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Canadian MDA new LEO satellites will see a needle in a haystack, and then thread it.

The multi-sensor constellation will include C-band and X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities

Canadian space giant MDA is no stranger to snagging headlines around the planet these days. Now they are making headlines about their ability to observe the planet from the outer reaches of low earth orbit with precise detail “like a needle in a haystack”. The publicly traded space company recently added 600 staff to their operations in Brampton, Vancouver, and Montreal shortly after a successful IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


With C-Band SAR, we are able to find a needle in a haystack. With the addition of X-Band data, we will be able to thread that needle.

Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer, MDA
MDA’s RADARSAT 2 June 12, 2019, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

In addition to announcing several contracts in robotics and continued leverage of its famed RADARSAT program the company has embarked on “A collaborative multi-sensor constellation”, named CHORUS™, “that will bring together multiple diverse and unique perspectives in harmony, opening the aperture and the art of the possible to provide a new level of real-time insight about our planet.”

“The greatest moments in earth exploration happen collaboratively, when diverse insights and information are united to create something bigger and more meaningful. By pushing the envelope and creating flexibility to integrate additional data sources and sensors, we want others to join our CHORUS™ and help us change how and when we see the world.”

Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer, MDA

Hollywood look out, your spy flicks are about to get real

In English that means CHORUS™ (formerly known as SARnext) will be a commercial upgrade of the RADARSAT program capable of snapping pics while covering a 700 km swath at 50m resolution. It will have the ability to image in left and right looking modes and cover very large geographic areas quickly.

In keeping with RADARSAT heritage, CHORUS™ will showcase unique capability for maritime surveillance and other time-critical applications, such as land intelligence and disaster response. This NRT capability will be enabled through fast-tasking for tactical operations and direct downlinks to a global network of cloud-enabled ground stations.

LEO satellites operate from 500 kilometers (311 miles) to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Traditional communication satellites are stationed far higher, at roughly 36,000 kilometers. With a Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk space race for the emerging low earth orbit market Canadian technology from MDA and Telesat are a hot commodity.

While MDA is taking pictures SpaceX and Amazon are focused on internet. SpaceX said completing Starlink may cost more than $10 billion, though Musk estimated in 2019 it could bring in $30 billion to $50 billion per year once fully operational. Meanwhile co-billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon said they would equal that investment while joining the race themselves in an effort to provide broadband internet access around the globe via thousands of satellites in Low Earth Orbit themselves.

The IAAS subscription program is currently in the design and development phase.

Next level details including the launch date and full industrial team are forthcoming. Dubbed Information-as-a-Service in September MDA said that the new system “lowers the barrier for commercial customers to access analytics-ready SAR data through cloud-based infrastructure with affordable subscription-based services requiring no up-front capital investment. With easy upgrades, large government and institutional users with specific requirements can continue to utilize their existing ground systems to take advantage of enhanced performance.”

“For decades, governments, commercial and institutional customers worldwide have counted on MDA’s earth observation data to tackle some of the world’s biggest issues including national sovereignty and maritime border protection, illegal fishing, natural disasters and the effects of climate change. leveraging the latest innovation and scientific advancements to provide a new level of real-time and actionable insight, our 4th generation earth observation satellite will once again change how and when we see our planet. – Sept 27, 2021”

Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer, MDA

MDA’s latest press release maintained that “By collecting and integrating data from the individual satellites, CHORUS™ will provide the most extensive radar imaging capacity available on the market in one system, ranging from industry leading broad area coverage with a 700km-wide swath to sub-metre very high resolution spotlight images.” 

MDA says the company will advance a new commercial vision to bring multiple capabilities and sensors together as one. The unique CHORUS™ mission will be scalable and able to incorporate and integrate multiple additional collaborative space-based or terrestrial sensors and technology.


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