Canada’s New Space Budget Extends ISS Commitment to 2024


PARIS — The Canadian government budget issued April 21 includes a commitment to increase Canada’s spending on satellite telecommunications at the European Space Agency and to continue as a partner in the international space station to 2024.

The Economic Action Plan, as announced, would direct an additional 30 million Canadian dollars ($24.6 million at current exchange rates) to ESA’s Advanced Resarch in Telecommunications Systems, or ARTES, program over four years starting in 2016. ARTES includes a range of projects, many of them co-financed by industry, relating to satellite telecommunications.

Canada is ESA’s only non-European member and is classed as a “participating state,” giving Canada access to most ESA programs. In 2015, Canada is expected to spend some 15.5 million euros ($16.7 million) at ESA covering both direct program participation and ESA overhead charges.

Previous Canadian audits of the arrangement have concluded that Canada’s membership in “Europe’s space club” generates more revenue in the form of contracts to Canadian industry than the Canadian Space Agency pays in annual ESA dues.

The budget document did not say which ARTES effort would be receiving the additional funding.

At a meeting of ESA government ministers in December, Canada subscribed to ARTES programs including development of a flexible satellite telecommunications payload that will bring the industry closer to a software-defined spacecraft. Britain is leading the effort.

Canada’s exactEarth Ltd., majority owned by Com Dev International of Cambridge, Ontario, has teamed with ESA to develop and operate small satellites for maritime traffic monitoring under a separate ARTES program.

Canada’s decision to extend its participation in the international space station to 2024 comes after previous commitments by NASA, which is the station’s general contractor; and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

Under space station agreements, Canada is responsible for 2.3 percent of the common operating costs of the U.S.-led segment, which includes the U.S., European and Japanese habitable modules. Canada has rights to use 2.3 percent of these modules’ resources.

Japan pays 12.8 percent and ESA 8.3 percent of the common operating charges. NASA pays the remaining 76.6 percent. Russian finances its own segments.

Officials from ESA and the Japan Space Exploration Agency have said they are looking to reduce the station’s annual operating charges. Neither has yet committed to staying with the space station beyond 2020.