UrtheCast secures $78m deal to develop dual-frequency SAR satellite


Canadian technology company UrtheCast has won a C$100m ($78m) contract from an unnamed entity to develop a dual-frequency synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite.

The operational-class satellite will be used as an ‘accelerator’ for UrtheCast’s OptiSAR Constellation.

The latest deal will also see the delivery of the SAR spacecraft, key elements of the ground segment such as the mission control and planning system, as well as the SAR processor and in-orbit operations support.

According to the agreement, both companies have also agreed to sign a separate definitive contract to provide UrtheCast with exclusive commercial distribution rights to the customer’s unused satellite imaging capacity outside specified regions.

The agreement is subject to the customer receiving final government appropriation approval, as well as UrtheCast and its suppliers obtaining technology transfer export permits.

“The execution of the accelerator programme will demonstrate to prospective OptiSAR customers that the technology is build-ready and give them the confidence that we are able to carry out programmes of this scale."

Once approved, work on the satellite is scheduled to begin by early next year. It is to be launched by late 2020.

UrtheCast president and CEO Wade Larson said: “The execution of the accelerator programme will demonstrate to prospective OptiSAR customers that the technology is build-ready and give them the confidence that we are able to carry out programmes of this scale.

“Building and delivering this accelerator SAR satellite will validate our technology; substantially reduce our financial, programmatic and operational risks; and get us into the business of selling SAR-XL data sooner than we were anticipating.

“Subject to final approvals, we'll soon be customer-funded to build our first operational-class SAR mission.”

UrtheCast’s OptiSAR technology is currently in its third design iteration and could be configured during future missions to image simultaneously in three bands such as X, S and L.

Entities such as the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and the Department of National Defence (DND) have provided funding for the development of the technology.