This week in space for Canada is quiet but important and all about the boring programs available to help Canadian business making a living off our final frontier.
After all, businesses operating space related ventures have been commercially viable since at least the 1960’s when the first Early Bird satellite was successfully launched into geosynchronous orbit according to David M. Livingston in his paper, Space: The Final Financial Frontier.
And Canadian companies have always been leaders in this area, beginning with the launch of the Allouette and Anik satellites and moving forward from there.
In fact, it’s got to the point where Cabinet Minister Jim Prentice has gone so far as to say that “Canada has more than 200 firms that are involved in space” employing thousands of skilled workers who know that “working in space or working in the space-based industries is just another career option.”
Canadian Space Agency (CSA) reports (like their 2008 State of the Canadian Space Sector) generally reinforce the perception that space is the place for opportunity, high growth and profitable returns on investment.
The big question now is the type of support the Canadian government intends to provide to help incubate, develop and grow our existing Canadian space focused firms like Telesat, MDA and Comdev and also the many new firms moving into this space to take advantage of opportunities. This is especially timely given the release of the recent CSA report from the 6th Canadian Space Exploration Workshop which outlines ten new directions for Canadian focused space activities as described in the article Canadian Space Agency Releases Report from the 6th Canadian Space Exploration Workshop.
At present, there are a number of CSA funding programs available for start-up and established companies. They include:
1. The Earth Observation Applications and Utilization (EOAU) Program, which is an umbrella designation for a number of programs through which companies can obtain support. For example, one component of the EOAU program, the Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP) funds projects that are exclusively for industry led initiatives.
2. The Space Technologies Development Program (STDP), which supports the development of technologies for the enhancement of industrial capabilities.
3. The Satellite Communications Program, which supports the development of advanced satellite communications technologies and international services.
4. The Partnerships Support Program, which is directed to universities, but does include the funded participation of industrial partners.
5. The various Canada – ESA Programs, which allows Canadian companies to participate in ESA led initiatives offset with CSA funding.
However, according to a publication titled: Small Aerospace Companies: Space Activities in North America and Europe written by investment bank Near Earth LLC, Canada could be doing much more to assist Canadian based firms.
According to the report, when compared to organizations like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and others, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has “no dedicated programs for small business.”
Near Earth LLC. does list a number of interesting small business focused programs that the CSA might want to take a look at including the NASA Mentor-Protg Program, the Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) and IPP seed fund program, the NASA Centenial Challenges program, the NOAA SBIR research grants, the ESA Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Initiative and quite a few others.
Those with an interest in this area might also want to check out my article Canadian Space Agency Provides “No Dedicated Programs” to Support Small Aerospace Firms which goes into these programs in a little more detail.
So how do Canadian space focused small businesses feel about this state of affairs and what can be done about it? That is something we’ll be discussed next week in space for Canada.