The Canadian Space Agency budget is increasing by 20% over last years budget according to its recently released Departmental Plan. This isn’t an April Fools joke, it does however require some context.
Planned spending 2020-21 increase
Canada’s civil space agency will see its planned spending rise from $328.9 million last year, to $394.9 million for the fiscal year 2020-21 which starts today.
While this is a 20% increase over the previous year, it is also a 35.5% increase on what had been projected for the 2020-21. The CSA’s projected spending from last years documents had this years projection at $291.4 million. That would have continued an ongoing trend of decreasing annual funds available to the agency.
So the good news is that after years of decreases, the Canadian government was persuaded enough by the space community to increase its investment in Canada’s civil space program. One of the reasons for this increase was the success of the MDA led Don’t Let Go Canada campaign.
Lunar Gateway funds?
Now before you get all excited the news is not all rosy. Last years federal budget documents included planned spending as part of its new $2.05 billion Moon commitment. That commitment is over 24 years and the federal budget outlined planned spending for five years as illustrated below.
While funding for the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) is included this fiscal year, there’s no mention of funding for the Lunar Gateway.
In fact, in looking at the projected CSA’s planned spending for the following fiscal year 2021-22, you’ll notice that the planned spending falls to $372.4 million. At the same time, last years federal budget document shows spending $221 million on Moon related programs next fiscal year. Clearly last years planned spending profile for the Lunar Gateway appears too have changed. With the current Coronavirus pandemic and fiscal uncertainty, we don’t know when a budget might be unveiled, and if that will change anything with regards to spending for Canada’s Moon commitment.
What it does look like, is that Lunar Gateway funding appears to have been pushed down the road. You also need to understand that the CSA’s Departmental Plan was created before the pandemic became an issue, so the plan already included pushing the funding down the road.
Funding being pushed down the road could in part be due to the uncertainty in what’s going with the NASA Artemis program. Congress and the White House are at odds on funding and how the program should evolve. The Lunar Gateway portion of the overall Artemis program has seen its role reduced, for the moment.
With the US elections scheduled for this November, it will be some time before we know which way the Artemis and Lunar Gateway programs will go.
In the meantime Canada’s funding for its participation in the Lunar Gateway appears to be on hold.
Over the years, and primarily since the Liberal government came into power in 2015, the level of information included in the Departmental Plans has decreased including program by program funding.
For instance, we don’t have a number yet, on what the CSA was planning to spend on the LEAP program this year. Nor do we know how much planned spending there is for the Space Technology Development Program.
We’re hoping to get you some of these numbers in the coming weeks.
I also want to bring your attention to the image below showing the Canadian Space Agency Departmental spending 2017–18 to 2022–23.
The area highlighted in red is the revised planned spending for 2019-20 which is listed at $373.1 million. This differs from the data last year which had $328.9 million. It is accurate, and I recently discussed the change in the an article on CSA’s 2019 Q3 financial report. The change, and additional funding, is money unspent from the previous year and re-profiled or carry-forwarded for the current year. That’s great, but as it turns out the funding won’t be spent this year.
The point being that planned spending does not equate to actual spending. It seems straight forward, but sometimes people assume that what they see in these Departmental Plans as planned spending for previous years is actually what was spent. That’s not the case. In fact, we’ve been tracking what the CSA has been spending versus what was planned. We’ll have an updated article on this topic in the near future. However, here’s an in-depth article we wrote in 2018 and another from last year, which for the first time in years, showed the CSA spending what it had planned to.
This years CSA Departmental Plan has four priorities as opposed to the five last year.
Those priorities are:
- Lunar Program – Together, the Government’s investment of $2.05 billion over 24 years in a next-generation robotics system for the Lunar Gateway and the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) represent the cornerstone of the new Canadian Space Strategy. These investments will contribute to advancements in science and technology and ensure Canada remains a leading spacefaring nation. In 2020–21, requests for proposals under LEAP will be published for Canadian payloads that will be launched into space, which will be the first step in positioning Canada’s commercial space sector to help grow the Canadian economy and create the jobs of the future.
- Provide data and new capabilities to Other Government Departments through the operation of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) – In 2020-21, RCM earth observation satellites will provide an unprecedented amount of near- real-time Earth observation data. In partnership with thirteen user departments and agencies, the CSA will seize this opportunity to support the development of new capabilities that harness space to solve daily challenges and improve the lives of Canadians.
- Engage young Canadians (Junior Astronauts and CubeSat) – The CSA will continue to implement the Junior Astronauts campaign in an effort to inspire the next generation of space explorers and get young Canadians excited about space and science. The campaign will culminate with a camp to be held in the summer of 2020, at which selected youth from every province and territory will join astronauts, scientists, and engineers for a week of space training at the CSA headquarters. The CSA will also continue to implement the Canadian CubeSat Project (CCP) to engage over 450 post-secondary students in real space missions and provide them with an opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become future space experts. Both of these initiatives will not only engage Canadians with space but inspire the next generation of Canadians to reach for the stars.
- WildFireSat Mission – In 2020–21, the CSA will invest in the WildFireSat earth observation mission. This initiative aims to monitor, from space, all active wildfires in Canada on a daily basis. The primary goal of WildFireSat is to support wildfire management. In addition, it will provide more precise information on smoke and air quality conditions across Canada, including more accurate measurements of carbon emitted by wildfires, an important requirement of international agreements on carbon reporting. With the support of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the early Definition Phase contracts with industry will be completed in the summer of 2020. Project planning for the following phases will take place over the fall of 2020. Investments in science missions will contribute to the advancement of science and technology and help to ensure Canada harnesses space to solve daily challenges and improve the lives of Canadians.
Astronomy left out, again
It’s not unexpected, and the CSA is working with the astronomy community to hopefully rectify this issue, but once again it should be pointed out that there’s no apparent funding for any new astronomy programs.