Friday, December 21, 2018

BREAKING NEWS: RADARSAT-2 Offline for Most of the Week. RADARSAT Constellation February 2019 Launch Date in Doubt

          By Chuck Black

RADARSAT-2, the high-tech Earth imaging satellite held up internationally as a symbol of Canadian technological prowess, was offline in "safe mode" for most of the week and was only revived on Thursday evening, according to Michel Doyon, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) manager of flight operations, who spoke with this blog earlier today.

Doyon also confirmed that the follow-on RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), officially scheduled for launch between February 18th - 24th, 2019 will likely be further postponed over concerns about the performance of a reusable Falcon-9 rocket built by Hawthorne CA based SpaceX which didn't come down "quite where it was supposed to" earlier this month.

As outlined in the December 5, 2018 C-Net post, "SpaceX sends Dragon to ISS but Falcon 9 rocket misses landing pad," the rocket "succeeded in its primary mission of sending a Dragon spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies, but the first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle appeared to lose control as it approached Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral" and crashed into the ocean, missing its intended landing zone.

According to the November 13th, 2018 CBC News post, "Canada's key satellite system hit with another launch delay," the June 2015 explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket led to a growing backlog for launches, which would likely increase due to this latest partial failure.

According to Doyon, "there is currently no confirmed date for the upcoming RCM launch. (Brampton ON based) MDA (which built RCM) and (Hawthorne CA based) SpaceX (which built the Falcon 9 rocket) are currently talking but nothing is confirmed and it's too early to say what will happen."

As for RADARSAT-2, Doyon confirmed that the satellite went off-line on December 15th, 2018 at 2AM UTC (9pm EST on December 14th) and was immediately placed into safe mode by controllers.

The satellite was returned to service on Thursday December 20th, 2018 at 9pm EST.

"It took awhile to recover," said Doyon. The problem was traced to the failure of an orientation sensor.

The satellite is currently back to normal operation and "the image quality and the satellite capabilities are the same as they were previously," according to Doyon.

RADARSAT-2 was launched on December 14th, 2007 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It was originally designed to last for seven years and is now four years beyond its planned life expectancy.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post referenced "Michel Voyen, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) manager of flight operations." This blog regrets the error and has updated this post with Mr. Doyon's correct name.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. He was actually hoping to take a short break over the next two weeks to rest and reconnect with families and loved ones.


  1. I know MDA likes to take all the credit it can, but wasn't RCM actually built be Magellan Aerospace Winnipeg?

  2. Magellan built the bus. MDA was the prime contractor.

    Chuck Black

  3. Please keep us informed as to the launch date. I live near the Radar-Sat 2 command dish and in completely fascinated by the satelite program. I plan to travel to Vandenberg for the launch, and with delay after delay occuring, anticipation builds and I hope the public is kept up to date. Radar-Sat has inpspited me to strudy Astro physcis and seek a career in exploration radar technology.
    I hope space X can get it together for this very important commission.


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