Canadian Space Budget Emphasizes Observation Programs

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Earth observation, primarily but not exclusively with radar satellites, will consume an increasingly larger portion of the Canadian budget for space activities over the next 10 years, a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) official said.

Work on Canada’s contributions to the international space station is beginning to wind down, while development of a three-satellite radar observation constellation will ramp up in the coming years, said Hugues Gilbert, the CSA’s director of strategic development.

The Canadian government has provided about 300 million Canadian dollars ($242.2 million) per year for the space agency since 1999, Gilbert said. The budget is divided into four main areas: Earth observation; space science and exploration; satellite communications; and awareness and learning.

Currently, the Earth observation and space science and exploration areas consume roughly equal shares of the budget, with the bulk of the funds paying for Canada’s participation in the space station program and the Radarsat imaging satellite program.

The CSA intends to shift money away from space science and exploration and into Earth observation over the next decade , Gilbert said. The CSA has completed work on its main space station contribution, the robotic Canadarm2, a crane-like device used to move and manipulate payloads from a fixed location. Work continues on Dextre, a smaller two-armed robot that will be able to move about the exterior of the station to perform more complex tasks.

“We have had a very significant investment in developing Canadarm2 and will have significant investment over the next several years for Dextre,” Gilbert said. “But now that we are moving into operations of the robotic systems, it will allow us to invest more heavily in Earth observation.”

Within the next 10 years, the CSA would like to direct 45 percent of its stable budget toward Earth observation work. This does not include an additional allocation of government funding that will help cover development of the next generation of Radarsat satellites , Gilbert said.

The CSA will dedicate 89 million Canadian dollars of its budget over the next five years to develop the third-generation Radarsat system, which will consist of three small satellites operating in coordinated fashion. The government will provide another 111 million Canadian dollars from other accounts over that same time frame.

Overall, the CSA will spend about 800 million Canadian dollars to develop and launch the three-satellite constellation by 2013. The small satellites will constitute the follow-on to Radarsat-1, which was launched in 1995 , and Radarsat-2, now slated to launch in early 2006.

The CSA is allocating only about 7 million Canadian dollars this year for development work on the three-satellite system, but the program will ramp up significantly over the next four years, Gilbert said.

“The Earth observation budget also will include a few atmospheric science missions we are considering right now,” Gilbert said. “We will have a couple of fairly significant programs, but nothing that will compare to the kind of investment we will be having in [synthetic aperture radar] technology.”

The CSA also is considering investing in hyperspectral technology that could lead to a satellite development program in the future, Gilbert said.

Once the development of the space station robotic hardware is completed, spending in the space science and exploration area will be scaled back from about 42 percent to about 40 percent of the stable CSA budget, Gilbert said. Among the activities the CSA will focus on in that category are the Canadian astronaut program, astronomy, solar studies, microgravity research, planetary exploration and Canada’s contribution to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, he said.

Spending on satellite communications , which includes the CSA’s contribution to Telesat Canada’s Anik F2 broadband satellite as well as the Cassiope experimental communications mission, will remain stable at around 10 percent of total spending, Gilbert said.

The awareness and learning area, which is dedicated to educating young Canadians about space, consumes about 3 percent of the CSA’s annual budget and will remain at that level, Gilbert said.