February 27, 2009: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is spending nearly a billion dollars to put up four radar satellites. The GulfSAR (synthetic aperture radar) satellites will use an orbit that will cover an area 43 degrees north and south of the Equator. This will mean the birds will spend a lot of time over this narrow coverage (compared to satellites with a polar orbit) and will have a resolution as low as one meter (when the radar is concentrated a 10x10 kilometer area). Using radar means that the birds are useable day and night and in any weather. SAR can produce photo quality images. At medium resolution (3 meters) the radar covers an area 40x40 kilometers. Low resolution (20 meters) covers 100x100 kilometers.
The primary mission is military, to keep an eye on Iran, in real time. But this will be used mainly in a military emergency. The rest of the time the satellite will be used for civilian uses, like tracking ship traffic in the Gulf and for surveying ground activity. GulfSAR will be rented out to users when it passes over other areas, and this revenue is expected to cover much of the cost. The first two satellites will go up in 2012, with the other two following a year later.