MacLean Signals RADARSAT Constellation Mission Build Phase Approval

©IAF

CSA President Steve MacLean.

This past week Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean signalled that the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) will proceed to the next phase, the build phase, and that contracts are forthcoming.

MacLean was in Naples for the annual International Astronautical Congress where he participated in a Head of Agencies panel along with a press briefing.

In speaking at the Heads of Space Agencies panel MacLean was unequivocal about RCM when he said "we are continuing with the construction of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission and this will be dedicated to serve government operations and interest especially to those related to the main priorities of the government."

MacLean told reporters at a subsequent news conference and reported by Space News "there has always been a plan to build [RCM], it just hasn't been officially announced. I think you will see an announcement soon. We have a commitment from the ministry, and a plan to proceed."

A day after MacLean made his comments COM DEV announced it was laying off 31 people and CEO Michael Pley, said "As Canada's leading supplier of instruments and payloads for government space missions, the lack of new program opportunities from the Canadian Space Agency in the foreseeable future has forced us to take action. The funding situation on the CSA's Radarsat Constellation Mission is still uncertain and, if not resolved in the near future, will result in further job losses once development funding runs out later this year. I regret the impact these circumstances have had on the employees who are being affected."

When contacted by SpaceRef, Gary Calhoun, Chief Financial Officer of COM DEV said "Dr. MacLean's comments are welcome." He also said COM DEV expects to work on RCM. The restructuring is unaffected by MacLean's comments as it pertains to future Canadian government work not related to RCM.

In fact, if RCM goes ahead as MacLean said, then further job losses at COM DEV with respect to the RCM won't happen. It should also be noted that the layoffs were for the Canadian division only and that the U.S. and International division remain unaffected.

For MDA, the prime contractor for RCM, the news would obviously be welcome. MDA Corporate Communications Manager Wendy Keyzer said "It would certainly be wonderful if Phase D proceeded this year."

MDA has already laid off staff in anticipation of the end of Phase C work. Should RCM go ahead then MDA said it will need to hire more staff.

When asked by the moderator at the Heads of Space Agencies panel to summarize Canada's year and the future outlook MacLean was very upbeat. He talked about the Aerospace Review which is underway and for which the government will receive the final report in December. He said "and I believe it's well timed as in Canada, just over a year later, in (20)14-15, we balance our federal budget and and we're expecting good things from that."

Also notable in his comments with respect to the Aerospace Review was mention of "modernizing the procurement and supplier development" which he stated is one of the key
issues that will be addressed.

For the space sector, MacLean's very public comments are no doubt welcome. As everyone awaits the Aerospace Review, and more importantly the governments reaction to it, there seems to be just a small hint of the lifting of the veil of uncertainty which has surrounded the domestic space sector for the past several years. Government actions in the new year though will be the true measure of whether the industry sees positive movement or not.