MDA radar constellation will get a satellite from Iceye

MDA is obtaining an Iceye X-band SAR (synthetic aperture radar) satellite for its Chorus system, which is planned to replace Radarsat-2. Iceye will offer an X-band satellite to supplement a C-band SAR satellite which MDA previously stated it would develop as a successor to Radarsat-2 at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week on December 15. Chorus will be the name of the system, which MDA announced a day earlier. Iceye’s satellite will trail MDA’s spacecraft in the very same mid-inclination orbit. This method will provide a “tip-and-cue” capability, in which the C-band satellite is going to select targets that the X-band satellite may then view at better resolution. A C-band SAR satellite in the mid-inclination orbit will capture imagery in a swath measuring 700-kilometer at the resolution of 50 meters per pixel, according to MDA’s Radarsat-2 follow-on. Customers are going to be able to request imagery from the new MDA SAR spacecraft in one hour, as opposed to 4 hours for Radarsat-2. Customers are going to be able to re-task this satellite to acquire more imagery during a single orbit, according to an MDA spokeswoman.

MDA’s chief executive officer (CEO), Mike Greenley, stated in a conference panel on December 15 that the company’s C-band SAR data continues to be in high demand from defense and intelligence clients. “Putting it into a constellation, with both C-band and X-band operating together, bringing cueing and tipping within the same constellation, and providing clients with close to near real-time capabilities,” he explained.

The statement did not go into depth about the nature of the Iceye-MDA relationship, just mentioning that Iceye would provide the X-band satellite. “We will run it and make revenue,” Greenley said of the MDA’s purchase of the satellite from Iceye. The firms did not provide any financial details or a launch date for the satellites. A distribution agreement between the two firms allows MDA to be able to sell SAR data from Iceye’s constellation of the satellites to its clients. By merging Iceye data with its own, MDA will be able to create value-added products.

MDA and Iceye’s partnership could be the first move toward consolidation in the broader Earth observation business. “Strategic connections and collaborating across the organization to generate a new competence is a pretty significant trend,” he said, adding that more thorough consolidation in the sector might be premature. “While this all settles out, we’ll continue to invest in the pledges that we’ve made and collaborate together via strategic collaborations to get some additional growth,” he said. “It would then pave the way for more systematic merger and acquisition activity in the future.”

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