Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MEOSAR Project Funded & CCMEO Gets Free TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Satellite Imagery

          By Chuck Black

Two recent announcements highlight the growing Canadian demand for global positioning and Earth imaging technology.

Connected by a constellation of satellites and rescue assets, today's modern, highly accurate GPS-equipped Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and personal locator beacons (PLB), which were developed as part of the International Cospas-Sarsat programme, could be your lifesaver in an emergency. MEOSAR will integrate into this system  using a series of search and rescue (SAR) transponders aboard Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system, the Russian Glonass space based navigation system and the US Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation to report signals through Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue beacons in the 406.0–406.1 MHz band. Graphic c/o Boat.U.S.

As outlined in the August 3rd, 2015 Space News article, "Canada Finds its Way To Providing GPS 3 Search and Rescue Repeaters," funding has finally been approved for a resumption of a project to provide repeaters for the Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) satellite system.

According to the Department of National Defence (DND) website on the MEOSAR program, the project "will deliver a space segment, comprising up to 24 Search and Rescue (SAR) repeaters that will piggy-back on the satellites of the United States Air Force's (USAF) next-generation GPS III constellation," along with "a ground segment comprising satellite ground stations in Canada with specialized satellite tracking software and information processing systems."

According to the article:
The Canadian government first announced the MEOSAR project in 2013, awarding COM DEV International (COM DEV) of Cambridge, Ontario, an initial contract worth $4.7Mln CDN for research and design work on the repeaters. COM DEV successfully completed that phase and had expected a follow-on contract to proceed with the MEOSAR project...
Unfortunately, right after the initial announcement, further funding for the program was put on hold. One of the reasons for the delay might just have been the give and take between the DND and other Canadian government departments over who would fund the repeaters.

PSC seems to be the go-to website for issues the Federal government would like to address outside of traditional channels. The department has a broad mandate encompassing a wide variety of matters.  Graphic c/o PSC website

Public Safety Canada (PSC) eventually stepped up to the plate. As outlined in the July 24th, 2015 Federal government press release, "Government of Canada announces improvements to Canada's Search and Rescue system," PSC will be taking over investment in the MEOSAR program, and will provide "up to $249 million (in additional funding), as identified in the 2015 Defence Acquisition Guide."

But more importantly, the program will be transferred from DND to PSC, since PSC is supposedly covering the cost.

MEOSAR, is an add-on to the International Cospas-Sarsat programme of satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) system established by Canada, France, the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1979. The Secretariat of the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme is based in Montréal, PQ.

TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X. The satellites use phased array synthetic aperture radars (SAR) operating in the X-band (31 mm, frequency 9.6 GHz) to acquire high-quality images of the Earth for environmental planning, land use and natural resource exploration, disaster relief, insurance and defence applications. They operate together, using a HELIX satellite formation, in a close polar orbit at 514 km altitude. Graphic c/o Airbus.

But MEOSAR isn't the only program moving forward.

As outlined in the August 5th, 2015 Airbus press release "Free Provision of TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Data for Government Studies and Professional Training in Canada," Airbus Defence and Space has signed an agreement with the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO) in order to provide Canadian governmental and institutional data users free access to TerraSAR-X and TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement (TanDEM-X) satellite imagery for "pre-operational use."

The main goal of the agreement, according to the press release, is to "support current efforts of Canadian agencies working on the development of operational monitoring concepts that exploit the benefits," of paring the data collected by Canada's existing C-band SAR (utilized by the various RADARSAT missions) and the German X-band SAR utilized by TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X for maritime surveillance, disaster management and environmental monitoring.

Given that the CCMEO mandate is to provide access to satellite image data and products to both government and public users, it seem reasonable to believe that some of this new data will eventually begin filtering out into the private sector.

Chuck Black
Then the real development can begin.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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