Thursday, April 04, 2019

The $150Mln CDN Lunar Exploration Acceleration Program (LEAP) Funding Will Likely be Pushed Out After the Next Election

          By Chuck Black

After a month of anticipation, we still don't know much about the new $150Mln Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP), which is intended to assist small, space focused businesses and distract from the larger 1.95Bln CDN the government has pledged to support the US led Lunar Gateway.

There seems to be no Federal government website set up to explain the program and formal inquiries to the CSA from this blog have, so far at least, not led to any "on the record" clarifications.

Off the record, "knowledgeable sources" have indicated that the program is "not budget dependent" which could mean that funding is not available this year, or it could mean that the funding will be pulled from other Federal programs and isn't really new funding.

We don't really know.

Those "knowledgeable sources" have also indicated that the CSA will issue a request for information (RFI) to begin the process of clarifying the program "within the next few weeks." But since this is an election year, if nothing gets clarified before the election is called, then any funding expected to be provided through the program could be cancelled, revised, changed or pushed out until after the election.

And the RFI won't clarify things by itself. The CSA needs to assess the information gathered through the RFI, and then issue a request for proposal (RFP) based on the capabilities of those likely to apply.

After all, if no one has indicated that they are capable of fulfilling a proposed RFP, then issuing it is a waste of time.

The RFP is when the agreement is made for the money to change hands.

Naturally, there will be a significant time lag before the CSA can assess the information collected through the RFI and issue the follow-on RFP. Typically, this process will take several months.

So even if the initial RFI is issued today, the CSA will allow for a period of time (normally one or two months) for organizations to respond before closing the RFI off. Assessing the RFI responses to incorporate their capabilities into an RFP will normally take a few more months.

Assuming the best case occurs and the RFI is issued immediately, the CSA won't be ready to issue an RFP before July 2019 (at the earliest) and the RFP will remain open for response through at least August 2019.

Once the RFP closes off, the CSA will begin the perfectly reasonable process of assessing the responses. If CSA is "firing on all cylinders," it should have assessed the responses and be ready to announce funding for successful RFP candidates by September/ October 2019.

But, as outlined in the Elections Canada Act, the next Canadian Federal election must be held on or before Monday, October 21st, 2019. Normally, Federal elections are announced three months in advance to allow the major parties time to prepare and campaign although there have been exceptions. The minimum campaign length is thirty-six days.

In essence, the election will be most likely be called long before the CSA can assess the responses to an RFP on the LEAP program. When an election campaign formally begins, LEAP program funding (wherever its coming from) will be suspended until the election campaign is concluded.

LEAP won't provide any funding to innovative new Canadian space focused companies until after the next Federal election, if ever. Any small business looking for a grant through the LEAP program to show up anytime soon is "dreaming in technicolor."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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