Report: Canadian Space Agency Didn’t Spend Full Budget Allocation for 2021-22

Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

As has been the case in recent years, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) did not spend the full amount of its budget on programs but did spend more than planned on internal services. The unspent funds though were the result of “procurement difficulties.” Considering the issues related to the pandemic, this was not a surprising outcome.

The CSA 2021-22 Departmental Results Report (DDR) is now available and indicates that while the CSA was to have spent $346 million on programs it actually spent $307.9 million, a difference of $38.1 million. The CSA states that the “$38.1M negative variance is mainly due to procurement difficulties and delays in the awarding of contracts, primarily for the QEYSSat project, and a change in the scope of the WildFireSat project, which caused the rework of deliverables and mission requirements to meet the revised scope agreed with mission partners.”

For internal services, the CSA was to have spent $57.6 million, but spent $60.2 million, a difference of $2.6 million. The CSA stated the ”$2.6M positive variance of is mainly due to the centralization of computer asset expenditures in the Information Technology Directorate.”

Canadian Space Agency planned versus actual spending. Credit: SpaceQ. Data from the Canadian Space Agency.
Canadian Space Agency planned versus actual spending. Credit: SpaceQ. Data from the Canadian Space Agency.

The report lists programmatic results in 4 areas:

  • Result 1 — Space research and development advance science and technology
  • Result 2 — Canadians engage with space
  • Result 3 — Space information and technologies improve the lives of Canadians
  • Result 4 — Canada’s investments in space benefit the Canadian economy

The full scope of the results are too numerous to list in full here, however here a few items.

Result 1 — Space research and development advance science and technology

  • The design of the Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) continued, with some delays mainly due to procurement challenges pushing off the implementation phase to 2023–24, with the launch now planned for early 2024. Once in service, QEYSSat’s Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology will provide a communication method whose security is based on the physical properties of quantum mechanics, providing Canada with a highly secure communication infrastructure.
  • The first phase of Canadarm3, which identified the scope and specific tasks that will be carried out by the autonomous, AI-enabled “arm” on the Gateway, was finalized in  February 2022, allowing the selected contractor to proceed with the next phase: the design. The application of the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy to the project helps ensure that previous and future investments and commercial activities take place on Canadian soil — a contribution to the country’s GDP estimated at over $70M annually and the maintaining of 630 jobs over 12 years. The definition phase of the Gateway External Robotic Interfaces (GERI) has also been completed, with their preliminary design having started in March 2022. The GERI are grips that will provide connexion points between Canadarm3, the Gateway and on visiting vehicles, allowing Canadarm3 to anchor itself, move around and reconfigure the station’s modules, and perform operations such as catching arriving spacecrafts and repositioning them on the station.
  • The contribution of Canadarm3 to the Lunar Gateway has earned the opportunity for the CSA to fly an astronaut around the Moon onboard the Artemis II mission, scheduled for launch in 2024. The groundwork for the Canadian participation has proceeded as planned in 2021–22: the project team has been formed and is currently preparing for the start of the next phase in October 2022, which will detail the requirements and specifications of this historical project.
  • As the world undertakes the challenge of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon, the CSA’s Lunar Surface Exploration Initiative (LSEI) has supported the development of the industrial capacity to launch Canada’s space sector in this new era of space exploration. Seven contracts were put in place with Canadian companies to develop concepts and prototypes that will define the next major Canadian contributions to human spaceflight, especially on the lunar surface.
  • A series of grants were awarded to help Canadian scientists secure access to international missions to conduct high-calibre research that maintains Canada’s reputation as a leading space-faring nation. Having acquired between up to 5% of the total Webb observation time, Canadian scientists will be able to use up to 450 hours of exclusive access with instruments such as the Canadian NIRISS to study the atmospheres of exoplanets and the evolution of galaxies. Canadian universities that gained observation time on India’s AstroSat mission, an opportunity made possible by Canada’s contribution of sensitive detectors for the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) instrument, were awarded four grants to study star formation. The CSA also obtained observation time on Japan’s X‑Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) for Canadian scientists to study the X‑rays emitted by the violent birth and death of stars and galaxies or the behaviour of matter close to black holes. Although XRISM’s launch was delayed to February 2023, Canadian scientists continue to participate in the science team.

Result 2 – Canadians Engage with Space

  • KLIMAT 2021 is the result of a decade of collaboration between the CSA and France’s Centre national d’études spatiales, and negotiations started on January 19th, which ultimately led to the successful renewal of this bilateral partnership for the next decade. While it will secure scientific ballooning opportunities for Canadian academia and industry, the agreement also covers the use of telemetry and tracking stations in Eastern Canada for launches from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (where Webb was launched from), space medicine and missions for environmental and climate science.
  • The Canadian CubeSat Project continued to support the 15 teams of students and professors across the country in the development of their miniature satellites. While the design of all CubeSats was approved and several webinars were held to guide the teams through every stage of their project, the timeline was adjusted following the shutting down of campus to limit the spread of COVID‑19. The next step, putting the satellites through the vibration tests required to make sure they can sustain the rigours of a launch in space, was postponed to 2022–23, the first batch now planned to be launched from the ISS in the fall of 2022. (The first two batches have launched.)

Result 3 – Space information and technologies improve the lives of Canadians

  • To date, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) team has provided over 300,000 EO images of the entire Canadian territory and maritime approaches to 10 federal departments and agencies, supporting them in their requirement for space data to deliver responsive and cost-effective services to Canadians in disaster management, ecosystem monitoring and maritime surveillance. It has become one of the most responsive systems of the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters“. Complemented by the 13 years of RADARSAT-2 archives and processing services, RCM delivered critical data to disaster management authorities for every charter activation that requested its help, and this, in less than four hours.
  • With RCM’s prime design life ending in 2026, the CSA has initiated concept studies to find cost-effective solutions to minimize disruptions in EO data offer. The CSA established the foundations for ongoing and future partnerships with international space agencies, and coordinated numerous comprehensive analyses, all aimed at determining the best way to ensure service continuity post-RCM (2026–2041).
  • To better prepare Canada in the event of a major solar storm, the CSA continued to support the 13 Canadian research teams that use satellite data to improve our space weather forecasting capabilities and our understanding of the Sun–Earth system. In 2021–22, the contracts and grants awarded to academia led to advancements in models used by researchers in government departments that observe the space environment and the effect of space weather on communications over Canada.
  • Canada is in a unique position to leverage the synergy between spatial and terrestrial health challenges and take on a major leadership role in remote healthcare delivery in space and to underserved populations on Earth. The vision of a potential program and recommendations to leverage deep-space healthcare were outlined in the Health Beyond – report, published in June 2021. One of its proposed actions was to accelerate the establishment of a demonstration site in a northern and remote setting as a means to evaluate remote clinical approaches and innovations and to nurture fruitful relations with Indigenous communities and other critical stakeholders. As for the National Research Council (NRC) Arctic and Northern Challenge program, its launch has been delayed. Considering the new timeline, the Health Beyond team will assess the capacity of the initiative to support the CSA’s goal of demonstrating health care solutions that address concerns for both human spaceflight and isolated communities.

Result 4 – Canada’s investments in space benefit the Canadian economy

  • The CSA awarded $1.8M over five years to two projects to shed light on the Moon’s origin, composition, and structure while strengthening Canada’s talent pool by training (HQP). The research aims to develop high‑resolution models of the Moon’s surface, and tell us more about its internal structure and its volatile components — substances such as water and hydrogen that could be used to make rocket fuel, breathable air or drinking water, but which evaporate readily. By awarding a $200,000 grant for the analysis of ice samples (water being a volatile substance) from NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) rover using remote sensing, the CSA also supported the integration of Canadian expertise into the lunar science network.
  • Before setting foot on the Moon, it is essential to already have eyes and hands on the terrain, and rovers can help scientists learn more about the resources needed to establish a long-term presence on the Moon and send humans further into space. Canada is therefore designing its first lunar rover under the LEAP initiative to explore the lunar South Pole of the Moon within the next five years. Two concepts, designed by Canadian companies, were awarded $3.4M to test key technologies related to mobility and navigation, communications and thermal management, which are essential for tackling the significant technological challenge of surviving lunar polar nights that can reach a shivering − 250 °C, in pitch-black darkness. The  Lunar Rover Mission, to be launched in partnership with NASA, will host at least two payloads, one Canadian and one American.
  • In collaboration with Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC), the CSA has developed four challenges addressed at SMEs to help them start, grow and get to market in a highly competitive environment. The challenge on the development of space exploration technologies has been revisited, evolving into three distinct challenges that will be launched in 2022–23. The awarding of contracts for the development of prototypes of the first challenge (on applying artificial intelligence and big-data analytics to space robotics) has been postponed due to the realignment of priorities to reflect industry needs in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

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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