Canada's oldest observation satellite hobbled in orbit

Radarsat-1, Canada's first and oldest Earth observation satellite, is semi-dormant and unlikely to recover fully, the Canadian Space Agency says.

Radarsat-1, launched in 1995, experienced a technical anomaly on March 29 and was put into "safe mode" while the problem is investigated, the CSA said in a news release Tuesday.

"The investigation is ongoing, but expectations for a full recovery are low," it added.

Radarsat-1 has already been operating for 12 years past its expected five-year lifespan.

The aging satellite is equipped with a device called a synthetic aperture radar that can see through clouds, smoke and haze, and take images of the Earth for use in cartography and environmental surveillance and monitoring. Since its launch, it has been used to track the effects of global climate change, such as changes in ice cover, and for resource and disaster management.

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The data and images collected by Radarsat-1 are used by both the government and commercial clients. The space agency said Tuesday that users have been told that no new orders for imagery are being accepted, although they can still request archival images.

The space agency added that the Radarsat-1 problems won't have an impact on Canadian security, as a similar, much younger satellite, Radarsat-2, is working fine.

Radarsat-2 was launched in 2007. Unlike Radarsat-1, which is owned and operated by the government, Radarsat-2 is owned and operated by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. The Richmond, B.C.-based company has an agreement to supply data to the government of Canada throughout its lifetime in return for partial funding of the satellite's construction and launch.

The CSA is also working on a new trio of satellites, known as the Radarsat Constellation, set for launch in 2018.

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