ISED Minister Navdeep Bains making funding announcement
ISED Minister Navdeep Bains making funding announcement. Credit: CSA.

The CSA to Fund CubeSats, Quantum Encryption and a Mars Orbiter Instrument

In the recently announced budget the government had announced $80.9 million in new funding for the Canadian Space Agency over five years. We now know a little more about the projects the funds will go to.

Innovation Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister Navdeep Bains today announced that the Canadian government would be funding a Mars orbiter instrument, quantum encryption technology and the Canadian CubeSat project.

The projects being funded are:

  • A radar instrument that will be developed for a future orbiter mission to Mars. This instrument would be used to study the surface and subsurface of the red planet. It could contribute to developing a high-resolution map of the surface of Mars and could help identify water resources at shallow depths, which would provide critical geological information for the landing site of future spacecraft to Mars. The instrument would be a sub-surface ice sounder on NASA’s future Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO).  The CSA recently awarded a contract to MDA for concept study for this possible mission.
  • A demonstration of the applications of quantum technology in space involving the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo. This project will position Canada as a leader in quantum encryption, which uses highly advanced computing technology to create virtually unbreakable security codes. This technology could lead to more secure communications, safer and more reliable government services, and greater protection of Canadians’ privacy.
  • The government will allocate $8 million for the Canadian CubeSat project. This will include up to 13 grants valued at $200,000 each to universities to develop and build their own satellites that will be taken to the International Space Station on cargo resupply mission where they will be deployed, possibly by a Canadian astronaut. The Project will support proposals representing each province and territory.

Here are more details about the Canadian CubeSat Project the CSA released after the press conference this morning.

  • In early September 2017, an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is planned to be published on the CSA website. Post-secondary institutions will then have two months to submit their applications to the CSA.
  • Once the AO is published, all questions from potential applicants and answers from the CSA will be made available on the AO webpage.
  • Institutions selected for a grant will have between 24 and 36 months to develop their small satellite, commonly called a CubeSat.
  • The CSA plans to support three sizes of CubeSats: 1U (10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm and 2.4 kg), 2U (10 cm × 10 cm × 20 cm and 3.6 kg) and 3U (10 cm × 10 cm × 30 cm and 4.8 kg). Priority will be given to 1U and 2U.
  • Collaboration among institutions is strongly encouraged, since the goal is to consider for selection one proposal per province/territory.
  • Each CubeSat project would be proposed by a post-secondary institution in a province or territory and led by one or more faculty members from that institution.
  • The faculty member(s) would be responsible for supervising a team of students to ensure transfer of knowledge and timely progress of the project.
  • Inter-provincial/territorial collaboration among CubeSat teams would be encouraged, particularly for those with limited experience in developing CubeSats or satellite instruments and technologies.
  • The CSA may award up to 13 grants, each worth about $200,000. The CSA will provide the launch services for the CubeSats at no cost to the grantees.

With respect to the new Canadian CubeSat Project this is an initiative that universities have been anticipating for some time and which the Canadian Space Commerce Association* (CSCA) had advocating for. The CSCA will be holding its second annual Canadian SmallSat Symposium this fall.




* Note: The author of this article was the Executive Director of the Canadian Space Commerce Association and author of a brief advocating for funding CubeSat funding that was submitted to the Finance Committee in its annual pre-budget solicitation in 2016.

Updated: 3:30 p.m. EDT.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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