New Canadian Space Agency smartEarth Earth Observation Plan Begins to Take Shape

smartEarth program. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

In November 2018 the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) organized the National Forum on Earth Observation from Space. 14 months later the CSA is moving forward with its new smartEarth initiative.

According to the CSA, smartEarth is the agency’s “renewed funding initiative related to Earth observation applications development. It fosters a smart use of satellite data to develop solutions to key challenges on Earth and in our everyday lives.”

The new initiative consolidates the following programs; The Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP), the Government Related Initiatives Program (GRIP), and the Science and Operational Applications Research (SOAR) Program.

Canadian Space Agency smartEarth critical path
Canadian Space Agency smartEarth critical path. Credit: Canadian Space Agency. (Click to open larger version)

Funding for the program will be available in three tracks: Accelerator, Integrator and Enabler.

The CSA lists the following objectives of the program;

  • Develop innovative satellite data solutions to help meet various needs on Earth and in our everyday lives.
  • Increase collaboration among Canadian stakeholders.
  • Enhance expertise, growth and competitiveness in Canada’s space sector.
  • Advance scientific knowledge.
smartEarth tracks for funding opportunities.
smartEarth tracks for funding opportunities. Credit: Canadian Space Agency. (Click to open larger version)

Announcement of opportunity: Bridging the Information Gap with Space-Based Analytic

Yesterday the CSA unveiled its first funding opportunity under the new initiative. The opportunity is called Bridging the Information Gap with Space-Based Analytics and is accepting applications until March 12, 2020.

The CSA has provided the following information of what constitutes an eligible project:

The scope of the proposed concepts is broad and open in terms of the data, technologies and applications that may be considered provided that the concept represents a tangible advancement in the ARL ladder and bridges a gap in knowledge and information. This includes the following:

  • Data: Any sources of EO data may be proposed for this purpose. Although new data sources such as the RCM are in need of new applications development, any type of EO data may be proposed for this AO. Given that the Government RADARSAT-2 data credit is nearing expiry (CSA’s contribution to the construction of the satellite and ground segment was a pre-payment for orders of data by the Canadian Government), the CSA will not provide any RADARSAT data under this AO. It will be up to the applicant to obtain all of the data to be used in the project and to include data acquisition costs in the proposed project budget.
  • Technologies and applications: The proposed concept may be related to data products, methods, systems or services provided that it is either new or an improvement to existing data products, methods, systems or services. Most importantly the proposed concept should represent a step up to a higher level in the ARL hierarchy, up to and including ARL 6.
  • Applications areas: Canada has the potential for greater capacity building to meet the challenges for a broad range of applications. This AO may address any application area of importance and relevance to Canada.

All development phases necessary for a project are eligible. Any logical breakdown or combination of these phases can constitute a funded project. However, breaking down a project into numerous phases to obtain more than the maximum grant or contribution is not allowed. Furthermore, even if the maximum funding for one project is not reached, the completion of a funded phase does not automatically guarantee funding of the remaining phases.

  • Eligible recipients: Eligible recipients are limited to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations established and operating in Canada, excluding academic institutions.
  • Non-repayable contributions.
  • The maximum level attainable under this announcement is ARL 6 (described below).
  • Maximum amount per project: $300,000.
  • Estimated total amount for the announcement of opportunity (AO): $3M.
  • Maximum timeframe of the project: 24 months.
  • Estimated projects start date: September 2020.

The CSA has also created a new smartEarth Application Readiness Level (ARL) scale.

It’s defined as follows:

An important goal for this AO is to take an existing level of capability in the marketplace where gaps or opportunities may occur and to move it up a level on the Application Readiness Level (ARL) scale, resulting in the improvement of Canadian industry’s competitiveness capabilities and service offerings of the downstream sector. 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, as well as explain how this will be accomplished in the appropriate application form section.

smartEarth Application Readiness Level (ARL) scale
smartEarth Application Readiness Level (ARL) scale. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

Background presentations

We’ve included two CSA presentations publicly available online that provide more information on the development of smartEarth. Please note that some of the information from these initial presentations may have changed. We’ve also included the United Kingdom Earth Observation Technology Strategy released in October 2019 as another reference.

Retooling of the Applications Development Activity – National Forum on Earth Observation from Space


Canadian Space Agency Earth Observation Roadmap to Success


United Kingdom Space Agency Earth Observation Technology Strategy


About Marc Boucher

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 Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 28 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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