New Canadian Space Agency Opportunity Expands In-space Payload Technology Options

Credit: SpaceQ/Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is seeking new space technology beyond existing work in its more recent target focus areas.

The agency recently opened an announcement of opportunity (AO), due Oct. 13, that means to target in-space payloads outside of the traditional spheres CSA serves, such as space applications, Earth observation data and global navigation systems. 

The new technology must be at a readiness level that would allow for near-immediate space testing, and experiments that require suborbital work first would not qualify for this particular grant, the CSA has emphasized. 

The AO was formulated to meet community demand for in-space work beyond what CSA offers through programs like its Space Technology Development Program, said Éric Martin, manager of the project/program portfolio. 

He told SpaceQ that a recent request for information (RFI) had produced some consensus opinions that helped formulate the AO: funding, as well as support for emerging companies or educational entities doing their best to break into the space market.

“We really want to address the needs of industry to prepare themselves and hopefully commercialize,” he said.

For example, the community is asking for help in identifying appropriate launch opportunities for their payloads, which is becoming more difficult than ever to do (for good reason) due to the number of options available. 

The CSA has not yet identified who their fundees might be partnering with, but some of the obvious possibilities include private providers such as SpaceX, as well as more traditional small commercial satellite launch providers like Arianespace. 

CSA will offer the AO in two phases, Martin said. The first phase will allow for possible participants to better target their payloads for spaceflight, with guidance provided in the form of webinars and other engagement opportunities. 

After receiving answers to their questions from the CSA, Phase 1 participants will be eligible to apply for Phase 2 funding, which will in part be dependant upon them securing an opportunity with a large provider. 

There is roughly $6 million available for this first set of opportunities (across the two phases) and the hope is to engage about 10 entities for flight opportunities around 2026, depending on factors like technology development and launch provider availability.

The range is broad, but the agency is willing to consider experiments focusing on anything from astrophysics, to even potentially moon missions, providing that the budget allows for such a far-off location, Martin said.

In the long term, the CSA hopes that this particular AO will allow the agency to expand its range of offerings for Canadian universities, for-profit organizations of less than 500 employees, and not-for-profit organizations. 

Depending on the response to the AO, Martin said it’s possible that the CSA may offer more targeted and regular opportunities in the areas of most interest to the community, supplementing the already existing programs the agency has in areas like suborbital research and Earth observations.

Martin said the CSA always strives to be a sort of “anchor customer”  for organizations that are seeking to commercialize their applications in the longer term.

“There’s more and more companies doing business on the commercial side,” he said. ”We want to support them, but we are also looking at doing similar kinds of activities for the government’s needs.”

About Elizabeth Howell

Is SpaceQ's Associate Editor as well as a business and science reporter, researcher and consultant. She recently received her Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota and is communications Instructor instructor at Algonquin College.

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