Macdonald Detweiller Associates (MDA) has warned that it may lay off staff due to uncertainties over the future of the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM). MDA claims that the Canadian Space Agency doesn’t have the budget to support the build phase, Phase D, of the RCM.
The RCM is critical to Canada’s aims to provide northern monitoring, especially for national security, support access to the north, including new sea routes, and to demonstrate indigenous technology and know-how. The RCM will provide three to six C-band SARs with Automatic Idenification System for ship tracking. The RCM is very much in line with ESA and the ECs northern agenda. AIS was widely addressed at Space for the Arctic 2012 in Copenhagen. Canada’s vast northern territories and. their Arctic Islands mean that Canada has difficulty monitoring her territory and providing rescue services. Space based solutions have long been identified as fundamental to monitoring. Hence the Radarsat missions. Failure to support RCM would place in doubt all the excellent work of the CSA and MDA, and may result in the loss of key competences. I am sure the likes of Alenia and Astrium would be happy to find a home for many of the RCM personnel. Perhaps closer partnership with ESA in such projects is the answer. Until then let’s hope the story turns out to be overblown.