SpaceX launches Radarsat constellation

SpaceX launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rises above the fog surrounding California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, sending three Canadian radar-sensing satellites spaceward. (SpaceX via YouTube)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rose out of California’s coastal fog today to send three radar-sensing satellites into orbit for the Canadian government.

Little could be seen from the ground when the rocket lifted off at 7:17 a.m. PT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, but that didn’t matter to the three satellites tucked inside the Falcon 9’s nose cone for the Radarsat Constellation Mission.

The satellites, built by Maxar Technologies’ MDA division, are designed to observe Earth from sun-synchronous orbit using C-band synthetic aperture radar. The Radarsat Constellation Mission follows up on two previous generations of Canadian Radarsat spacecraft.

Such radar instruments will produce high-resolution, daily scans of Canada and the Arctic — revealing the status of sea ice, crop moisture and terrain features even when the skies are obscured by clouds. Or fog, for that matter.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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