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RADARSAT - irreplaceable on way to the North Pole

By [email protected] - 6th March 2008 - 12:43

For the first time the explorers Matvei Shparo and Boris Smolin started their trip to the North Pole during the polar night. Within two-month period they are supposed to cover 980 km from Arctic Cape (Severnaya Zemlya) to the North Pole. The expedition is supported by the Moscow Government and ScanEx R&D Center. It started on December 22, 2007 and is to be completed by March 10, 2008. The explorers have already covered half the way.
The travelers keep us posting about their âno royalâ road. Severe arctic conditions, permanent darkness of the polar night, biting frost and drifting ice under the feet â all this requires perfect physical training and cutting-edge technologies to ensure trip safety. Special batteries capable of operating under extreme temperature conditions (flashlights, navigation and communications gadgets are powered by these batteries), as well as updated space images from the Canadian RADARSAT-1 radar satellite help the travelers. The thing is that only radar imagery can provide safe data in the conditions of intense darkness and regardless of clouds.ScanEx R&D Center being the sponsor of this risky endeavor, supplied the âPriklyuchenieâ (Adventure) Club with RADARSAT-1 images. They are processed at the expedition Coordination Center.What kind of vital data can space images give to the travelers? The images allow determining the age and thickness of ice, fresh water sources locations and open water areas. This information is required for the optimal route selection. Letâs dwell on some of these parameters:⢠Ice age impacts the passage speed of the explorers: young ice, unlike old one, has increased salinity that gives more friction. As a result, the travelersâ speed decreases 1.5-2 times. The itinerary is prepared with due account for these characteristics. ⢠Knowledge of fresh water location â multiyear ice and icebergs â turned out to be crucial at the beginning of the expedition. When the travelers ran out of water, the indication of the nearest iceberg (âstarmukhaâ - stranded hummock) with fresh water sources, detected by space images, was quite on time. ⢠Definition of open water areas, clearly seen on the images, enables to lay the detours.⢠And the most important, the images were used to lay the shortcuts to old ice, which the boys reached three days ago and started to feel much safer.This expedition shows that it is hard to overestimate the importance of space images for drawing the most optimal itinerary and for survival in general!A few words about the constellation of radar satellites To date, there are 8 commercial radar satellites orbiting the Earth. Imaging orders can be placed from the following satellite (in resolution decreasing order) on the Russian and CIS territories:⢠TerraSAR-X (Germany); maximum resolution: 1 m. Data acquired from the new TerraSAR-X satellite are currently unique: for the first time the radar imagery resolution reached 1 meter value. Also, this VHR data is delivered in near real-time mode (within several hours after the imaging), which fact makes it in great demand to resolve emergency tasks. ScanEx R&D Center distributes TerraSAR-X data based on the partner agreement with Infoterra GmbH (Germany), signed in March 2007.⢠ALOS (Japan); maximum resolution: 7 m. One of the three cameras (PALSAR) onboard the Japanese ALOS satellite has been taking images of the Earth since 2006. Per agreement signed in January 2008 between RESTEC (ALOS satellite Operator in Asia) and ScanEx, orders are accepted for archived images form this satellite of the territory of Russian and CIS countries. Oder execution time â 1-2 weeks.⢠RADARSAT- 1 (Canada); maximum resolution: 8 m. ScanEx Center receives NRT radar imaging requests at Moscow and Magadan ground stations, certified by Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Emergency imaging requests can be submitted 29 hours prior to imaging (at least), whereas the data will be transferred electronically to the end-users within the next couple of hours after the reception. Nowadays, there is a unique network of 10 ground stations manufactured by ScanEx and operating in Russia and Kazakhstan receiving RADARSAT-1 images and upgradeable to receive the images from the new RADARSAT-2 satellite, launched in December 2007.⢠ENVISAT (European Space Agency, ESA); maximum resolution: 30 m. Performs direct data reception to ScanExâs stations in Moscow and Magadan. Beyond the stations footprint data is being distributed under the reseller agreement signed with Eurimage S.p.A. company (May 2007).

Author: Anna Golovina.

Bio.: Business Development, RDC Scanex, Moscow

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