Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Colorado Based Maxar/MDA Asking for $1-2Bln to Build Another Canadarm for the US LOP-G

          By Chuck Black

Rumour has it that the Brampton ON based MDA Space Missions (a subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies) submission to the 2019 Federal government Pre-Budget Consultations, is simply the first step in an estimated $1-2Bln CDN request for Federal funding by Maxar/MDA to build a new Canadarm for NASA's planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).

Rumour also has it that the new "'Don’t Let Go Canada' coalition is mostly organized through Maxar/MDA because, as outlined in the September 13th, 2018 post, "Dead Cat Bounce! New Canadian Space "Coalition" Wants Much the Same as Last Time, But With Money" it's also focused on encouraging the Canadian government to fund the LOP-G.

Of course, those rumours are more than just rumours. And Maxar/MDA is also receiving at least some help from others.

According to several high-level sources within the Canadian space industry, certain NASA employees (including Bill Gerstenmaier, the NASA administrator for human exploration and operations) are working with senior members of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada (AIAC) space committee and Maxar/MDA to co-ordinate a campaign to encourage the Federal government to announce funding for Canada's contribution to the LOP-G program as early as this fall, if possible.

If not, the new funding would be included within the March 2019 Federal Budget, scheduled for release in March 2019. The intent is to have the Canadian government commit between $1Bln and 2Bln CDN over the next twenty years. That's up to $100Mln CDN for each and every year of the next twenty years.

Here are a few more substantive facts.

The Maxar/MDA brief, "Securing Canada’s Place in Space: Key to Canada’s Competitiveness," written by MDA CEO Mike Greenley, is available online at the Federal government 2019 Pre-Budget consultation website.

According to the brief, the company is recommending that:
  • As consistent with the May 2018 report of the Federally mandated Space Advisory Board (SAB) titled, "Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard," the Federal government recognize space as a national strategic asset and a key contributor "to Canada’s competitiveness today and in the new space economy."
  • The Federal government develop a long-term space plan for Canada that "establishes the requisite funding to maintain our existing world leadership in satellite communications, robotics, Earth observation and space science; cultivate new areas of leadership; and position Canada to be competitive in the new space economy."
  • As an important first pillar of Canada’s long-term space plan, "the government announce a commitment in Budget 2019 (at the latest – time is running out) to provide a third generation Canadarm to the international space community’s next big exploration mission, the Gateway project (known formally as the LOP-G)."
  • The government provide $1-2Bln CDN over the next 20 years, beginning in Budget 2019, to fund a third generation Canadarm, thus "securing Canada’s existing world leadership in space robotics."
In essence, the Maxar/MDA brief is absolutely an ask for further Canadarm funding, although service is also paid to the failed SAB and the need for some sort of long-term plan was noted.

But as the prime contractor for Canadarm work, Maxar/MDA stands to benefit the most from this proposal, if the Federal government decides to accept the recommendations.

Here's another piece of useful information.

As outlined in the September 17th, 2018 e-mail to "Don't Let Go Canada" participants titled "Campaign Update," the coalition campaign seems to originate through MDA director of public affairs Leslie Swartman, who is listed as writing the e-mail.

According to Swartman:
Today is the day we formally kick off the ("Don't Let Go Canada") campaign! I have attached two press releases - one announcing the campaign launch and the other announcing the results of the public opinion research conducted by Ipsos earlier this summer. I have also attached an executive summary of the Ipsos research and the full report. As well, the campaign website is now live: 
Just a few upcoming events to note. As mentioned previously, tonight there will be a public discussion about the poll at the offices of iPolitics from 5-7pm. The event will begin with a presentation by Ipsos executives Sandra Guiry and Brad Griffin, followed by a panel discussion moderated by iPolitics’ James Baxter which will feature panelists Mike Greenley (MDA’s Group President); Mike Pley (Pley Consulting); Kate Howells (The Planetary Society); and Marianne Mader (Canadian Association of Science Centres). The event is free and tickets are still available at: 
On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, from 11:30am to 1:30 pm, MDA’s Mike Greenley (Group President) and Holly Johnson (President’s Business Manager) will launch the Canadian Club of Ottawa’s fall season, with a speech entitled “Securing Canada's Place in Space”. The luncheon will take place in the Château Laurier – Ballroom. Below is the website where you can purchase tickets (I can give you a promo code for a discounted ticket if you are interested). 
Finally, the Canadian Global Affairs Institute will hold a conference on Tuesday, October 16th entitled, "Ready for Launch: Preparing Canada for a Future in Space". Here is the link for information and tickets: 
Feel free to share this information with colleagues and friends, and also follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share via the hashtag #DontLetGoCanada. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The two press releases included with the e-mail are the September 17th, 2018 "Don't Let Go Canada" press release, "Canadian public is onboard with Government of Canada investment to secure Canada’s place in space" and the September 17th, 2018 "Don't Let Go Canada" press release, "Space sector coalition launches campaign to outline exciting opportunities for Canada in space."

Both press releases include contacts from Ottawa ON based PR firm Prospectus Associates for those who'd like more information, but doesn't include any contact information on "Don't Let Go Canada" members

If "Don't Let Go Canada" has enough funding to engage Prospectus, which is "one of Canada’s leading national public affairs consulting firms," according to its website, then it has just got to have a substantive war-chest for this campaign.

The "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition has also engaged the Toronto ON and Washington DC based Ipsos Public Affairs, another action indicative of substantial funding.

As outlined in both the September 2018 IPSOS Public Affairs executive summary under the title, "Canada Belongs in Space: Executive Summary of Research Findings," and the September 2018 full report titled, "Canada Belongs in Space Combined Research Report," Canadians are well disposed towards our national space industry and perceive that substantial benefits derive from its activities.

Which is all well and good. But the real question isn't whether Canada belongs in space.

The real question is whether our domestic space industry should continue to rely on high powered public and private lobbying efforts from foreign owned firms like Maxar/MDA in order to fund and promote other peoples space activities.

Maybe we should be building our own space systems. Some of us already do and they do it for a far lower cost.

And maybe that's a subject for another day.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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