SpaceX launches three radar satellites for Canadian government

SpaceX on Wednesday morning launched three next-generation radar satellites for the Canadian government from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket launched the Radarsat Constellation Mission and the previously used first stage was expected to return to Vandenberg’s Landing Zone 4 several minutes after liftoff.

In March, that booster helped send SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule toward the International Space Station.

The three Earth observation satellites launched Wednesday will gather data for a variety of uses, primarily for maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring, according to the Canadian Space Agency.

The Radarsat program scans our planet in radio-wavelength light.

Two RCM satellites have made it to Earth orbit so far: Radarsat-1 operated from 1995 through 2013, and Radarsat-2 launched in December 2007.

“Built by MDA, a Maxar company, the three-satellite configuration of the RCM will provide daily revisits of Canada’s vast territory and maritime approaches, including the Arctic up to 4 times a day, as well as daily access to any point of 90% of the world’s surface,” SpaceX reps wrote in a mission description, according to

“The RCM will support the Government of Canada in delivering responsive and cost-effective services to meet Canadian needs in areas like maritime surveillance, ecosystem and climate change monitoring and helping disaster relief efforts,” they added.

The satellites, which will settle into an orbit about 370 miles above Earth, will use synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, which, unlike visual imaging satellites, uses radio energy to see through clouds, Quartz reported.

The gathered data will be used for a variety of tasks, including maritime tracking, monitoring Arctic ice, assessing crops and planning for natural disasters.

The Canadian Space Agency said the satellites will be able to scan Canada and its surrounding seas several times each day.

The only previous time that SpaceX has landed a Falcon 9 rocket in California was in October 2018.

Nearly all of the company’s attempts to land on solid ground have been successful, except for the one that missed its pad in Florida and ended up in the ocean.

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