This Week in Space for Canada: November 6th 2009

This week in space for Canada is all about the amazing money making opportunities available to Canadian firms focused on space activities. As well, we’ll spend a little time looking at a few recent reports indicating ongoing double digit growth for space focused businesses all over the world.
Is this a great country or what?

First of all, the big but not unexpected news this week, as reported in is that “the Canadian Space Agency Selects MDA to Develop NextGen Technology for Exploration.” It’s worth noting that, according to the article at least, the details of the $46 million CDN contract between MDA and CSA are vague enough to suggest flexibility in the types and timing of the robotic technology being developed and when or where the money is expected to be spent. This is likely because the technology is expected to end up as part of a NASA project and NASA won’t really know where it’s next meal is coming from until the Obama Administration formally reacts to the recent release of the Augustine Report.
But it’s not as if anyone other than NASA is short of cash these days.
According to the article “Space markets post strong growth, defy economic crisis” which was posted Saturday on the SpaceFlight Now web page, the markets for commercial communications satellites, Earth observation spacecraft and their launchers are all “remarkably unaffected by the global economic crisis” and continue a pattern of yearly double digit growth.
The article is based on recent reports from a variety of sources, including consulting firms Northern Sky Research, Euroconsult, Futron Corporation and Forecast International and include assessments of commercial satellite supply and demand plus growth in the the world market for expendable launch vehicles, both of which are expected to continue along their existing strong growth trajectory for at least the next several years.
One exception to the generally positive forecast is the “Space Coast” region around Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. According to the article “…very little of this new business will be launched from the world’s foremost spaceport. Without new Presidential direction on human space goals, KSC is seemingly “moon stuck,” facing major layoffs as the shuttle program ends. And the growth is also detouring around Cape Canaveral’s expendable boosters because the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 and Delta 4 largely priced themselves out of the commercial market, now better satisfied by Europe’s Ariane, the Russian Proton and Chinese boosters in emerging markets. ”
In Canada, although there are no long term goals being set by the Canadian Space Agency (especially with the CSA still patiently waiting for President Steve MacLean to release his update on Canadian space policy), local firms are well positioned to either expand into new areas of expertise (like what satellite component builders MDA and ComDev are doing as described in the article “Canadian Component Builders “Moving Up the Food Chain” to Build Complete Satellites“) or partner with larger firms (as Nautel has done with Ad Astra Rocket Company to develop the VASIMR rocket).
It’s also interesting to note that four commercial satellite services providers (EchoStar, Intelsat, SES and Telesat) have recently formed the Coalition for Competitive Launches, an organization aimed at officially enhancing worldwide competition in the provision of commercial satellite launches but which unofficially seems to be focusing primarily on American launch providers.
That all for this week in space for Canada.

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