MDA to enhance charting of sea ice to help shipping and offshore drilling

Press Release From: MDA
Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2001

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates has been selected by the Canadian Space Agency to evaluate the capability of multipolarimetric SAR data to enhance the operational monitoring of sea ice in Canadian waters. Funding will be provided under the Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP).

Spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is the only Earth Observation sensor that can provide regular, all-season, high-resolution, wide area coverage over sea ice. The ice charts and forecasts presently derived by the Canadian Ice Service (CIS) from RADARSAT-1 are of critical importance in northern and eastern Canadian offshore waters in alleviating the risk to shipping, finding ice-free water for safe passage, and guiding ice-breakers.

This information is vital to the Coast Guard, commercial fishermen, maritime transport industries, and offshore drilling projects.

But sea ice classifications from single-polarized SAR data can be confused by various environmental effects, such as rough seas. MDA will work with the CIS to identify how data from the new generation of CSA supported multi-polarimetric spaceborne SARs can provide more reliable ice charts, and aid automation of sea ice classification.

These new missions include ENVISAT-1 (later this year), and RADARSAT 2 (scheduled for launch in 2003).

"Space Technologies have evolved considerably since the beginning of the space age," said Virendra Jha, Director General, Space Technologies with the Canadian Space Agency. "Canada has played a pioneering role and through the development of new space applications and technologies," he said, "the Canadian Space Agency will continue to support our leading role in niche areas such as space robotics, remote sensing, synthetic aperture radar and satellite communications."

John Hornsby, Vice President of Strategic Planning for MDA subsidiary RADARSAT International, said: "This is our first look at exploiting the multipolarization capabilities of RADARSAT-2 for operational sea ice mapping. Our goal is to provide a greater level of detail on sea ice charts, and to find new ways this knowledge can be used."

About the Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP)

The Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP), a new program managed by the Canadian Space Agency, supports innovative uses and applications of space-based Earth observation data generated by Canadian supported missions. This data is being used in areas as diverse as monitoring forestry and agricultural resources, management of coastal regions, and science education in schools. These applications illustrate the widespread need for Earth observation data, both in Canada and around the world, and the effectiveness of partnerships combining resources and expertise from the public and private sectors.

About the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

Established in 1989 and situated in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, the Canadian Space Agency coordinates all aspects of the Canadian Space Program. Through its Space Knowledge, Applications and Industry Development business line, the CSA delivers services involving: Earth and the Environment; Space Science; Human Presence in Space; Satellite Communications; Generic Space Technologies; Space Qualification Services and Awareness. The Canadian Space Agency is at the forefront of the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and humanity. For more information:

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