Hard Work and Creativity Pays Off! Polar Epsilon 2 Celebrates a Key Milestone

July 20, 2020 – Defence Stories

Polar Epsilon @

In May 2020, the Polar Epsilon 2 (PE2) project delivered by Assistant Deputy Minister (Information Management) reached a key milestone of Limited Operations. The project faced challenges during the ongoing global pandemic, but through innovative solutions, Limited Operations was achieved, serving as an example of inter and intradepartmental teamwork, project flexibility and creativity.

The PE2 project is delivering this capability to the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) in order to leverage the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM).  The RCM is a three-spacecraft fleet of Earth observation satellites that provides data for climate research and commercial applications including oil exploration, fishing, shipping, and more. The outbreak of COVID-19 drastically increased the need for the PE2 capability. The Chief of Defense Staff’s (CDS) recent Op LASER Directive and the related FRAGO 001 Annex A, tasked the Royal Canadian Air Force to leverage the RCM capability that is being delivered via PE2, as an important component of Canada’s Pandemic Response Plan.

The demand for an operational PE2 system was a daunting ask given the circumstances. Much of the team was working offsite or at home, and could not travel to run the formal test events that were meant to precede the start of full PE2 operations.

The PE2 Team stepped up and quickly got to work implementing the CDS’ direction.  Innovation and creativity were key for the team to determine how to rework the project’s Test and Evaluation milestones, amend contracts, and more. Using creative inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary collaboration and ingenuity, the team recovered five months of projected COVID-19 related delays and sped up the project timeline. By creating the concept of PE2 Limited Operations, the project was able to meet DND’s mandate, the CDS’ Op LASER Pandemic Response Plan, and the Operational Community’s demand for critical PE2 data and related products.

As of 11 May 2020, PE2 Limited Operations provides the Operational Community with imagery to support CAF operations and with an immediate capability to provide surveillance of the Maritime Approaches to Canada, the latter fulfilling one of the DND’s key Defence Mandates.  The capability is an all-weather, day-and-night space-based wide area surveillance system that will allow the CAF to identify and track vessels in near real time.  The Operational Community, using a sensor aboard the RCM satellites called the Automatic Identification System (AIS), will be able to confirm and validate a ship’s location, and provide ship identification data (figure 1),  which will ultimately assist in the identification of legitimate or suspicious maritime traffic contributing to the improvement of Maritime Domain Awareness worldwide (figure 2).

Bravo Zulu to the PE2 project team on this milestone!

Figure 1

Figure 1: Data compiled using the sensor aboard the RCM satellites called the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that reports self-identified ships locations worldwide.

Figure 2

Figure 2: First PE2 (Polar Epsilon 2) RCM (RADARSAT Constellation Mission) SAR (Synthetic-Aperture Radar) contacts and concurrent AIS reports collected over Lake Erie between Cleveland and Buffalo.

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