Canadian Space Agency Moves Forward with Executing Next Space Plan

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will see it’s budget peak this year at an all time high of $424.6 million then drop 34% over the following two years according to estimates released yesterday in their annual Report on Plans and Priorities. At the same the agency has completed an overhaul and restructuring of their Program Activity Architecture which in effect begins the execution of the agency’s next Long Term Space Plan.

While the CSA will in effect be executing the next Long Term Space Plan, the government has not seen fit to release an actual Long Term Space Plan document. This is somewhat surprising in the context that the very stakeholders who contributed to the plan want to see an official strategy document published. As well many other countries, both established and emerging space nations, have seen fit to release new plans over the past couple of years. So while Canada apparently has a strategy you won’t find an official document that outlines it. What we do have, written in clearer form this year, is a new outline of the CSA’s restructured Program Activity Architecture (PAA) which went into effect April 1st.

While the new PAA came into effect April 1st of this year the CSA has been slowly moving in this direction the last of year. This included an internal reorganization completed in early 2010 and speeches by President Steve MacLean which included new strategies such as increased capacity building and an initiative for greater cooperation between other government departments and the CSA to better serve Canadians.

The new PAA was formulated according to the CSA: “Following a vast consultation of senior executives of other government departments, academia and industry stakeholders and heads of space agencies, the Canadian Space Agency formulated cohesive strategies focused on the current and future priorities of Canada and Canadians.” Those consultations were the basis of what was to become the next Long Term Space Plan.

The CSA’s priorities will now be guided by a strategic direction for each of the CSA Program Activities:

  • Provide space data, services and information for Canadians;
  • Foster knowledge and innovation through space exploration; and,
  • Sustain and enhance Canada’s space capacity.

The New Canadian Space Agency Program Activities
In examining the new PAA we see that the CSA has partly renamed and consolidated their previous five primary program activities and one overlapping activity into four activities. They are:

  1. Space Data, Information and Services – This Program Activity includes the provision of space-based solutions (data, information and services) and the expansion of their utilization. It also serves to install and run ground infrastructure that processes the data and operates satellites.
  2. Space Exploration – This Program Activity provides valuable Canadian science, signature technologies and qualified astronauts to international space exploration endeavours.
  3. Future Canadian Space Activity – This Program Activity attracts, sustains and enhances the nation’s critical mass of Canadian space specialists, fosters Canadian space innovation and know-how, and preserves the nation’s space-related facilities capability. In doing so, it encourages private-public collaboration that requires a concerted approach to future space missions.
  4. Internal Services – This program activity is necessary to implement the government’s commitment to modern public service management. It directly supports the Management Accountability Framework (MAF). Internal Services include only those
    activities and resources that apply across an organization.

This is a much simpler description of the agency’s Program Activity Architecture.
CSA-PAA-2011.jpgGraphic copyright Government of Canada

A Closer Look at Each Program Activity
The overall 2011-2012 budget of $424.6 is broken down into the four program activities with Space Data, Information receiving $136.6 million, Space Exploration receiving $152.4 million, Future Canadian Space Capacity receiving $86.1 and Internal Services receiving $49.4.

Space Data, Information and Services: This activities priorities includes the further development of the RADARSAT Constellation and to continue studying the Polar Communication and Weather (PCW) mission. This activity sees an increase of 33% over the previous years budget. Next years spending estimates see a budget increase as these programs ramp up.
The RADARSAT Constellation project will enhance Canada’s ability to use radar imagery for operational maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring and will support the strategic objectives of Canada on security and sovereignty, particularly in the Arctic.

The Polar Communication and Weather (PCW) mission is to put two satellites in a
highly elliptical orbit over the Northern Hemisphere to monitor weather and climate change, and provide communication services in the Arctic region.

Other highlights include:

  • The CSA and the Department of National Defence (DND) are partnering to manage the M3MSat micro-satellite project, which is based on an Automatic Identification System (AIS) payload. This project will demonstrate and further develop a multi-mission micro-satellite bus capability; will establish microsatellites as operationally cost-effective; and, will allow optimization of the AIS payload in maritime traffic identification. It will complement the CSA’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission and DND’s Polar Epsilon program. Detailed design is being finalized and the manufacturing has begun. The launch is planned for July 2012 and the mission demonstration should end in 2014.
  • In collaboration with the European Space Agency, will support Canadian companies participating in the development of advanced Earth Observation space-borne instruments and the Global Navigation Satellite System. It allows our industry to access cutting-edge studies on new telecommunications services, develop new technologies, equipment and applications in multi-media, inter-satellite and mobile communications, and to demonstrate satellite-based communications services such as interactive communications services for remote communities and for disaster management.
  • The CSA will continue to develop promising mission concepts for space-borne observations of atmospheric gases and aerosols in relation to climate and air quality. Their development will involve the Government of Canada and university scientists and will be used on foreign as well as Canadian spacecraft.
  • The CSA will continue to support the implementation of international EO activities such as the Forest Carbon Tracking and the Caribbean Flood Project in collaboration with other space agencies.


Other notable changes to this activity from the pervious year:

  • Launches of RADARSAT Constellation Mission are planned in 2014 and 2015. The
    increase of funding has been made according to the calendar of the project ($33.8 million) for the RADARSAT Constellation Mission.
  • Additional funds to cover an increase of the launchers’ cost Maritime Monitoring and
    Messaging MicroSatellite, a part of the variance were related to previous ARLUs ($2.2

    • The Quicksat project has been brought to a halt. Meanwhile, funding has been reallocated to other priorities ($1.6 million).
    • The Redefinition of the collaborative Japan Canada Joint Collaboration Satellites Formation Flight project. Meanwhile, funding has been reallocated to other priorities ($1.6 million).

Space Exploration: This activities priorities includes the continuing participation in the International Space Station including the continuing operation of Canadarm2 and Dextre as well as performing scientific experiments and technology demonstrations and having access to flight opportunities for Canadian astronauts.

While this activity accounts for the largest expenditure in the budget it should be noted that this it included $110 million in stimulus money spent over the last three years as part of the governments Economic Action Plan. Most of that money was spent on development of advanced space robotics and mobility systems. As this money runs out the Space Exploration Program Activity budget over the next two years will decrease by 86%. This raises many questions including; What happens next with the technology developed for space robotics and mobility systems? The CSA is planning on testing the new hardware over the next couple of years but then what? With no new influx of money to keep the initial technology development going for these space robotics and mobility systems will the gains made, be lost?

It should be noted that while Canada has spent money on further developing its expertise in space robotics and mobility systems that the new technology needs a mission if it is to be used. Canada has been a strong proponent of the Global Exploration Strategy. The premise being for Canada that we won’t do it alone but we’ll partner with others on space exploration missions, in particular robot and human exploration. However one of the lead participants in this initiative, the United States, is itself currently in space policy quandary. Congress, the President and internal fighting at NASA have left U.S. space policy in limbo, especially with respect to human exploration. The U.S. currently has no properly defined strategy which affects countries like Canada. Without a firm destination for exploration, Canada’s space robotics and mobility systems don’t have a mission. Until this is solved we can expect to see flat space exploration budgets from the CSA in future years.

Also within this activity the CSA is planning a reduced role for the astronaut corps as the reality of fewer flight opportunities sinks in as the result of the retirement of the Shuttle fleet with the final Shuttle launch scheduled for next month.

Another question in this activity is the fate of the James Webb Space Telescope. The yet to be completed telescope, a replacement for the Hubble telescope, is behind schedule and seriously over budget. Canada’s cost for participation in the international effort to develop and launch the telescope is $144 million. It is not expected that Canada will need to pay more than agreed on. However because of cost overruns and delays the telescope which was to have originally launched in 2007 is now officially set to launch no earlier than 2017-2018 according to the industry insider site NASA Watch.

Other notable changes to this activity from the pervious year:

  • The Exploration Core program needs have been revised and budget reduced ($6.7 million).
  • The Space Technology Developement Program provides funds for breakthrough technologies and to enhance the competitiveness and capabilities of the Industry as a whole. Budget has been decreased and money reallocated to other priorities($2.6 million).

Future Canadian Space Capacity: One of the focuses for the CSA the last year has been to get the message out that it wants to build and organize Canadian capacity for the present and future. The CSA describes Future Canadian Space Capacity as; “attracts, sustains and enhances the nation’s critical mass of Canadian space specialists, fosters Canadian space innovation and know-how, and preserves the nation’s space-related facilities capability. In doing so, it encourages private-public collaboration that requires a concerted approach to future space missions.

To that end CSA President Steve MacLean has made speeches across Canadian university campuses stressing among other things, the new capacity building initiative. And a new program targeted primarily at university students is the new Grants and Contributions program funded at $9.9. This new program is a new tool for the CSA and is an alternative to the CSA’s current contracts and provides a simpler mechanism to support pure research.

Other priorities also include the renewal of the long-standing cooperation agreement with the European Space Agency and the development and use of sub-orbital platforms (balloons, aircraft, and sounding rockets) and small satellites. This activity sees an increase of 26% over the previous budget. Next years estimate sees a decrease but the following year sees an increase.

Internal Services: This Program Activity serves to implement the Government’s commitment to modern Public Service management. Highlights include:

  • Review the CSA’s external and internal governance structure in order to foster fruitful collaborations with government partners and external stakeholders, while enhancing the CSA’s credibility with the federal government.
  • Review of existing policies pertaining to the management of intellectual property in
    order to guarantee access to it and promote the transfer of technologies.
  • Assessment of management requirements to allow access by the public to space
    data produced by satellites and scientific experiments.
  • Implementation of a five-year Evaluation Plan applicable to the CSA’s 2011-2012
    Program Activity Architecture.

This activity sees a slight decrease of less than 2% over the previous years budget.

CSA-PAA-2011-2.jpgGraphic copyright Government of Canada


Overall the new strategy represents in part the Government’s view on what Canada’s space strategy should be along with input from the Canadian Space Agency, other government departments and stakeholders. The strategy has been a long time in the making and while no official strategy document exists yet, at least publicly, the strategy has been coming into focus the last year.

What’s clear is that capacity building, security and sovereignty, streamlined and increased cooperation of other government departments and space based tools for enhancement of Canadians daily activities is the focus of the new strategy. While space exploration is still a component, it would appear to have reduced role going forward, at least until our space exploration partners have an exploration strategy in place with a plan to execute it.

Other References:

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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