An Earth observation satellite built by Boulder's Ball Aerospace & Technologies for the Canadian Space Agency has concluded its mission -- 12 years beyond the endpoint of its expected lifespan.
Radarsat-1, launched in 1995 as Canada's first and oldest Earth monitoring satellite, conducted the first complete radar survey of Antarctica. Originally expected to serve a five-year mission, Radarsat-1 was actually in active service for 17 years.
Ball Aerospace built the spacecraft bus and a portion of the ground station for the advanced operational synthetic aperture for Spar Aerospace and the Canadian Space Agency. Ball also provided technical services to Spar (MacDonald Dettwiler), including system engineering and system integration planning.
Radarsat-1 represented Ball Aerospace's first fixed-price and commercial spacecraft bus, introducing what the company billed as a cost-effective solution for Earth observation and remote-sensing missions. It was also the first international spacecraft for Ball Aerospace.
The Canadian Space Agency reported that on March 29, Radarsat-1 experienced "a technical anomaly," and numerous attempts to resolve it convinced the agency the craft's mission was at an end.
Radarsat is so large the U.S. Air Force Space Command, which monitors space debris, can keep track of it and divert working satellites out of the way, officials said. Because its orbit is so high, circling the Earth at an altitude of 798 kilometers, it could be 100 years before it disintegrates.
The satellite had completed 90,828 Earth orbits, providing 625,848 images to more than 600 clients and partners in Canada, and 60 nations worldwide, according to Ball.
"It was a great learning experience in principal areas of the company's evolving business approach, particularly in developing the know-how to execute on commercial, fixed-price programs," Cary Ludtke, vice president and general manager for Ball's Operational Space business unit said in a news release.