Budget 2010 – The News is not all bad for the Canadian Space Agency

The Canadian Space Agency got the green light to go ahead with the RADARSAT Constellation Mission as reported earlier. The governments Economic Action Plan provided the Canadian Space Agency with $110 million over three years in last years budget. Of that, it was reported that $10 million had been committed while another $36 million will be committed this year. The $36 million for this year is lower than the original $60 million allocated last year.

While the committed stimulus money is lower this year than expected it appears other parts of the CSA budget were left intact. This does not come as surprise. At the end of this month the government will release the 2010-2011 Report on Plans and Priorities for the CSA which will include the revised estimates for budgets in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

The $36 million of stimulus money this year will be spent on a Next Generation Canadarm and Exploration Surface Mobility projects. While the Exploration Surface Mobility projects comes as no surprise the Next Generation Canadarm does come as bit of surprise. NASA’s space shuttles are due to retire by 2011 and the International Space Station already has the Mobile Servicing System with a Next Generation Canadarm attached. Unless the Next Generation Canadarm the government is referring to is the Small Manipulator Arm request for proposal which was released last September. That would make sense as it goes with the other Exploration Surface Mobility projects.

The other notable item in the budget which relates to space technologies was the governments decision to remove existing restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian satellites. This is meant to allow foreign capital to be invested in Canadian technologies.

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.


  1. Marc, Next Generation Canadarm activites include new arm designs and control philosophies for new applications.
    On-orbit robotic servicing is predicted to be a big deal, both for government and for commercial applications, in the future. Think of applications like in-orbit refuelling and servicing. Could the next Hubble servicing mission be done robotically? Could JWST be designed to be robotically serviced? Could future LEO or GEO satellites be designed to be refuelled robotically?
    All these applications require developments in robotic technologies. The stimulus spending for Next Generation Canadarm brings us closer to being ready.
    Between last year’s stimulus spending and this year’s mention of space in the speech from the throne with the associated RADARSAT funding, it is clear that, despite a difficult economic environment, the government sees the value of space for the economy, jobs, and innovation.

  2. The Flying Dutchman

    On orbit servicing have fundamental issues. One point that everyone can relate to is, would you pay to install a new engine in your rusty 13 year old car? This ideas does not make economical sense, so why the commercial space sector would be any different. Also, why would a satellite provider pay more to have a spacecraft that could be serviced in orbit in case that something goes wrong. Hubble was designed to be serviced, but it is not any easy job to service it. Telecom Spacecrafts are design for 15 years and it is up to the spacecraft builder to guarantee that it would operate for 15 years. Also these spacecrafts are insured, so why complicate your life with a possible rescue by a servicing mission. Unless that you plan to sell your idea to spy satellite operator where atmospheric drag is an issue and fuel consumption is a major concern. But in Canada, this on-orbit servicing idea is basically having an industry with a capability or solution and trying to find a problem.
    MDA was quoted in Space News that they are looking in the possibility of servicing existing spacecrafts already in orbit. ie, removing MLI and re-fuelling them. This makes no sense to me. They should look in the problem of managing fluids in 0g.

  3. The language was rather vague but on-orbit servicing is a hot topic these days. NASA issued an RFI in December to deal specifically with this issue. (http://nasawatch.com/archives/2009/12/new-ways-to-use.html). So I suppose I should not be surprised that the budget contained this item.
    This is obviously geared towards MDA getting a foothold in a market that might exist. For the government this is obviously a forward thinking idea that may or may not mature.
    The questions is, could the money have been spent better on other projects within the space sector?

  4. The Flying Dutchman

    The NASA RFI is mainly geared towards the Constellation program where On-Orbit assembly is required. But with the cancellation of the Constellation program we are left with a specific canadian space sector that doesn’t have a clear objective. For standard exploration robotic missions, there are strong players in Europe and in the USA. Canada was well positioned in the past. But the problem is that other companies have catch-up to Canada.

  5. There’s still a lot of politicking ongoing and it will interesting to see what the final budget looks in the US and whether all of Constellation is indeed canceled.

  6. Indeed, the new vision for NASA has far more need, potentially, for on-orbit servicing, and, in particular, refuel.
    Notice HTV, and the planned SpaceX Dragon, dock using the SSRMS. A refuel depot is easiest to build using an arm to pull the S/C to the refuel connection. Transfer S/C will be built in orbit.
    If we end up with NEOs and Phobos as destinations, we may need small arms to perform science. We may also teleoperate more science.
    All these make Canadian tech, especially MDA tech, highly interesting on the global exploration front.

  7. The Flying Dutchman

    With this increase of budget, I hope that CSA will not use this opportunity to increase their staff. But rather streamline its organization in order to reduce to administration overhead. The technical oversight on programs is necessary, however there are questions on the number of staff in the supporting departments. Maybe there is a re-organization in the works at CSA.

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