Canadian Government Announces Investment In New OptiSAR Satellite Constellation

Although Canada’s space sector is most famous for producing robotic arms for the International Space Station (and Chris Hadfield), it quietly produces thousands of jobs and billions of Canadian dollars in revenue for the Canadian economy every year. Now the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI) and UrtheCast have arranged an investment worth CAD $17.6 million in a new satellite constellation known as Optistar, which will be capable of taking high-resolution images of Earth. The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced this investment in UrtheCast Corp., a leading developer of space and ground-based satellite technology.

The OptiStar constellation will be a network of orbiting satellites with coordinated ground control and will consist of eight synthetic aperture radar satellites and eight high-resolution optical satellites — one of the most advanced Earth observation satellite constellations in the world. UrtheCast works with more than 170 Canadian-based suppliers to produce Earth-imaging systems for geospatial analysis. This funding is expected to directly benefit a number of UrtheCast’s contractors and to foster collaboration between Canada’s space sector and various post-secondary institutions with strong space technology programs.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains said of the investment:


“Where innovation happens matters because that’s where the best jobs are located. When companies such as UrtheCast innovate, they create well-paying, middle-class jobs. And those jobs spin off into even more good jobs in every community where innovation happens. Innovations can create entirely new markets and industries that never existed before. They can also give existing industries a new lease on life by making them more productive and efficient. That’s how innovation leads to a better Canada.”

The investment will help equip Canadians working in the space sector with the skills to develop next-generation technology for Earth observation satellites, expand leadership in radar and optical satellite technologies and enable UrtheCast to attract additional investment, which will allow the company to scale up in the rapidly growing sector of Earth observation. According to UrtheCast’s blog, it has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an anonymous customer who will provide US$195 million of funding for the Constellation during the build phase of the program, which is expected to be completed by 2020.

Imagery Caught By UrtheCast’s Camera on the ISS

That’s North Korea!

UrtheCast is capable of producing sensors such as Deimos-2, an agile sensor that can produce 0.75m resolution images in about three hours from the initial request to delivery, and Iris, which UrtheCast boasts is the only UHD, 1m, full-color video camera in space. For reference, satellites that are equipped with sensors similar to UrtheCast’s are capable of picking out vehicles driving along a highway.

The Government’s Innovation Agenda aims to make Canada a global center for innovation — one that drives economic growth and leads to better skills, jobs and opportunities for all Canadians. This investment is an example of that vision in action.

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