Saturday, January 12, 2008

Our new satellite surveillance capability...

...will be owned by a US company. Here's the capability:

BG-08.001 - January 10, 2008

The Polar Epsilon project provides enhanced surveillance capabilities for the Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces (DND/CF), which will improve their ability to act quickly in the event of a crisis at home and overseas.

Polar Epsilon was initially developed to address the need of the CF to improve surveillance capabilities over the Arctic and other large areas of responsibility. Polar Epsilon is a space-based wide area surveillance and support capability that is owned and run by DND. The project, valued at approximately $60 million, was approved on May 30, 2005.

The Polar Epsilon project involves using information from RADARSAT-2 to produce imagery for military commanders in their areas of responsibility during the conduct of operations. This includes the surveillance of Canada’s Arctic region, including its ocean approaches, the detection and tracking of foreign vessels, and support to CF operations globally. Polar Epsilon’s capability to enhance CF situational awareness is due to its ability to provide all-weather day/night surveillance in areas where other sensors are limited or unable to operate.

Polar Epsilon has successfully completed Phase 1 definition of its Arctic surveillance and environmental sensing capabilities and has commenced implementation for those areas. These enhanced capabilities will strengthen Canada’s sovereignty in the North and protect our environmental heritage.

Phase 2 definition for maritime surveillance of Canada’s three oceans is ongoing, and includes the design of two new RADARSAT-2 ground stations on the Canadian East Coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and on the West Coast near Victoria, British Columbia. On May 17, 2007, MacDonald Detwiller and Associates (MDA) was awarded the contract to complete this phase of the project.

The advantage of Polar Epsilon is that its imagery can be used for precise cueing and location of activities, which allows for a more efficient and cost-effective use of other Canadian military assets, such as patrol aircraft and ships. Polar Epsilon can also be used to survey for oil or water pollution, airplane or satellite crash sites. The project however, does not have the capability to detect ballistic missiles, nor can it track small vessels or individuals. The data provided by Polar Epsilon is primarily used to support military operations, but can also be accessed by other interested departments or agencies to support their daily operations.

RADARSAT-2, the satellite from which Polar Epsilon draws its information, is a world leading commercially available radar satellite. The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Space Agency, has invested $445 million in the RADARSAT-2 program. RADARSAT-2 is commercially owned and operated by MDA, a Canadian company headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia. RADARSAT-2 was launched in mid-December 2007.

The Polar Epsilon project is expected to be complete by March 2011.
The US company:
After nine years of work and $445-million of Canadian taxpayers' money, Radarsat-2 was launched into orbit in mid-December, marking a milestone in Canadian aerospace history.

Conservative Industry Minister Jim Prentice trumpeted the launch, which took place in a remote corner of Kazakhstan, saying the satellite would help "protect our Arctic sovereignty as international interest in the region grows."

But as the Canadian satellite was flying into orbit, the company behind it was only weeks away from announcing the $1.3-billion sale of its aerospace division, which includes Radarsat-2.

Radarsat-2 will shift to U.S. weapon and rocket maker Alliant Techsystems Inc. of Edina, Minn., from Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) in a transaction that is raising questions about the future of Canada's aerospace industry...

Despite his earlier enthusiasm for the deal, yesterday the Industry Minister had no comment on the MDA sale. His spokesman said it would be improper for him to discuss the pending deal because Mr. Prentice is also in charge of vetting foreign investment and officials reporting to him will be scrutinizing the Techsystems bid.

The Canadian Space Agency said the proposed sale of MDA's space assets will not affect Ottawa's rights when it comes to using Radarsat-2. Under a deal struck in 1998, Ottawa gets free access to photographs taken by the satellite for the life of the machine, which is expected to keep operating for at least seven years.

Radarsat-2 has cloud-penetrating radar and from an altitude of 800 kilometres it will be able to provide pictures for a host of government departments from National Defence to the Coast Guard to Environment Canada. It will be able to pinpoint foreign vessels, check the health of crops, pinpoint oil spills and calculate the thickness of sea ice.

Mr. Brison [liberal industry critic] said the sale of MDA's space and satellite division, which includes the operations behind the Canadarm, will undermine Canada's ability to produce further notable aerospace achievements.

John MacDonald, a founder of MDA who left the firm in 1998, said he's not worried about the deal, saying the best way to provide MDA's space and satellite division the opportunities to grow is to pair it with a U.S. firm that has better access to U.S. defence and space contracts.

"They really didn't have much of a choice. They had gotten to such a technology level in the space business ... and the problem was they now had to be able to access a market where they could continue to [grow]. The Canadian market was just too small. There wasn't any work for them," he said.

Alliant Techsystems says MDA's space and satellite division jobs will remain in B.C. rather than face a move to its corporate headquarters.

It's often difficult for Canadian-based companies to tap into lucrative U.S. government space and defence contracts...
How ironic given that the current government keeps touting its commitment to "defend" Canadian Arctic sovereignty--mainly against the dreaded Yankees. Actually the only sovereignty in question (Hans Island aside) is maritime; and the Yankees will own the satellite that tells us where their ships are.

More on asserting Arctic sovereignty here and here.


Blogger Dwayne said...

The crucial point in the story of the sale is the lack of contracts in Canada now that they have the technology. So, if we spend DND money on the technology it would be good, but the budget is tight so we can't spend money on the technology. I am sure the Liberals would support increasing DND's budget so that we could purchase this great Canadian technology and keep it Canadian, right? Yeah, that's what I thought, talk a good game but when it is time to do something pull a Paul Martin and make it all your #1 priority and do nothing.

2:35 p.m., January 13, 2008  
Blogger Cameron Campbell said...

dwayne, could you restate the first few lines of this again?

11:06 a.m., January 15, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home