The RADARSAT Constellation Mission. Credit: MDA.

MDA Satellite Contract Move Infuriates Government

In a move that has blindsided the government, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) is considering not subcontracting a significant piece of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) to Magellan Aerospace as was expected.

Magellan had already been awarded a $6 million contract in 2009 to for a Phase B Preliminary Design of the RCM satellite bus. The satellite bus can best be described as the infrastructure of a spacecraft, or chassis, which provides locations for the payloads.

In the case of RCM, the bus was to have been based on the Magellan MAC-200, a made-in-Canada satellite bus first used for the Canadian Space Agency CASSIOPE satellite which is scheduled to launch this summer.

However sources tell SpaceRef that MDA plans on using its newest asset, the newly acquired U.S. based Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), which has extensive experience building satellites, to build the satellite bus for RCM.

It was January 9th that the government announced the full funding of the nearly $1 billion dollar program in which MDA selected as the prime contractor.

However the government expected Magellan to be selected as one of the subcontractors and to provide the satellite bus for all three satellites of the RCM.

When contacted the Canadian Space Agency said: “The Government of Canada has a contract with MDA to produce the three satellite RADARSAT Constellation. The Government of Canada expects

MDA to respect the terms and conditions of the contract.”

MDA for its part did not deny the report, but did decline to comment.

We contacted Magellan several times but they did not provide a comment either.

The government meanwhile is looking into the RCM contract to see what legal recourse, if any, is available to them.

Should MDA choose to do the work “in-house” it would seem to be good business, however there could be political fall-out.

The government rejected a takeover in 2008 of MDA by U.S. based ATK citing a lack of “net benefit” to Canada. Now in a twist of fate, the company that was deemed too important for Canada to let slip into foreign hands, would now be building a critical component of Canada’s flagship satellite program in the U.S.

Since the government covets highly qualified jobs and building a stable high tech space sector, the net result could see both the loss of jobs and money intended for Canadian companies heading south of the border.

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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