Canada has two radar satellites, Radarsat-1 (launched in 1995) and Radarsat-2 (launched in 2007), both of which are major data sources for commercial applications and remote sensing science. Canadian Forest Service (CFS) scientists are working with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, China, and the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) on developing methods and systems for extracting forest information from radar satellites.
Radar has the advantage of all-weather capability for monitoring, allowing it to acquire images of the Earth day or night, in all weather and through cloud cover, smoke and haze.
Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite has polarimetric capabilities that allow better forest classification than Radarsat-1, including multi-temporal change detection, biomass mapping and forest fire detection, both current and historical (from the last 80 years).
Canada will be launching a Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) consisting of three Earth-observing satellites, starting in 2015. Being both complementary to and a continuation of the Radarsat-2 mission, the RCM will add a new series of applications enabled through the constellation approach. In anticipation of the mission, CFS scientists are developing methods for using the various modes of RCM. For example, a CCRS-led interdepartmental project with CSA is working with RCM’s compact polarimetry mode.