Alpha's SAR tech takes off with $1.7M Canadian Space Agency award

The funds will be used to complete the development of Alpha’s on-orbit SAR processing technology over a period of 20 months.

Vancouver’s Space Alpha Insights Corp. (known as Alpha), which develops high-resolution, dual-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, announced that it’s been awarded a contract by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) valued at over $1.7 million.

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The funds will be used to complete the development of Alpha’s on-orbit SAR processing technology over a period of 20 months. This includes real-time onboard SAR image processing of both L and X-band SAR, to be implemented in future missions to low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars.

Alpha is helmed by serial space tech executive Scott Larson who previously led firms like UrtheCast and Helios Wire.

In a May exclusive, Vancouver Tech Journal spoke to Larson about Alpha’s core technology, SAR. Here’s how he described it at the time: “Synthetic aperture radar is a little bit like sonar underwater. It's a large flap antenna in space that sends down an electrical pulse. The pulse hits the ground, is reflected, and the antenna then converts that reflection into an image that you can see.

“It takes it an electrical signal and converts that into an image that we can see with our eyes. And because it's an electrical signal, it can see through clouds at night, kind of underground, and so that’s different than optical. With optical, if it's cloudy, you can't take a picture. If it's nighttime, you can't see. But with this, you can image 24-7 and pick up things that you could never hope to with a camera.”

SAR can be applied in ship monitoring, infrastructure, pipelines, power lines and many other contexts, according to Larson.

”We are thrilled and grateful to be working with the CSA on this important mission and thankful for our engineering team’s ongoing rigorous work,” said Larson, who is Alpha’s co-founder and CEO. “Alpha is working to change the way we see the world, collecting vast repositories of untapped data for critical missions and applications around the planet. The financial support from the CSA helps us get closer to achieving that aim, while demonstrating further confidence in our ability to push the state of the art in radar remote sensing.”

This contract follows Alpha’s seed investment in early 2021, led by Prime Movers Lab, and a recent customer contract for over $4 million USD. Alpha is on track to deliver flight-ready SAR-XL satellite hardware in 2022, to provide data and analysis for applications related to infrastructure, maritime monitoring, defense, and environmental assessment.

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