Canada in Space: Still Somewhat Directionless, But Cautiously Optimistic

What do you get when you mix optimism with an equal amount of pessimism and a dash of anxious anticipation?

Space Canada: 2009.

That’s the underlying message of “Looking Up,” a new study by the Rideau Institute and the Secure World Foundation that takes the pulse of that nation’s small but vital space program (or programme, as they say).

The report’s overall conclusions are:

  • Generally, analysts, industry leaders and experts are cautiously optimistic about the state of the space sector in Canada, given the increased focus of the federal government on space over the past year.
  • The $110 million increase in funding for the CSA in Budget 2009 is positive, but the new spending does not alter long-term funding concerns.
  • The space sector may be affected by the economic downturn, although prospects for 2009 are generally favourable.
  • Anticipation is high for the forthcoming Canadian Space Agency (CSA) strategic plan.
  • Industry tends to support a continued “niche” approach to space technology, while others favour more high profile projects.
  • Some stakeholders still see the need for an overarching space policy, although it may be out of reach for the moment.

In a press release, Canadian Space Society President Kevin Shortt welcomed the report while the document’s author, David Macdonald, further reinforced its good news/bad news/so-so news conclusions.

“This report comes at an opportune time,” Shortt said. “There is an increased awareness within government of the many accomplishments and benefits the Canadian space sector brings to the public.” The industry now awaits the release of the federal space strategy by the Agency.

“Recent events in the Canadian space sector have raised the sector’s profile, so much so that it was highlighted in the 2009 federal budget,” added Macdonald, who is economist with the Rideau Institute. “However, the federal government’s spending has not reversed Canada’s decline in relative space spending compared to other G8 countries. More forward-looking policy changes will be necessary to get Canada back in the game.”

Want to know more? Read the full report.