Friday, November 10, 2017

Even its Head Office Now Considers MDA, "a business unit of Maxar Technologies"

          By Henry Stewart

Suppose you're an iconic Canadian space company with tens and perhaps even hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars worth of annual revenue tied up in ongoing Federal government space and communications contracts which are, at least in part, dependent upon your firm being viewed as a fully Canadian supplier, immune to foreign influence.

And even your US HQ keeps forgetting to acknowledge your independence. What would you do?

As outlined in the November 9th, 2017 National Post article, "Canadarm creator to transform into U.S. company, raising concerns of tech heading south of the border," Maxar CEO Howard Lance believes that "Canadians don’t need to worry (over MDA's status) since the country will still retain overall control of the Radarsat-2 surveillance satellite," and he has no plans "to cut jobs in Canada." That's not to say that the US executive wouldn't be able to lay off workers at any of his worldwide subsidiaries or rearrange his business units in any way that his US based board might see fit, if the need arose. Given that, the appropriate customer response should be to cultivate alternative suppliers for critical requirements, just in case. Graphic c/o National Post.

That's the situation Richmond BC based MDA, a company once known as MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, but re-branded and re-organized into a subsidiary of the larger San Francisco, CA based Maxar Technologies earlier this year, is currently faced with.

As outlined in the November 8th, 2017 Maxar Technologies press release, "MDA to provide communication subsystems," MDA is "a business unit of Maxar Technologies."

November 9th, 2017 MDA online display ad from the SpaceQ website.
On the other hand, the MDA business unit has just "signed a contract valued at approximately US$9 million for an undisclosed customer," so things aren't all bad.

MDA will provide two communication subsystems that will increase the time LEO satellites are in communication with the ground and improve the amount of data that could be transferred, according to the press release.

However, in order to keep the Canadian orders flowing and combat the perception that the company is no longer Canadian, MDA has embarked on a marketing campaign touting its Canadian origins and independence.

The campaign includes various sponsorships in a variety of space focused conferences, including the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) 2017 Canadian Space Policy Summit, which was held in Ottawa on November 9th, 2017.

MDA has also purchased display ads in the Ottawa, ON based Hill Times and other publications.

Of course, the marketing campaign will do little more than postpone the inevitable. MDA will likely begin to bleed Canadian market share as the Justin Trudeau Liberal government moves to diversify its supplier base.

If the Feds don't do this, the Federal Conservative party will begin asking uncomfortable questions in Parliament and the issue will divide up along party lines. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just business.

Potential hungry MDA competitors include Toulouse, France based Airbus (bolstered by its new partnership with Montreal PQ based Bombardier and its influential Quebec voting base), Carlsbad, CA based Viasat (just itching to sell new communications capabilities to the Canadian military) and even Vancouver BC based Urthecast (the only Canadian company on this list, but one chock full of ex-MDA employees so there might be some synergies).

Stand by. There's a great deal of money at stake.

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

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