The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) hopes to start work on a new polar-orbiting communications and weather satellite system as soon as November 2016, according to a request for information posted on Canada’s public works and government services website Nov. 1. 

The request is a sign of progress on the long-discussed Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) mission, whose funding outlook remains uncertain. The CSA completed a feasibility study on the project in 2008 and in February the agency was looking for partners, including other Canadian government agencies and other nations, to help finance the system, which is expected to cost about 600 million Canadian dollars ($574 million).

“There is strong interest and potential for International Partners to contribute to the mission,” the request says. A polar constellation could satisfy Canadian and international partners “in Arctic communications and weather requirements, but could also provide a globally‐unique, tactical communications capability to Allies and an improved weather monitoring capability to support global weather and sea ice forecasting,” it says. 

The satellites would provide tactical UHF narrowband communications, wideband communications in X- or Ka-band, and terrestrial and space weather monitoring.

The constellation would be especially helpful to Canada because communications satellites in geostationary orbit face limitations for mobile services at far northern latitudes. Additionally, accurate weather data in the Arctic is often difficult to come by, the request says.

The CSA hopes to develop and build the PCW ground and space segments and to launch and the satellites beginning in November 2016.  The satellites are expected to have a 15-year life. 

An industry day is scheduled for Nov. 25, the request says. Responses are due Jan. 13.

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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...