Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Context for Recent Canadian Space Stories

DEXTRE, with the Earth as background.
Lost in the recent Canadian space news cycle focused on the International Space Station (ISS) Heads of Agency meeting in Quebec City (and the renewed Canadian commitment to the ISS), plus the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM or DEXTRE) satellite servicing experiments being performed aboard the ISS (which should bolster the case within the US based Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to buy Canadian technology for on-orbit satellite servicing) and even the Federal government announcement of the "aerospace and space" review are several smaller stories and observations which  may end up being just as important. For example:
Steve MacLean.
For their part, the the major Canadian space systems companies are taking steps to insulate themselves from the expected Federal budget cuts. 
  • Ottawa based Telesat, although possessing several times the annual budget of the CSA (and independent of overt government funding to help make ends meet) is seeking $2.55 billion in loans to refinance debt and pay a dividend to shareholders according to the March 9th, 2012 Postmedia News article "Telesat seeks loans totalling $2.55B."

  • Even Cambridge, Ontario based Com Dev International,  presently flying high on the basis of several large recent contract wins and ongoing success with the exactEarth global vessel monitoring and tracking service, has just announced its intention to renew its normal course issuer bid through the facilities of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) according to the March 12th, 2012 Canadian News Wire press release "COM DEV Announces Normal Course Issuer Bid." A normal course issuer bid is a form of share buyback, normally performed by a company with excess cash assets wishing to bolster or stabilize its stock prices over the long-term.
At present, Canada has the official capability to develop big satellites and space robotics (through MDA), small-satellites (through Mississauga based Magellan Aerospace), micro-satellites (through Comdev and Newmarket based Microsat Systems Canada Inc.) and nano-satellites (through the The University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies [UTIAS] Space Flight Laboratory [SFL]).

Canada also possesses the unofficial capability to build almost anything needed in a space environment (especially sensor related and geomatics technologies but also including life sciences, medical technology, 3D manufacturing technologies and composite materials) or as part of the requirement for getting there (including micro-satellite launchers). This level of industry is certainly sustainable, given the CSA's projected future budgets, but it will be interesting to see how the various players (government and private) react to the many changes listed above, which have occurred or are about to occur over the next little while.

We live in interesting times.

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