The Canadian Space Agency is Looking for a Potential Satellite Operations Centre Partner

The Payload Telescience Operations Centre, or PTOC, at Canadian Space Agency headquarters supports real-time operations involving Canadian payloads onboard the International Space Station. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency is looking to industry for new business models in support of their satellite operations as the volume of missions it has to manage grows and become more complex.

Last week the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) released a Request for Information (RFI) titled Industry Involvement in the Canadian Space Agency Satellite Operations.

The RFI was born from the Space Policy Framework which seeks to better position the private sector. It is a policy the previous Conservative government put into place and which the Liberals are continuing.

In this case, the CSA is looking to identify what it calls “effective business models.” I’ll add that I would read that to mean in part, cost-effective.

The RFI only covers missions and assets operated by the CSA. Currently those missions include SCISAT, NEOSSat and M3MSat. The CSA contributes to RADARSAT-2 operations which is under MDA ‘s control. Future mission operations under control by the CSA include the RADARSAT Constellation Mission after it launches and becomes operational later this year. And of course the CSA is planning on being involved in the U.S. led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.

So what’s in for industry other than a possible public-private partneship? The possibility, with no guarantee, that a company could use government satellite operations capacity for their commercial use. It depends if there is any excess capacity.

Companies interested need to understand what the CSA Satellite Operations Centre does and does not do. According to the CSA “facilities comprise a Satellite Operations Centre (CSA-SOC) located at the CSA headquarters in Longueuil, QC, with the ground systems related to functions such as (but not limited to) mission planning, data production, spacecraft and payload control, spacecraft health and safety, and satellite sensor calibration. Through international arrangements, interdepartmental agreements, and commercial contracts, the CSA-SOC also has access to data downlink and Telemetry, Tracking, and Control (TT&C) infrastructure deployed elsewhere in Canada and abroad.”

The RFI is not limited to interest from a single company. It can include interest from consortiums. A consortium might also include a university.

The CSA also has provided two scenarios for industry to consider.

Scenario A: Managed Operations Services for Satellite Missions. This scenario would rely on a Prime Contractor to fulfill operational functions of a specific satellite mission or a group of missions under GC authority. The Prime Contractor would form an industrial team/consortium to perform groups of related operational functions set out in section 2.5 required for specific mission or a group of missions.

Scenario B: Managed Operation Services for Operational Functions. This scenario relies on a number of contractors to fulfill a specific operational function or a group of functions set out in section 2.5 across all the satellite missions under GC authority. Contractors can in turn subcontract certain functions to complete their portfolio.

The RFI closes on September 17, 2018.

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.

Leave a Reply