Trio of Canadian RADARSAT Constellation satellites head into orbit

A trio of Canadian satellites that represent the next generation of Earth-observation technology launched successfully into orbit today and will be deployed soon.

The Canadian government's RADARSAT Constellation project blasted off aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:17 a.m. ET.

The launch went off without any issues, and the Canadian Space Agency says the deployment of the Constellation is expected to take place about an hour after liftoff.

The $1.2-billion government-owned project will replace the RADARSAT-2 satellite, which has been in orbit since 2007.

Once fully operational later this year, the evenly spaced satellites will orbit Earth every 96 minutes at an altitude of about 600 kilometres. They are expected to generate 250,000 images per year, 50 times more than the first generation RADARSAT satellite.

The images are used for a wide range of purposes, including monitoring sea ice, disaster management and agricultural and forestry management.