The Early 1980’s: What’s in Canada’s Long Term Space Plans? Part 2

Minister of State for Science and Technology (MOSST) Background Paper April 1981. Credit: Government of Canada.

In today’s article, the second in this weeks series of articles on What’s in Canada’s Long Term Space Plans, I’ll present what some believe could have been considered Canada’s first Long Term Space Plan, but isn’t.

If the 1967 Chapman Report is the precursor and foundational plan for a Canadian space program and what would eventual lead to the creation of the Canadian Space Agency, then the two documents presented here can be considered the first government of Canada integrated approach to space, though some might define them as the first Long Term Space Plan.

Technically though, these two documents can’t be considered Long Term Space Plans as the funding in them only extended one year beyond the normal three year fiscal period. Generally, Long Term Space Plans are considered 5 to 10 year planning documents.

However, as I stated in the first article, if you think defining what documents are considered Canada’s Long Term Space Plans is straight forward, you’re in for a surprise. In particular, the second of these documents makes the following reference, “the Interdepartmental Committee on Space (ICS) was therefore requested by Cabinet to review the major new programs being proposed by departments, to review the role and prospects of the space industry, and to recommend a long-term strategy for Canada’s space program. This comprehensive review took six months and involved extensive consultations with industry.”

Hence, even though it wasn’t until 1986 that the phrase Long Term Space Plan was used in conjunction with a plan, some might argue these two documents are the combined elements of the first Long term Space Plan.

It’s important to note that the events that happened in the 1980’s helped define Canada’s space program not just for a decade, but continue to define the space program today.

The 1980’s brought the first integrated approach space plan, the long term commitment to the International Space Station, and the first extending funding plan which would become Canada’s first Long Term Space Plan.

The first integrated approach space plan

I’ve divided the 1980’s into two articles, this one covering the period 1980 to 1985, and second article (part 3) which will cover the defining time for Canada’s space program, 1986 – 1990.

Document 1 – The Canadian Space Program Plan for 1981/82 – 1983/84

On April 9, 1981 the Minister of State for Science and Technology (MOSST), the Honourable John Roberts announced that the government had approved a three-year $64 million space plan which would be added to an already approved $196 million for the same period. This would bring the total expenditure to $260 for the  period of fiscal years 81/82, 82/83, and 83/84.

Along with announcement came the MOSST background paper (19) titled The Canadian Space Program Plan for 1981/82 – 1983/84. SpaceQ is making this paper available online for the first time. The document also includes a summary fo the 1974 Space Policy.

The key and importance to this document, the first of two to be released in 1981, is that it was based on proposals made by the Departments of Communications, Energy, Mines and Resources, Environment, and Fisheries and Oceans, and was reviewed by the Interdepartmental Committee on Space. This new integrated approach was critical to setting the stage for the events of the mid-to late 1980’s.

According to the introduction of the background paper, the new three year plan had three major characteristics;

  • It is a multi-year plan.
  • It aims at diversifying even further Canadian space competence and usage.
  • It provides considerable further support to technological development in the Canadian space industry.

The Space Plan

The Canadian space program rests on two basic premises. The first is that the use of space can contribute significantly to the attainment of social, cultural and economic goals.

The needs of mission-oriented departments are the basis for the program. The second is that there are economic benefits to be obtained from the creation of a strong industry to meet our needs and which is able to compete in the international market place.

Technically, the program has been very successful and this technical excellence has led in turn to the development of important commercial markets with even larger ones in the offing. The program is designed, on the one hand, to make better use of the technologies that have been developed, to improve them and to develop new ones to meet foreseen needs, and, on the other hand, to cash in on the commercial opportunities that have developed or promise to materialize in the near future, and to maintain and strengthen the industrial base that has created these opportunities.

The plan for 1981/82-1983/84, together with previously approved Space activities will allow Canada to maintain and build its existing strengths in the use of space for communications and scientific purposes while at the same time developing a major new thrust in the area of remote sensing. This new thrust is in response to recent technological developments that have the promise of providing needed services in the most economical way. More than 60 per cent of the new expenditures will be for remote sensing projects. 

(a)Remote Sensing

In the area of remote sensing, the long-term objective is the use of satellites for resource management as well as territorial and environmental surveillance. A related objective has been to establish and maintain up-to-date information systems and promote their effective utilization.

The projects are:

i) the up-grading of the Prince Albert and Shoe Cove earth stations to make optimum use of the data which will be received from LANDSAT-D , the first of which will be launched in 1983. This project is beginning in 81/82 to permit Canadian stations to be ready to read out the satellite on time and to allow Canadian industry to have developed by then the necessary expertise and products to meet new market opportunities;

ii) technology transfer arrangements with the provinces in order to incorporate remote sensing data in their resource management systems;

iii) a basic radar R&D program to give Canada the technological and industrial competence to develop and establish a remote sensing satellite including a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), The SAR would provide day and night all-weather information on land and sea (especially ice) conditions of special importance in Arctic navigation;

iv) continued participation in the remote sensing program of the European Space Agency;

v) a project to study the feasibility of a technique which would measure, from a satellite, concentrations of chlorophyll in large bodies of water. The information from this sensor will help in predicting the type, size, and location of fish stocks: and

vi) a project to make more effective use of weather satellites and improve the accuracy of the forecast of weather, ice and other environmental parameters.

(b) Technological Development

The second major thrust of the plan is to increase and diversify the technological capabilities of the Canadian space industry. Technology development is an essential element of the space program because of the rapidly changing nature of this leading-edge technology. This program provides the government with the technological information required to assess future developments in the application of space to meet national needs and at the same time allows the industry to develop and maintain the up-to-date technological base required to seize new market opportunities. In the plan, more than 30 per cent of the new allocation is for technology development in industry. Included are:

i) an increase in DOC’s current technology development programs. These programs are oriented mainly towards the development of sub-systems and components, with increasing emphasis on those related to earth stations capable of meeting future domestic and foreign requirements. The programs will also lead to the creation of new satellite technology incorporating the latest communications techniques:

ii) a key technology development program aimed at assisting the diversification of industry’s capabilities into new application areas:

iii) a project to establish in Canada a basic capability for developing a family of advanced solid-state devices (Gallium Arsenide Field Effect Transistors). These have become an essential component in the application of new communications technology: and

iv) continued participation in the definition phase of the L-Sat program with the expectation that the L-Sat program would provide Canada with the right to purchase and use the L-Sat spacecraft platform for Canadian needs, develop a world market for Canada’s expertise in large solar power-sub-systems, and maintain systems integration and test expertise. A decision on Canada’s participation on the construction phase of the program will be taken later in 1981.

(c) Communications

In the area of communications, the government’s objective is to foster the development of new and improved satellite communications. The plan allocates new funds for:

i) the study of a possible system of direct broadcasting by satellite. A Regional Administrative Radio Conference will be convened in 1983 by the International Telecommunications Union to develop a radio-frequency and orbital position allocation plan for the Americas and the approved studies will enable Canada to participate meaningfully at that Conference;

ii) additional personnel resources for the Department of Communications in order to effectively manage and conduct an increased technology development program and to investigate new satellite applications; and ·

iii) the expansion of the DOC controls Laboratory to provide for satellite system development and procurement by Canadian industry and support for government space projects.

Canada - Space Program Expenditures - 1981/1984
Canada – Space Program Expenditures – 1981/82 to 1983/84. Credit: Government of Canada.

Document 2 – The Canadian Space Program Plan for 1982/83 – 1984/85

On December 9, 1981, John Roberts, Minister of State for Science and Technology, announced that the government was “continuing to give high priority to the continued development of the nation’s space program”.

The government decided to update its three year plan which in effect made it a four year plan. The first three plan discussed in document 1 covered the period 1981/82 to 1983/84 while this updated plan covered the years 1982/83 to 1984/85.

The government had reviewed the previous plan and was now adding an additional $132 million for new initiatives. The approved funding them going back to 1981/82 meant Government of Canada expenditures during this four year period would now be $476 million.

Canada - Space Program Expenditures - 1981/82 to 1984/85
Canada – Space Program Expenditures – 1981/82 to 1984/85. Credit: Government of Canada.

Along with announcement came another MOSST background paper (20) titled The Canadian Space Program Plan for 1982/83 – 1984/85. SpaceQ is making this paper available online for the first time.

This document was based on proposals made by the Department of Communications, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the National Research Council, and the Ministry of State for Science and Technology.

This document described major new initiatives as:

(a) participation in the Large Satellite program (L-SAT) of the European Space Agency. Through this project, the Canadian Space industry will become, for the first time, major partners with important European high technology companies in the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, and other countries. The total cost to Canada until 1990 will be some $90 million of which $68.3 million has been allocated up to 1984/85.

(b) phase B of the MSAT program will be undertaken at a cost of $17 million in 1982/83 and 1983/84. This work, managed by the Department of Communications, will involve the engineering and economic studies required to prepare a detailed proposal for a satellite system to provide new communications services for the growing number of mobile communications users in the country.

(c) several projects will he undertaken that will increase the benefits to Canadians of the data from existing or planned remote sensing satellites. These projects will be managed by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. $15.7 million has been allocated for this purpose.

The document also outlined a new Space Program Strategy based on a six month review.

From the earliest days of the space age, the Canadian govern­ment has recognized the vital role it must play in fostering the use of space technology for the economic and social benefit of the country. As a result of this understanding and commitment, Canadians are one of the largest users of space technology in the world (on the basis of satellite capacity per capita) benefiting daily from the application of space technology to communications, weather forecasting, environ­mental monitoring, and remote sensing for resource management and surveillance. We have achieved an international reputa­tion for excellence in several areas (communications, remote sensing, space science, remote manipulators) and are one of the few countries in the world with a prime contractor capability – that is the industrial capacity and expertise required to design and build complete satellites.

Two basic premises underlie the Canadian space program. The first is that the use of space can contribute significantly to the attainment of social, cultural and economic goals.

The second is that there are economic benefits to he obtained from the creation of a strong industry to meet our needs and which is able to compete in the international market place.

Space technologies (and their application to meet needs) are rapidly changing, providing many opportunities for the continuation of the Canadian space program. The challenge is to ensure that our choice of programs reflects the two basic premises in a manner that optimizes the benefits to Canada. The Interdepartmental Committee on Space (ICS) was therefore requested by Cabinet to review the major new programs being proposed by departments, to review the role and prospects of the space industry, and to recommend a long-term strategy for Canada’s space program. This comprehensive review took six months and involved extensive consultations with industry. The results of the review form the basis for the space pro gram strategy and expenditure plan announced by Mr. Roberts. The elements of the strategy are as follows.

(a) Continued Exploration of New Applications of Space Technology

Canada will continue to be a major user of space in the future. Because of our geographical size and widely distributed bilingual and multi-cultural population, satellites are admirably suited to the economical delivery of many essential services. Some of these services are provided by the govern­ment and thus the government has a strong interest in developing new and economical ways of increasing the effectiveness of the delivery of these services. Even in areas where the government is not normally the provider of the service, it is often in the public interest for the government to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of new services to the point where commercial opera­tions heneficial to Canada can commence. For these reasons , the exploration of new applications of space technology beneficial to Canada is the cornerstone of the space strategy.

The review of the major service development pro­grams currently under study by departments (MSAT and RADARSAT) identified the potential benefits of these new applications of space technology. Each promises to demonstrate that services beneficial to the continued economic and social development of Canada can be delivered by satellite in a more economical way than alternative means, or in some cases, can only be provided by satellite. Both programs would provide pre-operational demonstration of services (reliable communications to mobile users and ice information respectively) considered essential to the continued exploration and exploi­tation of resources in the North, including the safe and efficient use of oil and gas tankers. The review concluded that it is worthwhile proceeding with the next step (i.e. phase B, or project definition) in the develop ent of the MSAT program and to continue the phase A and R&D studies for RADARSAT that were announced last April. These two programs promise to be the major applications development thrusts for the Canadian space program for the next ten years.

In addition to the continuation of the two Major satellite service demonstration projects , the government has also decided to enhance some of the more operational space programs of departments in order to provide more effective services. In the area of remote sensing, the usefulness of the LANDSAT data for resource management will be considerably enhanced through the development of a new data processinq system called MOSAICS (Multi-Observation Satellite Image Correction Systems) and a remote sensing geographical informa­tion system as the first phase of a larger program called TOPAS (Terra Observation Pattern Analysis System). In the area of communications, the highly successful ANIK-B pilot project program of the Department of Communications will be extended to further develop new business and other services to operational status.

(b) Continued Development of a Prime Contractor for Satellites

The space program strategy reflects the large potential domestic market for satellite systems during the next ten years. This market is likely to be in excess of $1 billion ( 1981 dollars). The two Telesat systems currently being procured (ANIK-C and ANIK-D) will require replacement later in this period. During this time, the world-wi de use of satellites for direct broad casting will expand and it can reasonably be expected that Canada will participate in this exciting new application. Also part of the potential market ace the two major service demonstration systems just discussed (MSAT and RADARSAT). In addition, the Canadian military is planning major new initiatives in space for the latter part of the decade. This market is a significant opportunity for the continued development of a viable space industry.

The government has confirmed that to obtain the full economic benefits from this potential market Canada should continue to have a prime contractor for satellites. The benefits of such a capability are: ( i) a high level and high quality of Canadian content is achieved in domestic programs; (ii) new technologies and proprietary products are generated in Canada leading to significant export sales; (iii) the possibility is opened for collaboration with foreign prime contractors for the exploitation of the expanding international market; and (iv) system level expertise is created which is essen­tial to the development and maintenance of a sub­ system design and manufacturing capability through­ out the Canadian space industry.

The government is confident of the ability of SPAR Aerospace Limited (SPAR) to continue its develop­ment as Canada’s prime contractor for satellites. The company took over this role from the government in the mid l970’s, and the recent demonstration of the Canadarm during the second flight of the Colum­bia marks the successful completion of the Com­pany’s first space-related prime contract. SPAR is also nearing the completion of its prime contract with Telesat for the design and manufacture of the ANIK-D satellites. This is the first time that Telesat has procured its satellites from a Canadian supplier: one consequence is that the Canadian content of the ANIK-D satellites (at least 50%) is considerably greater than that of earlier procure­ments such as ANIK-A (about 13%).

The essence of the strategy for the maintenance of the Canadian prime contractor is to use the prime contractor where appropriate to satisfy the domes­tic demand for satellites and thereby to develop subsystem and component expertise and products for the export market. The key to success will be the development of advanced technology required by the Canadian prime contractor in the development of mutually beneficial partnership arrangements with foreign prime contractors. Such arrangements would facilitate the export of subsystems and the joint exploitation of the international market for satellites.

Continuation of the prime contractor policy will have significant beneficial effects on many other Canadian space companies through the judicious choice of subcontracts for studies, consultation, and the design and manufacture of subsystems and components. Such a process will assist the continuing growth of the entire space industry which is located in the following provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The existing space program and some of the new initiatives (e.g. MSAT, LSAT, Subsystem Development Program) when coupled with the prime contractor’s expected sales to non-government customers will provide a substantial work load for the prime contractor for at least the next six years.

(c) Strengthened International Relationships in Space

Co-operation with foreign partners in space activi­ties, whether on a bilateral basis (e.g. with the USA) or on a multilateral basis (e.g. with the European Space Agency) is an integral part of Canadian space policy. All of the government’s major space projects have been conducted jointly with other nations. This co-operation has permit­ ted Canada to pursue its objectives in space at reduced costs and has given us access to important technology. This international involvement in space has also become a significant element of Canada’s foreign policy as space activities gain in international significance, and trade in space­ related products increases at a rapid pace.

This successful policy is being extended through closer involvement with the European Space Agency (ESA). The government has decided to continue participation by Canadian industry in the large satellite (LSAT) and the Earth Resources Satellite (ERS) programs of the European Space Agency. By joining these programs, Canadian industry will be able to develop beneficial commercial relationships with European industry. Substantial follow-on export sales are expected to accrue as a result of our participation in these programs.

To obtain maximum benefit from this expanding relationship with ESA, the government has also allocated funds to continue our general contribution to ESA and intends to establish a Space Counsellor position within the Embassy in Paris specifically to manage our affairs with ESA.

Canadian co-operation with the USA, spanning two decades, has provided advantages to both Canada and the USA. Prime examples of this are the joint space science program, our participation in LANDSAT and SEASAT, the HERMES program, and the Canadarm for the shuttle. Our two countries will continue to share a number of objectives which can be met most effectively through co-operative programs and Canada intends to continue discussions with the appropriate U.S. agencies regarding the possibility of additional joint programs.

(d) Technology Development

Technology development is an essential element of the space program because of the rapidly changing nature of this leading-edge technology. A major thrust of the space plan announced in April was to increase and diversify the technological capability of the Canadian space industry. The new initia­tives include several programs that will continue to maintain the technological excellence of Canadian industry and that will enhance our ability to utilize space systems for the benefit of the country. These include the LSAT program, a subsystem development program, and additional support for R&D. Together, these account for about 70% of the funding for new initiatives. These programs are aimed at developing and maintaining an up-to-date technological base in industry and will assist in maintaining the competi­tiveness of the industry for both domestic and export markets.

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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