The Canadian Space Agency Announces the FAST 2023 Opportunity With $5.6 Million Budget

A Virgin Galactic employee prepares suborbital research for their inaugural commercial spaceflight (G01) June 29, 2023. Image credit: Virgin Galactic.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has released details for the Flights and Fieldwork for the Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST 2023) opportunity.

The CSA describes the objective of the FAST 2023 opportunity as supporting “research projects in Canadian universities and post-secondary institutions that will contribute to the development of new scientific knowledge and space technologies, while giving students hands-on experience in space-like missions.”

The CSA notes that FAST 2023 has undergone “several changes” since FAST 2021 and that applicants should pay particular attention to the application form and read through the Frequently Asked Questions which they say is updated on an ongoing basis.

The CSA outlines in detail what it considers space-like missions.

“‘Space-like missions’ are projects that enable space experts in academia to propose research to maintain their expertise, in addition to attracting and training the next generation of space professionals, and prepare for future missions. These projects generally consist of the following:”

  • Designing, building, modifying or testing scientific instruments or technologies;
  • Using them in a simulated space environment, or flying them, if applicable, on suborbital or miniature orbital platforms (nanosatellites or CubeSats);
  • Developing new approaches to efficiently use technologies or applications in space, or for space;
  • If applicable, conducting data collection and/or analysis of the instrument or technology developed to address scientific or operational objectives.

“‘Space-like missions’ attempt to faithfully reproduce the requirements, operations, or constraints of real space missions. By replicating the conditions of real missions, space-like missions, provide valuable, low-cost training experience for students and postdoctoral fellows (PDFs), thereby contributing more directly to Canada’s priorities regarding research.”

They describe what a “simulated space environment” includes:

  • ground-based infrastructure, suborbital platforms and instruments simulating a microgravity or spacecraft environment;
  • test chambers simulating the space environment;
  • remote sensing infrastructure located in a remote environment, or simulating the remoteness and isolation of spaceflight; and
  • fieldwork conducted at terrestrial analogue sites that replicate some features and/or processes that could be found on other planetary bodies and asteroids, or that replicate some operational constraints encountered in space missions.

“A simulated space environment is an ideal environment to conduct space-like missions, and to provide students and PDFs with learning opportunities and obtain practical experience in projects related to all aspects of space missions. Since these projects are consistent with the length of time required to complete a master’s and doctorate program, they present students with an excellent opportunity to acquire hands-on experience prior to entering the Canada’s space workforce.”

The budget for FAST 2023 is expected to be up to $5.6 million and is open to Canadian universities and post-secondary institutions and will be awarded in the form of grants.

Grants are available in two categories:

  • Category A: Maximum grant of $500,000 for a maximum duration of three years for an end-to-end space-like mission project that includes the development or improvement of a technology, use of the technology during a flight, a field deployment or a research site deployment, and data collection and analysis; the maximum amount available per year is $200,000;
  • Category B: Maximum grant of $300,000 for a maximum duration of three years, for a space-related research project; the maximum amount available per year is $150,000.

At least five projects are to be funded from Category A and at least three from Category B. So funding for FAST 2023 will be between $3.4 to $5.6 million. According to the CSA, FAST 2021 had awarded 21 grants totalling $3.7 million as of April 2022. For FAST 2019 the CSA awarded 40 grants totalling $7.7 million.

Each project selected has a maximum duration of three years. The deadline to apply is December 14, 2023. The selected projects are projected to start March 2024 onwards.

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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