Monday, March 13, 2017

The State of the CDN Space Sector, Our "Innovation Agenda," UrtheCast, exactEarth, More Government & Orbcomm, Which is #1!

          By Henry Stewart

It's just got to be noteworthy that the "second" most important space story in Canada this week (after the ongoing selection of two new CSA astronauts) is the announcement from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that they have released their most recent survey of the Canadian space industry, covering the year 2014.

Yes. 2014. But there's more!

The "State of the Canadian Space Sector 2014" is a direct follow-on to the Euroconsult produced "2015 Comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the Canadian Space Sector," which covered 2013 and utilized methodologies developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As outlined by CSA president Sylvain Laporte in the preamble, "the 2014 survey results indicate that the space sector has achieved revenues of $5.4B and a workforce of over 10,000. Upstream segment activities related to research, engineering and manufacturing account for $1B. Downstream segment operations, products and services account for $4.4B, with Satellite Communication dominating the downstream segment. Domestic, and particularly commercial, sales emerged as the most important area for growth in 2014. At the same time, export markets experienced some contraction. Overall, the space sector contributed $2.9B to gross domestic product (GDP) and helped maintain 25,000 jobs (direct, indirect and induced) in the wider Canadian economy." For a direct comparison between the OECD methodologies and the techniques used in the earlier, CSA created "State of the Canadian Space Sector 2013," check out the June 12th, 2016 post, "A Quick Conversation with Euroconsult on the 'Comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the Canadian Space Sector.'" Graphic c/o CSA

The 2% year over year growth rate for the Canadian space industry as reported in the new document (which was released in February 2017) is substantially lower than the 9% year over year worldwide growth rate reported in the "2015 Space Report; The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity," the annual publication of the Colorado based Space Foundation.

And the 2015 Space Report, which also covered 2014, was released twenty months ago, in July 2015. As outlined in the July 18th, 2015 press release, "The Space Report 2015 PDF is Now Available," the larger international based report indicated that:
... the global space economy grew slightly more than 9 percent (in 2014), reaching a total of $330 billion worldwide, up from 2013's $302.5 billion. 
Together, commercial space activities made up 76 percent of the global space economy. The industry as a whole demonstrated a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of seven percent from 2005 to 2014, nearly doubling in size over the course of the decade.
For those who'd like something a little more current, here are a few of the other stories we're tracking for the Commercial Space blog:

  • It's hardly surprising given our first story this week, but it's worth noting that the Canadian Federal government is still in the midst of finalizing its "Innovation Agenda," and the allocation of the $800Mln CDN expected to be spent to support it over the next four years.
At least that's the story in the March 13th, 2017 Canadian Press post, "Feds still finalizing $800M innovation fund." According to the article, "an $800-million commitment central to the Trudeau government’s economic growth strategy is expected to be divvied up within the next few months among groups and companies that can persuade Ottawa they’re best positioned to help young, high-potential firms flourish." 
Ottawa hopes those companies will evolve into strong job creators able to provide Canada with an economic boost and long-term, high paying jobs. However, according to the article, "even with this month’s release of a budget billed as a plan focused on innovation, specifics on the $800-million program will likely have to wait a little longer."
Evidently, at least according to the article, there is still some questions about whether investments will be provided directly to high-growth Canadian companies or focused on funding the universities and incubators which support them.
As outlined in the January 16th, 2017 post, "The REAL Funding Opportunity Behind the Upcoming Canadian Space Agency 'Long-Term Strategy'," no one expects any major money to show up for science and space related CSA driven projects until well after June 2017, when the government said it will unveil its new "long-term strategy" for space. 
The Federal budget is expected to be released next Wednesday, March 22nd.
Some space agencies just know how to do it right. As outlined in the March 8th, 2017 NASA press release, "NASA Selects Over 100 Small Business Projects to Advance Space Innovation," NASA has "selected 133 proposals from US companies to conduct research and develop technologies that will enable NASA's future missions into deep space and benefit the US economy." The proposals, valued at approximately $100Mln US (approximately $135Mln CDN), were selected under Phase II of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. It's unfortunate that the CSA has been publicly opposed to the US SBIR program. To learn why, it's worth taking a look at the July 19th, 2009 post “Canadian Space Agency Provides "No Dedicated Programs" to Support Small Aerospace Firms." and the July 24th, 2009 follow-up post "OK, So Maybe the CSA Does Provide Some Support for Small Aerospace Firms" Graphic c/o NASA.
  • Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast is raising money. 
As outlined in the March 6th, 2016 UrtheCast press release, "UrtheCast Corp. Announces $17 Million Bought Deal," the company has entered into an agreement with a syndicate of underwriters co-led by Clarus Securities Inc. and Canaccord Genuity Corp,, where the underwriters will purchase, on a "bought deal" basis, 11,333,340 common shares of the Company at $1.50 CDN per common share. 
Aggregate gross proceeds to the company should total just over $17Mln CDN. 
The offering is expected to close "on or about" March 23rd, 2017 and is subject to certain conditions including (but not limited to) the approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). 
As outlined in the press release, "the securities have not been, and will not be, registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "U.S. Securities Act"), or any U.S. state securities laws, and may not be offered or sold in the United States without registration under the U.S. Securities Act and all applicable state securities laws or compliance with the requirements of an applicable exemption therefrom."
The advantage of the bought deal from the issuer's perspective is that they do not have to worry about financing risk, which is assumed by the purchaser or, in this case, by the underwriters.
  • Cambridge, Ontario based ExactEarth Ltd. has reported a $2Mln CDN loss in its fiscal first quarter as revenue from a federal government contract fell sharply.
As outlined in the March 8th, 2017 Waterloo Region Record post, "ExactEarth Q1 loss doubles on lower revenue from government contract," the scrappy supplier of automatic identification system (AIS) ocean tracking services (spun off from what used to be COM DEV International before it was purchased by New Jersey based conglomerate Honeywell International in January 2016), lost only $1Mln CDN during the same period last year.
Orbcomm CEO Eisenberg. Photo c/o Orbcomm.
ExactEarth recorded revenue of $3.3Mln CDN in the three months ended January 31st, down from $6.4Mln CDN in the first quarter a year earlier. 
The company blamed the decreased revenue on a Canadian Federal government contract, which accounted for the $3.1Mln CDN difference. 
That contract was originally outlined in the February 14th, 2016 post, "Newborn exactEarth Faces its First Battle for the Worm," and revisited in the May 7th, 2016 post, "Orbcomm, Skywave, exactEarth, CSA Rovers, High School Robotics, MDA, Emerson, Magellan, Honeywell & UrtheCast," 
ExactEarth said it booked $8.9Mln CDN in orders in the first quarter, up from $4.2Mln CDN in the same period a year earlier. 
To no one's surprise, exactEarth's competition for the Canadian government contract, New Jersey based Orbcomm, trumpeted its success to all who would listen. 
As outlined in the March 2nd, 2017 Space Intel Report post, "Orbcomm: Canadian, Australian, European wins show our AIS dominance," Orbcomm CEO  Marc J. Eisenberg said "the company's recent wins of satellite-based AIS maritime vessel surveillance increase Orbcomm's AIS business to around $8 million per year," or more than half of what Orbcomm views as the total global addressable market. 
In other words, they're number one! Canadian firms will just have to wait for the next Canadian government opportunity.
For more, check out future posts in the Commercial Space blog.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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