Canada Poised To Award Full Radarsat Contract

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NAPLES, Italy — Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean on Oct. 1 said the Canadian government is on the verge of contracting with industry for the full-scale development of the three-satellite successor mission to Canada’s Radarsat-1 and Radarsat-2 Earth observation spacecraft.

At a press briefing here during the 63rd International Astronautical Congress, MacLean said the Canadian government has never wavered from its commitment to the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM), which was first made in 2005.

But given the requirements of Canada’s budgeting process, he said, funding for the satellite-construction phase has not come as quickly as the principal industrial contractors — MDA Corp. of Richmond, British Columbia, and Cambridge, Ontario-based Com Dev — would have liked.

Both companies’ stock is publicly traded, and both have been obliged to tell shareholders that if Canadian Space Agency funding for RCM is delayed beyond this fall, they will have to begin transferring staff to other projects, and perhaps to dismiss employees.

MacLean said he understood the companies’ predicament, but that from his point of view the government’s determination to build RCM has never been in question.

“There has always been a plan to build [RCM], it just hasn’t been officially announced,” MacLean said. “I think you will see an announcement soon. We have a commitment from the ministry, and a plan to proceed.”

MacLean said the launch of the first of the three satellites is still planned for 2017, a date he said remains credible even if the construction contract is not signed until late 2012.