This week in space for Canada is all about developing an inventory of the commercial space focused activities occurring last week and comparing them to what’s happening, or maybe not happening, at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The good news is all from the private sector and starts off with the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) conference and annual general meeting which wrapped up on Tuesday at the MaRS Development District in Toronto, Ontario.
The conference focused on the growing Canadian commercial space sector and discussions ranged from the need to embrace fixed price contracts to the use of intellectual property, IRB (offset) and SR&ED (scientific research experimental development) tax credits to grow business and even how Canadian space focused companies can benefit if the U.S. fails to revoke the Strom Thurmond Defense Act.
According to CSCA President Arny Sokoloff, the organization is well positioned at the intersection of space and business with resources focused on legal, regulatory, financial and entrepreneurial issues of special concern to Canadian firms.
Dr. Christian Sallaberger, the VP of Business Development for MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) was keynote speaker for the event and must have been having a good day since his company was also in the midst of announcing CSA authorization for MDA to begin the design phase of the RADARSAT Constellation mission. This contract is valued to $11.8 million and is expected to be completed by June 11, 2010 according to the SpaceRef.ca article “MDA Gets Next Contract in RADARSAT Constellation Mission.”
But MDA wasn’t the only Canadian space focused company with good news.
COMDEV International was also having a good day as it announced a contract from EADS Astrium worth $2.8M CDN for a series of four communications satellites, according to the March 16th, 2010 CNW Group article “COMDEV Wins Work on Multiple Satellites” which stated:
“COMDEV will supply switches, filters and multiplexers for use on the satellites which EADS Astrium is building for SES S.A. The satellites will deliver next generation broadcast, VSAT and broadband services in Europe and Africa.”
Even satellite giant Telesat jumped on the good news bandwagon according to the article, “Freed by the feds, Telesat begins the hunt for deals” written by Report on Business author Ian Marlow and published on March 14th. According to the article:
“Canada’s largest satellite company is mulling global acquisitions after the federal government said it would loosen foreign ownership restrictions in the telecom sector.”
The article goes on to state that the federal government has indicated this would be done as a preliminary to doing the same for the broader telecommunications industry.
Now for the bad news.
There is no word on whether these successes are related to the missing CSA long-term space plan (LTSP) which, according to the article “Canadian Space Policy Idles or Does it?” on the SpaceRef.ca website has not yet even been submitted to cabinet for consideration. According to a quote attributed to Paul Engel, the CSA Director of Communications and Public Affairs:
“In the near future, the Agency will be fine tuning the input received from stakeholders and presenting the Plan to the Minister of Industry and Cabinet for consideration.”
So after working on the LTSP for almost two years as part of a request by then Industry Minister Jim Prentice in late summer of 2008 and being told that “time is of the essence,” the document still has not been submitted by CSA president Steve MacLean to cabinet as of March 2010.
In essence, the Canadian LTSP is missing in action by the admission of the CSA Director of Communication and Public Affairs. At least he attached his name to the admission so now we know who should be fired first.
On the plus side, this development might not be totally unexpected. For example, there are small but growing indications that COMDEV, MDA and others are beginning to set their own course, irrespective of the CSA and it’s LTSP (although MDA has obvious support from the Canadian government for the Radarsat Constellation project on the basis of arctic sovereignty).
I went so far as to state outright that this could happen in my February 11th, 2010 edition of This Week in Space for Canada when I said:
“…we have private citizens, individual organizations and Canadian corporations each acting independently and without the CSA to build their own unique international relationships and space focused opportunities. It’s gone so far that our future in space may no longer be tied to our national space agency, as of this week in space for Canada.”
I then followed my comments up with a February 15th, 2010 post on the Commercial Space blog under the title “Ottawa Citizen: “Where did that Long Term Space Plan Go?” by commenting that “if Canada does not define a long term space plan, private business and academia will soon go about creating their own.”
This is fast becoming our Canadian future in space as companies and organizations develop their own personal long term space plans in the absence of the official one. It will be interesting to see how the CSA attempts to regain it’s fast disappearing influence and relevance
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.