary focus on the continuity of the services enabled by the RCM:

  • Efficient leveraging of another country or region’s space infrastructure to complement Canadian space infrastructure;
  • Commitments and agreements to ensure Canada’s continued access to international data sets;
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled system capable of exploiting and efficiently analyzing big data sets;
  • Data storage platform that is able to combine Space Based Earth Observation data with existing ground observations and archived data sets;
  • Coordinated world class ground stations to collect data from Canadian and International satellites;
  • Centralized access to user-friendly applications, products and services; and
  • Platform services that leverage high performance computing to offer users unparalleled analysis and visuals.

Updated at 8:00 pm EDT: The story was updated to correct the date of the CSA webinar. It is not tomorrow, but Wednesday.

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.

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