Although the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) spent $43 million less than expected in its 2018-19 fiscal year, they did manage to achieve their desired results.
In a nutshell, here’s the big picture. The CSA planned on spending $348.9 million for the fiscal year 2018-19 but actually spent $305.7 million.
The underspend was mostly attributed to the delayed launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). The launch expected in the fiscal year 2018-19 slipped to June in 2019. The CSA fiscal year starts April 1. So there was $46 million on the books for 2018-19 that had to be carry-forwarded to the next fiscal year.
You’ll notice that $46 million is actually more than the underspend. That’s because the CSA spent $3.2 million more on people who work there by adding 14.2 new full-time equivalent positions.
Planned vs actual spending history
While the CSA has pretty much spent what it was supposed to the last two years, that’s not been the case in the past. In fact, the CSA has a history of underspending its budget. While part of their underspending can be attributed to moving targets, like the RCM in 2018-19, carry-forwading and re-profiling of funds hasn’t always led to the funds actually being spent in future years.
Canadian Space Agency Results
The government has once again changed how it reports results and these reports over the years have become less transparent.
The data used to include detailed breakdowns of spending by program including sub-programs. Now that data isn’t available. What we’re presented with now are four results within what’s now being called Canada in Space.
Here are some select highlights. You can read the report below or visit the CSA’s website for the report and additional materials.
Result 1—Space research and development advances science and technology
In 2018–19, the CSA supported a total of 35 companies, for a total value of $20M, in such areas as artificial cognitive systems for medical diagnostics and optical systems for improved satellite downlink capacity. Furthermore, in fall 2018, an announcement of opportunity (AO) was published under the Space and Technology Development Programvii to invest $15M in innovative space technologies with strong commercial potential in different fields varying from low cost, mass-produced nanosatellites for telecommunication to advanced robotics for space. In addition, the CSA invested $1.3M over two years in the development of 13 health technologies for deep space missions. These technologies, such as just-in-time virtual reality medical training systems for deep space missions or hybrid AI architecture for support systems for spaceflight medical decisions, could also be used for the delivery of medical care on Earth, as there are synergies between terrestrial telehealth and space medicine concepts.
The CSA’s investments in this area aimed to support Canada’s business expenditures on research and development (BERD). In 2017 (the most recent available data), BERD was estimated at $363M, a significant increase from the $254M spent in 2016. This significant increase was largely attributable to specific projects.
By providing access to high-quality scientific data and supporting researchers, the CSA helped Canada to maintain its top third ranking among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations in terms of average relative citation index scores in space-related publications (Canada is ranked 11th out of 36 countries in this area).
Result 2—Canadians engage with space
Through outreach activities developed for David Saint-Jacques’ mission, over 100,000 students and 4,200 schools were reached in 2018–19.
In 2018–19, 3.8M engagements on social media related to the CSA were generated, which represents a significant increase from the 2.6M engagements generated in 2017–18. This number is mainly explained by two unique and rare circumstances: astronaut David Saint-Jacques’s six- month mission in space, and a historic announcement related to Canada’s participation in NASA’s Lunar Gateway made by the Prime Minister at CSA headquarters on February 28, 2019, which garnered significant social media attention.
I’ll add that Canada used to send a lot more astronauts into space. So the ‘rare circumstance’ of David Saint-Jacques’ mission is only rare in that Canada decided not to fund additional astronaut missions.
Result 3—Space information and technologies improve the lives of Canadians
The CSA, in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), provided public access to more than 36,000 processed RADARSAT-1xxxii images residing in Canada, resulting in a broader uptake of the RADARSAT-1 data archives, furthering the socio-economic benefits of this initiative. Two months after this dataset was released from commercial rights, RADARSAT-1 images residing in Canada were downloaded over 600 times by new users worldwide, and queries continue to increase. The general public now has access to RADARSAT-1 data in addition to traditional long-standing Government of Canada user departments.
Through an investment of $2.6M in 2018–19 in the Earth Observation Application Developmentxxxiii initiative, the CSA further supported government departments and agencies at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, as well as academic and industry stakeholders, to increase the number of services provided to Canadians. For instance, a new process using multiple sources of data has resulted in detailed forest maps that include information such as the height, age, volume biomass quantity and species composition of forests across Canada. This national satellite-driven mapping effort has resulted in new information regarding forest conditions, change and land cover, which is provided as open data, free for download without any restrictions. The data is being used to inform federal reporting and by provincial and territorial governments for information regarding detection of clear-cut and partial-cut harvesting, monitoring of forest regeneration and estimates of biomass and forest cover density.
As per the most recently available data, past CSA investments resulted in 16 Canadian space technologies being adapted for use on Earth or re-use in space in 2017, thus generating economic benefits and improvement in the life of Canadians. This result is above target because space technologies are yielding an increasing number of applications on Earth. Thus, six of the reuse reported in 2017 are technologies that have been adapted for land use. For example, a technology developed by a Canadian company designed to extend the capabilities of a laser induced breakdown spectroscopy for use on future international planetary and asteroids missions was adapted and reused in food processing and safety processes and also for biomedical applications in clinics and hospitals.
Result 4—Canada’s investments in space benefit the Canadian economy
In 2018–19, the CSA, through its Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP), invested $1.2M in contributions to support Canadian industry in the development of novel applications and services, including agriculture, lake ice hazards, maritime navigation and resource management using Earth observation space-based data and information.
In 2018–19, the CSA assessed proposals received in response to the publication of the CSA’s first challenge under Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canadaxl (ISC) initiative, which aims to prove the scientific and technical feasibility, and commercial potential of a novel idea that addresses a public sector challenge. This particular challenge for small businesses focused on applying artificial intelligence and big data analytics to bring tangible advancements in the operation and utilization of satellites, their data and ground infrastructure in support of government operations, public safety, public health and discovery. The industry responded massively to this call and, as a result, the CSA decided to support five projects instead of two, with a total investment of $0.75M. The initial results of the initiative will be available in spring 2020, at which time the CSA will assess them in order to select the most promising projects for a second phase and provide lessons learned.CSA_drr-2018-2019