The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) released its 2019-20 Departmental Plan (DP) today which outlines spending of $329M, about $18M more than was forecasted last year but continues an expected downward trend.
Of the five priorities listed in the CSA 2019 DP, one is a new initiative, while another shows how Canada is looking beyond the US for opportunities.
Priority 5 talks about new “Scientific satellites” in “collaboration with other government departments.” Specifically it states “in 2019–20, the CSA will work with other government departments and agencies to not only identify a new scientific micro satellite mission but begin the definition of the satellite and associated infrastructure.”
What the mission of this new microsatellite will be is still to be outlined.
Priority 4 states that “the CSA will support Canada’s participation in ESA’s 2019 Ministerial Council meeting in November 2019 where Canada and ESA Member States will announce new investments in ESA programs. The Canada-ESA Cooperation Agreement allows the Canadian space industry to take part in ESA programs and provide new business opportunities on the European market.”
This does not come as much of a surprise, but as stated above, it does reinforce that the CSA is looking for more opportunities with our European partners.
The first three priorities are what we expected;
- Priority 1 – Lunar Gateway and a whole-of-government Canadian Space Strategy.
- Priority 2 – Launch and commissioning of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission.
- Priority 3 – Astronaut David Saint-Jacques’s ISS mission: Science and outreach.
While the CSA DP graph above shows a downward spending trend we know from the recent federal budget that if the Liberals are re-elected then spending will rise in future years as the Lunar Gateway and other related programs come online. The graph below from the federal budget shows an additional $61M in funding kicking in 2020-21 and escalates from there.
There are however a few caveats to consider with respect to future CSA funding. The current plan rests on the Liberals getting re-elected. It is unknown what any of the other parties would do if elected.
There is also the matter of the changing dynamic in the US. With the recent announcement that the White House was directing NASA to land Americans on the moon within 5 years, it’s unclear what if any role Canada would play.
The Lunar Gateway timeline would be accelerated according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. He also stated that partner nations would play a role. But he also stated that anything that was not directly needed for the new mission would be jettisoned. Based on what’s been presented in the last couple of weeks, it’s unclear how Canada’s robotic contributions for the Lunar Gateway fits into the new accelerated plan.
In looking through the planned results for the 2019-20 year a couple of things stand out.
Result 1 – Space research and development advances science and technology.
The Canadian Space Agency is once again planning on spending $20M in the Space Technology Development Program with a new request for proposals this fall.
The CSA says it will invest $2.1M in Canadian science teams participating in NASA’s Curiosity rover mission, the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission, India’s ASTROSAT mission, and Japan’s XRISM mission.
The aging but still functioning SCISAT earth observation satellite will get $2M to maintain its operation.
Result 2 – Canadians engage with space
“In order for the CSA to continue to adapt to the rapidly evolving global context, in 2019–20 the CSA will establish a consultative committee that will enable interactions with industry and academia and seek to address common challenges such as attracting new people and organizations into the space sector and renew Canadian talented and skill workforce.”
Result 3 – Space information and technologies improve the lives of Canadians
“The CSA, as part of a joint investment approach (40% CSA and 60% other government departments, industry and academia), will focus on integrating space-based technologies (EO, big data, downstream information products, etc.) to inform Canada’s climate change agenda and ensure the development of an operational Government of Canada EO monitoring capability. As a result, the CSA will invest $1.44M in 2019–20 via the EO Application Development initiative in various projects aimed at Climate Change Impacts and Ecosystem Resilience objectives.”
Result 4 – Canada’s investments in space benefit the Canadian economy
“In the Spring of 2019, the CSA will also announce a second challenge to small businesses to prove the scientific and technical feasibility, and commercial potential, of a novel idea that addresses a public sector challenge as part of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canada initiative. The CSA will also review and assess the results of its first challenge, which focused on applying artificial intelligence and big data analytics to bring tangible advancements in the operation and utilization of satellites, their data and ground infrastructure in support of government operations, public safety, public health and discovery. Most promising advancements could receive up to $1M of support from the CSA to pursue the development phase of a prototype.”
A note about the new Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) funding
This DP mentions the LEAP program but does not itemize its funding. It is my understanding from sources that the funding for this program might come directly from Treasury Board authorities as opposed to the Canadian Space Agency budgetary process. This means that should initial funds be approved, and the authorities votes by the Treasury Board will be completed by the end of June, the funds would then be available for the Canadian Space Agency to use in this fiscal year and are not dependant on the outcome of the election.CSA_dp-2019-2020