ARCHIVED - Polar Epsilon Project

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Backgrounder / June 29, 2010 / Project number: BG-10.014 (update to BG-09.013)

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 $64.5 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. The Project delivered its Arctic surveillance capability to Canada Command on June 17, 2010, marking another significant step toward strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and security in the Arctic. 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 completed its definition phases and is now in implementation for all capabilities including Arctic Surveillance, Environmental Sensing and Maritime Surveillance. These enhanced capabilities will help Canada exercise our sovereignty in the North and protect our environmental heritage.

The implementation phase of Polar Epsilon began in March 2009, and included the design and construction of two new RADARSAT-2 ground stations, one on the east coast in Masstown, Nova Scotia, and the other on the west coast in Aldergrove, British Columbia. The definition phase for the ground stations was completed by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).
The ground stations will be wholly owned and operated by the Government of Canada and are expected to be operational by late 2010.

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, aircraft 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 used primarily to support military operations, but will provide significant information to several departments and 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.

Completion of the Polar Epsilon project is expected by March 2011.

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