Sunday, May 07, 2017

Part 8: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

Long-Term Space Plan I, a National Space Agency, RADARSAT, Centralization and the Dramatic Increase in Government Space Expenditures

RADARSAT-2. Image c/o CSA.
By Graham Gibbs & W. M. ("Mac") Evans

This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief history of the Canadian space program, written by two of the major participants.

With the space station decision now made, the government was able to issue in May, 1986 what is now called Long-term Space Plan I (LTSP I) and provided $476Mln of new funding. In addition to the space station program ($1.2Bln), the plan provided full funding ($200Mln) for the Mobile Satellite (MSAT) program in cooperation with Telesat but did not fund fully RADARSAT due to the lack of private sector interest.

In making the announcement of the new plan, the government established regional distribution targets for its expenditures, a policy that has had a major influence on the development of the Canadian space industry.

With the long-term nature of Canada’s space program settled with LTSP I, the Ministry of State for Science and Technology (MOSST) proceeded to prepare a response to the continuing requests from industry and the Science Council of Canada for the creation of a national space agency. In the end, MOSST prepared a report to the Prime Minister proposing the creation of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

In the speech from the Throne in October 1986, the government announced its intention to create the CSA. MOSST then undertook the task of defining the Agency, what its mandate would be and prepared the legislation that officially created the CSA on March 1, 1989. The CSA was set up to be a standalone agency of the government of Canada reporting to the Minister of Industry.

By 1989, private sector interest in RADARSAT had jelled to the point where a new company, Radarsat International (RSI) was formed by a consortium of Canadian space companies with the express objective to market internationally the RADARSAT data.

MOSST had also worked to establish provincial government interest in the program (the provincial governments are responsible for resource management, a key service of RADARSAT). An arrangement had been agreed with the US whereby they would launch RADARSAT in return for a percentage of the data. With agreements in place with the private sector, the provincial governments, and the US, the government finally agreed to proceed with the RADARSAT program at a projected cost of $500Mln.

The 1980’s saw a dramatic increase in the government’s expenditures in space. During this period, the government’s annual space budget grew from $90Mln to close to $300Mln. By the end of the decade, Canada’s space program had become substantially diversified. Communications satellite activities no longer dominated the government’s space agenda (dropping from over 50% of expenditures at the beginning of the decade to less than 10% by the end) and entirely new fields (remote sensing, space robotics, and human space flight) had become priorities.

Canada's first astronaut recruitment campaign was undertaken well before the before the Canadian Space Agency Act received royal assent on May 10th, 1990. The Canadian astronauts selected in 1983 included Ken Money, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean, Bjarni Tryggvason, Robert Thirsk and Roberta Bondar. Photo c/o CSA.

The government moved cautiously during the decade towards a more centralized approach to its space program and by the end of the decade had created the CSA to manage its space investments.

During the decade, the Canadian space industry’s sales grew substantially from $100Mln in 1980 to almost $300Mln by the end of the decade, with more than 75% of its sales exported.

Graham Gibbs & Mac Evans. Photos c/o MyCanada & CSA.
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first counselor for (US) space affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of "Five Ages of Canada - A HISTORY from Our First Peoples to Confederation."

William MacDonald "Mac" Evans served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from November 1991 to November 2001, where he led the development of the Canadian astronaut and RADARSAT programs, negotiated Canada’s role in the International Space Station (ISS) and contributed to various international agreements that serve as the foundation of Canada’s current international space partnerships.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast and as a member of the Federal government Space Advisory Board.

Last Week: "The 1980's, Reagan, Space Station Freedom and the Debate Over National Needs vs. International Partnerships," in part seven of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets."

Next Week: "The 1990's, The Second Long-Term Space Plan, SCISAT, RADARSAT-2 & 'Competitive Procurement'" as part nine of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," continues.

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