New MDA president seeks opportunities to grow Canadian space business

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Updated Jan. 18 to clarify MDA’s relationship with the Canadian Space Agency on RADARSAT.

WASHINGTON — The new president of Canadian space technology company MDA says he sees opportunities for growth both within the country and beyond, while maintaining the company’s Canadian roots as part of a larger, and increasingly American, company.

Maxar Technologies announced earlier this month the appointment of Mike Greenley as group president of MDA, one of the four divisions of Maxar. Greenley formally started work at MDA Jan. 15. Greenley held positions at a variety of Canadian aerospace and defense companies prior to joining MDA.

“Growing up as a Canadian in the aerospace and defense sector, there’s a lot of pride in MDA,” he said in a recent interview on why he took the job. “It’s delivered iconic programs in Canada, and it’s a great partner with the Canadian government.”

He said a priority for him was to look for opportunities for growth both with the Canadian government, including increased defense spending, as well as export opportunities for its space technologies, such as its robotics expertise.

“Each of the markets that MDA is strong in has the opportunity to expand and grow in the near-term future and long-term future,” he said, adding that he hadn’t yet had time to study all the potential opportunities for the company.

Greenley
Mike Greenley, group president of MDA, one of the divisions of Maxar Technologies. Credit: Maxar Technologies

One of MDA’s biggest current programs is the Radarsat series of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellites. MDA owns and operates RADARSAT-2, and is developing the RADARSAT Constellation for the Canadian Space Agency. The RADARSAT Constellation is a group of three satellites slated for launch later this year on a Falcon 9.

Greenley called Radarsat Constellation “an exciting early activity” for his tenure as head of MDA, but said it was too soon for him to go into specifics on the opportunities that system will provide to the company.

He said he’s also focused on fitting MDA into the larger Maxar, created last year when MDA completed its acquisition of commercial satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe. MDA is now one of four divisions of Maxar alongside DigitalGlobe; satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral (SSL), previously acquired by MDA; and Radiant Solutions, a geospatial intelligence company acquired by DigitalGlobe in 2016.

“There’s been a lot of expansion activity, so coming in and making sure that the MDA piece of the business has a clear, integrated vision and that’s well-defined within the overall Maxar vision” is a priority, he said.

He said he believed the various units of Maxar were complementary to one another, with little overlap. The combined company, he argued, could offer vertically-integrated solutions to some customers. One example he described was a hypothetical customer interested in an Earth observation system that could be built by SSL, with ground systems provided by MDA and operations handled by DigitalGlobe. “It’s been a well-planned series of acquisitions that go together well that create a unique and exciting offering,” he said.

The formation of Maxar, though, has created concerns by some in Canada about the potential loss of a national capability. Maxar’s plans to become a more American company, including listing its stock on the New York Stock Exchange and creation of a U.S.-headquartered holding company to be eligible for U.S. government work, have led some Canadians to worry about the long-term future of MDA as a Canadian entity.

Greenley emphasized that MDA, and its Canadian operations, were essential to the larger company. “MDA has always been here in Canada, since 1969,” he said. “It is a strong Canadian company.”

“MDA is a Canadian company with a Canadian leader,” he added. “It’s not leaving Canada. It’s going to grow in Canada, and it’s going to export more around the world.”