The Canadian Space Agency Spent What it Planned to in 2017

For the first time since its inception, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) spent almost exactly what it planned to in its fiscal year 2017-18 budget according to the recently released Departmental Results Report.

The CSA planned spending for the fiscal year 2017 was $353,809,911 and the agency spent $353,457,987, a difference of -$351,924. Not since fiscal year 2002 have they come this close to balancing their budget this well, and in 2002 they underspent by $6.9M.

Canadian Space Agency planned spending versus actual spending for the 10 year period between 2008-2017
Click to enlarge chart.

Of course, it’s important to note that each year programs can change based on a variety of factors including development schedules.

A prime example of this is the RADARSAT Constellation Mission. Planned spending for the year was $83.7M but $75.6 was actually spent, a difference of $8.1M.

2017 results

CSA spending is grouped by Programs and Internal Services.

The CSA defines Internal Services as “those groups of related activities and resources that the federal government considers to be services in support of programs and/or required to meet corporate obligations of an organization.”

As the chart below illustrates the CSA spent less than budgeted for Space Data, Information and Services and Future Canadian Space Capacity while spending more than planned for Space Exploration and Internal Services.

Canadian Space Agency spending by programs and internals services for 2017
Click to enlarge chart.

Internal Services spending note

According to the report the additional $5.4M spent on Internal Services was “mainly due to salary increases related to the ratification of collective agreements which expired in 2014–15 as well as any related retroactive payments.”

With respect to human resources overall, the CSA has seen full-time equivalents (FTE) decrease from a high in FY2011 of 699.7 to a low of 591.4 in FY2015. However, since then FTE’s have jumped again to 654 this year, even as the agency budget shrinks.

Specific program results

While the CSA provides a description and results for each program area and top level spending details, it does not breakdown what is spent by sub-programs, making it difficult to evaluate each sub-program from a cost perspective.

A full description and results by program area is available from the PDF files available at the end of the article.

Here’s what we do know with respect to spending for key programs;

RADARSAT Constellation Mission – The assembly of the second and third satellites was completed in the third quarter of 2017–18, and tests for the ground infrastructure (Primary Control Facility) began as planned in the fourth quarter of 2017–18. The constellation is scheduled to be launched in fall 2018* with the objective of ensuring data continuity and broadening operational use. The three-satellite configuration of the RCM will provide multiple daily captures of Canada’s vast territory, as well as the capability to observe a specific point of over 90% of the world’s surface. It will also include an automatic identification system (AIS), improving Canada’s space- based capabilities to detect ships and manage marine traffic.

* Note: RCM is now scheduled to launch in the next couple of months.

  • Original estimated cost: $600M
  • Revised estimated cost: $1,089,510,532
  • Actual total cost (to date): $988,660,771
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $75,640,928

James Webb Space Telescope – Canada is a lead partner, along with NASA and ESA, in the James Webb Space Telescope project, a major space telescope scheduled for launch in 2021. By virtue of the CSA’s contribution, Canadian astronomers will have guaranteed access to 5% of the observing time of the Space Telescope. In 2017–18, the CSA continued to support the integration of two of the most critical components into the Optical Telescope Assembly of the James Webb Telescope: the Fine Guidance Sensor and the Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph with unique capabilities for finding the earliest and most distant objects in the universe’s history and detecting the thin atmosphere of small, habitable, Earth-like planets.

Although the flight instrument has now been delivered, the project is still in the implementation phase where support must be provided for the integration of the FGS/NIRISS to the spacecraft, for the launch activities and for the spacecraft commissioning activities.

With all the integration and test activities at NASA having been delayed and the duration of these activities revised under the NASA replan, the CSA and COM DEV are required to provide direct engineering post- delivery support to NASA for FGS/NIRISS and to the James Webb mission commissioning activities from 2014 up until March 2021.

Official mission operations will commence after the completion of the telescope’s commissioning, six months after its launch. The James Webb telescope operations centre will be located in the Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. Canadian scientists will be on location to directly support the operations of the FGS and NIRISS throughout the mission’s operations. The operations will also be supported by engineering staff in order to be able to address technical issues if and when they occur to ensure the functionality of Canada’s instruments.

  • Original estimated cost: $67,160,000
  • Revised estimated cost: $172,860,953
  • Actual total cost (to date): $169,213,011
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $1,384,686

A note on the James Webb Space Telescope program costs

The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint international mission involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada. It is the most complex telescope ever built and that means costs were sure to be somewhat more than originally planned. The launch originally scheduled for 2010 was then pushed back to 2015, and eventually to its now scheduled date of 2021.

The original mission costs was pegged at US$1.6B. By the time the Preliminary Design Review was completed in 2008 the cost had ballooned to US$4.5B. Now the cost is expected to exceed US$10B.

For its part Canada provided two critical hardware pieces, the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and the Near-Infra-Red Imager and Slitless Spectrometer (NIRISS).

Canada’ s contribution was to have cost $67.2M but by 2014 the Treasury Board had granted a revised Effective Project Approval of $169.9 million, excluding taxes. The new program expenditures would be more than 2 1/2 times the original cost.

The reasons for the cost increase was due to technical issues with the Fine Guidance Sensor. The report states:

In March 2007, the first Critical Design Review (CDR) for the guidance function of the FGS revealed technical issues. During the preparation of the system-level CDR, new issues became apparent. The technical issues needed to be addressed.

In December 2007, Treasury Board granted a revised EPA after project costs had raised significantly due to technical issues by the end of Phase C, the detailed design phase.

In 2010, NASA discovered that the infrared detectors, extremely sensitive cameras capable of “seeing” light produced by heat, were showing signs of performance degradation due to a design fault. Following investigation, NASA concluded that all detectors, including the four procured by Canada, needed to be replaced. In effect, two years after their acceptance by the project, the detectors started to show the same degradation. NASA initiated an improvement project with Teledyne Scientific & Imaging LLC to address the design issue causing the degradation.

OSIRIS-REx Mission – NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, carrying Canada’s contribution, the Laser Altimeter, continued to travel towards the asteroid Bennu*. Regular check-outs were performed in 2017–18, and results indicate that the Altimeter is in good health and will be ready to operate when the spacecraft reaches Bennu in late 2018. The contribution of the Laser Altimeter will entitle Canada to own 4% of the returned asteroid sample after it comes back to Earth in 2023.

* Note: The spacecraft is now in orbit around asteroid Bennu.

  • Original estimated cost: $26,696,400
  • Revised estimated cost: $35,760,462
  • Actual total cost (to date): $35,760,462
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $63,156

DEXTRE Deployable Vision System – The Dextre Deployable Vision System (DDVS) is a technology driven sensor package that provides enhanced inspection capabilities to Canada’s external robotic Mobile Servicing System (MSS). The purpose of DDVS is to provide high definition imaging of the entire International Space Station (ISS), and visiting crew vehicles, in order to detect micro-meteoroid and other damage to the external components of the ISS. The DDVS also includes a novel space vehicle tracking sensor to evaluate new technologies for future space endeavours.

  • Original estimated cost: $23,351,302
  • Revised estimated cost: $22,126,990
  • Actual total cost (to date): $6,196,100
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $3,560,998

Life Science System Research – During the reporting period, five Canadian investigations were performed on the ISS: MARROW and TBone (musculoskeletal risks and effects on bones), Vascular Echo (hypogravity-associated risks and cardiovascular effects), At Home in Space (human behaviour and performance risks and psychosocial effects) and Radi-N2 (risks and effects from radiation). Investigations in health and life sciences aim to understand and mitigate health risks associated with human adaptation to space flight with the objective of enabling long-duration human expeditions in low Earth orbit and deep space.

In addition to answering the needs of human space exploration, research performed in space contributed to improving the well-being and quality of life of Canadians. For example, MARROW studied the adverse effects of space flight on blood cell formation mechanisms in the bone marrow and Vascular Echo revealed an accelerated stiffening of the arteries and insulin resistance after exposure to the space environment. These findings shed new light on similar effects and health risks observed on Earth that are associated with aging, a sedentary lifestyle or immobility.

  • Original estimated cost: $15,268,161
  • Revised estimated cost: $16,748,151
  • Actual total cost (to date): $12,579,531
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $7,097,176

Mobile Servicing System Replacement Camera – The CSA continued to fulfill its international obligations on the ISS, which Canada has committed to fulfill until 2024, including the operations of the Mobile Base System (MBS), the support to astronauts’ spacewalk activities using the Canadarm2, Dextre and the replacements of the MBS cameras. As part of these efforts, the unexpected failure of the latching mechanism on one of the two Latching End Effectors (LEEs) and further degradation of the snare cables forced the replacement of both of Canadarm2’s LEEs in order to regain full system capabilities. It is of note that the LEEs had been in operation for 17 years, significantly exceeding their expected life of 10 years. The CSA was able to complete this critical work within its existing funds by reprioritizing other activities.

  • Original estimated cost: $15,465,270
  • Revised estimated cost: $19,145,990
  • Actual total cost (to date): $16,466,228
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $1,274,103

David Florida Laboratory Infrastructure Accelerated Refit – Throughout 2017–18, upgrades were made to the David Florida Laboratory(DFL) thermal and structural qualification facilities, while the complete refurbishment of the Antenna Test Facility 2 – an anechoic chamber – will continue in 2018–19. This major overhaul and refit of the DFL are part of the Infrastructure Accelerated Refit project, which could not be completed in 2017–18 in order to accommodate the highly critical schedule related to the development of the RCM. The DFL offers assembly, integration and testing facilities to the Canadian space industry and academia.

  • Original estimated cost: $12,022,802
  • Revised estimated cost: $13,544,547
  • Actual total cost (to date): $9,525,016
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $6,170,091

Surface Water & Ocean Topography (SWOT-C) – With the view of offering future capacity to support GoC in the delivery of its mandate, the CSA continued work on the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, an international mission involving NASA and France’s Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), which is planned to be launched in 2021. The CSA completed the manufacturing of and successfully held the Test Readiness Review for the extended interaction klystron (EIK) in March 2018. The EIK is a component of a high-power amplifier and is part of the Canadian contribution to the mission. This contribution will secure privileged access to SWOT data, which will be of great value to Environment and Climate Change Canada for hydrological and meteorological monitoring and forecasting, and to DFO for ocean science studies.

  • Original estimated cost: $8,496,507
  • Revised estimated cost: $9,963,696
  • Actual total cost (to date): $4,878,040
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $857,424

Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSAT) – The CSA continued to support the operation of the Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat) mission, launched in 2016. This spacecraft provides AIS data for use in research related to the optimization of this type of data and valuable flight heritage to test innovative technologies before full deployment. Additional funding and expenditure authority of $8M over two years (2015–16 and 2016– 17) was authorized for the M3MSat project due to the increased cost of the launch provider and associated launch delay.

  • Original estimated cost: $5,404,000
  • Revised estimated cost: $16,653,419
  • Actual total cost (to date): $15,274,488
  • 2017-18 actual spending: $65,373

CSA 2017-18 Departmental Results Report files (PDF)

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 18 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 25 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.