This Week in Space for Canada

The state of the Canadian space sector is seemingly good, with both jobs and revenue up plus Canadian based Neptec Design receiving the prestigious George M. Low Award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). But the state of our long term American partners is bad and many of the “commercial space” changes proposed by the Obama administration could potentially be rolled back in an effort to save money and preserve US jobs. All that and a shameless plug for the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) conference and AGM, this week in space for Canada.

Our first story this week comes to us via the Canadian Space Agency‘s (CSA) better late than never release of the 2009 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report, which tracks Canadian private sector space activities.
According to the February 10th, 2011 SpaceRef Canada article “CSA Releases 2009 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report – Revenues & Jobs Up” the key points in the report are that revenues increased by 8% over 2008 to $3.025 billion, surpassing the $3 billion mark for the first time and with workforce growth continuing strong.
Considering that the report covers 2009, the first full year of the great recession, and the growth of the overall Canadian economy for that year was essentially zero (at least according to the Statistics Canada data collected on the Trading Economics website), the strength of our space industry seems impressive.
It’s only when you start comparing the Canadian growth rate with the larger international space market that the picture grows slightly less rosy. According to the Space Foundation 2010 Space Report, the international space industry is also substantially outperforming the overall international economy:
While the global economic crisis grabbed the headlines daily in 2009, the global space industry experienced steady growth throughout the year. Estimated space industry revenue and government budgets increased by 7%, to $261.61 billion. This amounts to 40% growth during the previous five years for the global space economy.
So the Canadian space industry has grown only a little faster than average over the last year (7% internationally as opposed to 8% in Canada) when compared to the space industries of other countries.
But we’re not even average when it comes to the longer term. Over the last five years, Canadian growth is only 25% and most of that occurring in 2008 (which recorded a 17.8% increase over 2007) after three years of stagnant or even negative growth from 2005-2007.
This compares poorly with the international growth rate of 40% for the same period. In essence, Canada right now is average (after several years of below average performance) and still has a ways to go in order to excel.
But we’re not average in every area and do seem to possess ostensible pockets of expertise which brings us to our next story.
Ottawa based Neptec Design Group is one of four recipients of the “prestigious” annual George M. Low Award, presented by NASA and the first non-U.S. company to win the award according to the February 11th, 2011 SpaceRef Canada article “Neptec First Non-U.S. Company to Win NASA George M. Low Award.”
The award is presented to companies showing the “commitment to promote excellence and continual improvement by challenging NASA’s contractor community to be a global benchmark of quality management practices,” whatever that means.
The 2009 awards were presented Wednesday, Feb. 10, at NASA’s Eighth Annual Project Management Challenge in Galveston, Texas.
I respect Neptec for what the company has contributed to Canadian space activities in general (the company makes advanced sensors and robotics for space, defence and industry) but don’t really see why this specific award for “project management” has received such wide Canadian coverage. Any accolades seem to belong mostly to the Neptec marketing department, which is an important component of any business, but perhaps not always the most important.
On the other hand, NASA has fallen on hard times lately so perhaps it’s more important than ever to publicize and promote companies that actually seem to build things on time and on budget that actually work. According to the February 14th, 2011 Wall Street Journal article “NASA Budget Plan Restricts Spending On Private Rockets.”
The Obama Administration’s proposed 2012 National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget, expected to total more than $18.5 billion, is scaling back White House funding projections for private rockets and spacecraft intended to take astronauts into orbit, according to government and industry officials.
According to the article, “Mr. Obama’s earlier bid to slash the agency’s traditional manned programs for allegedly being too slow and expensive sparked opposition on Capitol Hill.” As well, according to the article “lawmakers also balked at White House proposals to outsource some core NASA functions by shifting much of the agency’s focus to promote what have been called commercial space taxis.
The President’s new budget for Fiscal Year 2012 will be posted at 10:30 AM ET, February 14, 2011” according to the US Office of Management and Budget and then a whole new round of arguments and debates will begin.
Learning how to adjust to this changing landscape and get a grip on the evolving opportunities for Canadian businesses looking to leverage their space focused technical expertise on the world stage is the focus of the the 2011 Canadian Space Commerce Association conference and annual general meeting, which is being held on Friday, March 18th, in the MaRS Development District in Toronto, Ontario.
Check out the registration page, if you’d like to learn more.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.

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