Canadian Space Agency Releases New Satellite Earth Observation Opportunity

European Space Agency Sentinel-2 Earth observation image of Vancouver, Canada July 29, 2019. Credit: ESA.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has released an announcement of research opportunities in satellite Earth observation (EO). The opportunity is open to Canadian universities and post-secondary institutions and has an estimated $5 million available.

The AO comes from the CSA’s smartEarth initiative. The CSA stated that the smartEarth initiative was a “renewed funding initiative related to Earth observation applications development” when it was announced in early 2020 and that it would “fosters a smart use of satellite data to develop solutions to key challenges on Earth and in our everyday lives.”

Since then the CSA put has released two AO’s and provided awards totalling over $12 million.

This AO is geared towards the academic research community with the following objectives:

  • Advancing knowledge, research capacity and teaching innovation for the post-secondary academic community interested in remote sensing and/or Earth observation. In this regard, we encourage collaboration with other academic departments/faculties, post-secondary institutions, Canadian space industry, other government departments and international partners;
  • Supporting the development of space solutions in the form of innovative applications (new applications, data products, models/prototypes, methodologies, teaching/learning methods and tools education material, systems, services, etc.) to meet today’s challenges resulting in a better future for all Canadians;
  • Supporting research for innovative approaches to EO-focused teaching and learning in Canada, include new didactic concepts for EO-focused teaching and learning, such as the flipped classroom approach or problem-based learning, hybrid face-to-face/online interactive teaching and learning, as well as utilization of geospatial data cubes, AI, DL;
  • Leveraging emerging opportunities such as digital technologies and capabilities (for example, cloud computing, machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence), as well as the growing sources of satellite remote sensing/Earth observation data to maximize opportunities and research potential.
smartEarth Application Readiness Level (ARL Scale). Image credit: Canadian Space Agency.

Next in the objectives section the CSA outlined the Application Readiness Level (ARL) system and structure, pictured above, and how it fits into this AO.

“The Application Readiness Level (ARL) system and structure has been adopted in the smartEarth context, as illustrated below. With regard to the current AO, “application” broadly encompasses technologies, methods and applications, including pedagogical materials. From a pedagogical perspective, this may refer to researching new innovative education and teaching methods that encourages the incorporation of EO data for improved understanding and learning purposes for students, academics and the general public, particularly with the advent of advanced AI analytics like Deep Learning.”

“For this purpose, the applicant should clearly identify the current state-of-the-art and its corresponding ARL, and then identify the target ARL that the research intends to achieve. A project can also remain within the same ARL for the duration of the project, but should still demonstrate an advancement. This should be explained in the appropriate section of the application form. The maximum level attainable under this AO is ARL 7.”

“Fundamental research corresponds to ARL 1 to 4, whereas applied research falls within ARL 5-7. Research regarding EO focused pedagogical approaches and materials could also fall within a range of ARLs.”

The maximum funding per project is $312,500 with up to 20 projects being selected. Researchers will have up to 36 months to complete the work, though this is project dependent. The CSA says the estimated start for selected projects in February 2024.

The AO was posted to the CSA website October 12, 2023, though the AO was published on October 4. The deadline to apply is November 3, 2023.

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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