Canada in space.
Today's federal budget included a few surprises for Canada's space program. The space sector had become accustomed to expecting little or no mention in the annual budget. Perhaps as this is an election budget, the government wanted to cover all its bases.
They are proposing to provide $30 million over the next four years, starting next year, to support businesses who want to commercialize space technologies through the European Space Agency's (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program.
According to the government "These additional resources will enhance the competitiveness of Canada's satellite communications sector throughout its supply chain, opening new markets for Canadian innovations and supporting Canada's role in space."
Canada has been a long standing co-operating member of ESA and is therefore permitted to take part in ESA programs.
Canada is scheduled to contribute $26.7 million to ESA for its participation this year, and has planned to contribute $27.5 next year. Presumably the additional funding will be on top of this. A query to the Canadian Space Agency had been sent to clarify this issues, however at press time we had not heard back from them.
The other news is that Canada will extend its participation in the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024. This is significant news as it commits Canada long-term to the ISS. It's also good news for Canada's astronaut core as it could mean more trips to the ISS. That however will depend on the future cost per seat of sending astronauts to the ISS via a commercial crew provider and barter agreements the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) makes with NASA and the other ISS partners.
The recently released CSA 2015-16 Report on Plans on Priorities details the planned spending for the coming year. The budget is planned at $483,428, 281 million. This is an increase on what was expected, which was around $410 million, and is attributed to funding which went unspent last year for the RADARSAT Constellation Mission and which will be spent in this years budget.
Projected budgets for the CSA going forward are $383 million for 2016-17 and $322.6 for 2017-18.
So while there is some new funding for the commercialization of space technologies and a long-term commitment to the ISS, CSA planned funding is actually decreasing going forward.
April 23, 2015 11:30 a.m EDT Update: The Canadian Space Agency responded today to my query about the additional funding; "The ESA funding identified in the 2015-16 Report on Plans and Priorities does not include the funding proposed in the Economic Action Plan 2015 with respect to the ESA ARTES Program ($30M over four years with $10M in FY 2016/17).". In other words, it is over and above what was planned. However, it should be noted, what is stated in this years plan for next year is only notional. It remains to be seen if the money mentioned in the budget will actually increase next years allocation for ESA funding, or whether it will be blended in to the planned spending. And of course, it is contingent on the government getting re-elected this fall.