What the Space Community Can Expect in Budget 2017

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The Liberal Budget 2017 will be presented to Canadians on March 22. For the space community it’s expected that there will be no major projects announced. This comes as no surprise as a new Space Strategy won’t be released until June, and a new Space Advisory Board has yet to be announced. Any new major funding would come in next years budget.

So What Can we Expect in Budget 2017?

We can expect the government to possibly provide some very modest good faith increase in funding, in the form of increased allocation to the funding of space technology development. After all, industry has not been shy in asking for a significant increase in funding for the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) space technology development program.

The CSA itself has been hinting for some time that it would be investing in deep space missions, and this week they week issued a rare pre-budget press release, Canada Prepares for the Future of Human Spaceflight to Deep Space, hinting at what’s to come, and included a rehash of last years budget commitment to the International Space Station.

And to remind our readers, it was last April that the CSA awarded three Beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) six-month contracts, one each to Lunar Medical for their Advanced Crew Medical Systems (ACMS) study, Neptec for their Beyond LEO Relative Navigation System study, and MDA for their Deep-Space Exploration Robotics (DSXR) study.

The 2017-18 Main Estimates

Each year the Standing Committee on Finance convenes prior to the budget to review the Main Estimates, including the CSA. This usually provides a good look at what can be expected in the budget once it’s approved. But note, this can change, though if the past is any indication, any changes would be minor.

We know from last years CSA Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) that the planned budget for this year was to be $338 million. According to the just released Treasury Board Government Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates, the CSA Main Estimates is that of a $353 million budget, a slight increase in the previously planned budget.

The table below shows the approved 2017-18 Main Estimates. Of note, the planned spending for the category Future Canadian Space Capacity was to have been $65,800,960 according to last years RPP. As you can see, that’s been increased by $22 million. The difference is attributed to the increase in funding of $10 million to European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program and an additional $12 million presumably going to space technology development.

Both the Space Data, Information and Services and Space Exploration categories show decreases as compared to last years RPP planned spending for this year.

For the Space Data, Information and Services the planned spending was to have been $122.5 million as compared to estimate below of $115.2 million. Meanwhile Space Exploration was to have been $99.8 million as compared to the estimate below of $96.4 million.

It should also be noted that the table shows a decrease of $78.6 million, or 22.5%, to the whole budget as compared to last year. That is accounted for mostly by the fact that a good portion of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission development has been achieved.

Expenditures by Program or Purpose – Budgetary – Canadian Space Agency

Main Estimates
Main Estimates
Space Data, Information and Services209,187,061215,085,716115,240,643
Space Exploration96,419,79899,437,81796,455,420
Future Canadian Space Capacity61,804,03366,094,20087,170,086
Internal Services45,388,16651,777,08854,943,762

The Coming Announcement of Opportunities

The CSA has already solicited the community for input on four announcements of opportunity (AO) which are expected in the mid-April time frame after the budget comes out, and after their annual Report on Plans and Priorities report is publicly released.

Those AO’s will cover the following:

  • 17 priority technologies identified by the CSA along with possible others as gleamed from a solication to the community in February.

And the following ongoing areas which the CSA is still looking for input until March 17.

  • AO 4.1 Space Research and Development: The R&D projects within this category are those whose potential for expected economic benefits is in the short and medium term, between 2 and 5 years.
  • AO 4.2 Space Research and Development – Small Businesses: The R&D projects within this category are those whose potential for expected economic benefits is in the medium and long term, between 5 to 10 years.
  • AO 4.3 Space Research and Development – Feasibility Studies: The R&D projects within this category are those whose potential for expected economic benefits is in the medium and long term, between 5 to 10 years.

Investing in the Environment

The government last week already made an investment announcement in one company, GHGSat, as part of the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions program. The government is providing GHGSat with $420,000 of which $200,000 is a repayable contribution. The money will go towards the hiring of a person dedicated to business development and will contribute to the creation of some 15 value-added jobs in the medium term. GHGSat markets a value-added service in remote sensing of greenhouse gas and air quality gas emissions using data from its Claire satellite. It recently announced it that the Space Flight Laboratory in Toronto will be building its next two satellites.

It’s clear with the ongoing investment in GHGSat, a player in the clean technologies sector, that the government is buying into small satellite sensors that fit within its environment portfolio. Perhaps this can be taken a sign of things to come as other companies look to develop other types of sensors for small satellites and data products from these and other sensors.

With two weeks until the budget, and a few weeks afterwards for the CSA to release its 2017-18 Report on Plans and Priorities, we won’t have to wait too long to find out exactly what Canada’s space budget will look like for the next year.

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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