Part 2: What Our Federal Government Thinks!
|Captain Canuck "punches above his weight."|
In part 1 of this post, titled "Do We Really "Punch Above our Weight?" I compared CSA activities to those of other national space programs with equivalent budgets such as the Iranian Space Agency (ISA), the UK Space Agency (UKSA), the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), the South Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the National Space Agency of the Ukraine (NSAU).
|Dudley Do-Right doesn't.|
Sometimes, their stuff is even better than ours.
So while the CSA is doing some interesting things, we're not necessarily "punching above our weight" or performing on the international stage in a manner all out of proportion to our funding.
But here's where it starts to get interesting.
While the CSA lists an annual budget of $300 million dollars per year on the CSA FAQ's web page, almost no one in government (or anywhere else for that matter) actually believes the CSA budget is that small.
At the very least, for any legitimate assessment of the CSA budget, we need to include at least two additional items. These are:
- The $397 million CDN allocated over five years by the federal government in 2010 specifically for earth observation satellites commented as described in various media reports including a March 4th, 2010 SpaceRef.ca article "RADARSAT Constellation Mission get Funding in Budget"
|Canada's first superhero. Often forgotten.|
- The $110 million CDN economic stimulus package to support new space technologies including the next generation Canadarm as described in the March 5, 2010 Spaceflight.com article "CSA will fund a Next Generation Canadarm."
|Johnny Canuck. Wholesome, but simple minded.|
These additional funding sources are on top of the formal CSA budget.
As well, each of these other departments (except for DRDC) is also tasked by the federal government with the very same mission to "drive innovation" as the CSA.
They're each governed by the current Industry Canada science & technology strategy as outlined in documents like the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage (May 2007) and the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage Progress Report (June 2009). Those two documents are the closest thing Canada has had to a long term space strategy since the 2003 publication of "The Canadian Space Strategy."
|Canada Jack. Acrobatic, skilled gymast.|
But the Industry Canada policies focus on commercialization, which is well outside the traditional exploration and development mandates of previous CSA long term space plans.
The CSA doesn't even officially track commercialization, but instead tends to focus on hiving off successful technologies (like communications satellites and Earth imaging) to private industry and small business where they often become widely successful, but never really contribute to the perception of CSA expertise, success or the fulfillment of Industry Canada mandates.
And the politicians perceive of this as being all the same crap (or government funding bucket), for the same purpose (to drive innovation and create jobs) but from different piles (or government agencies).
|Wolverine. Effective, current and also Canadian.|
But the government just doesn't perceive these difference between the CSA and other Industry Canada departments and the consensus is that they're already contributing billions of dollars to an activity which the CSA doesn't seem to understand very well, but should.
Now the government perception doesn't automatically have to be this way and even if it stays blinkered, there are steps that can be taken to grow the CSA budget and build credibility for space focused exploration and development activities, just so long as we remember that we also need to include a commercialization aspect (plus track successful projects and commercial spin-offs).
How to go about doing that will be the subject for part 3 of this post.