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Canadian satellite system under budget cloud

Canada: Missed deadlines and an underfunded Canada Space Agency (CSA) may scuttle plans to build the next generation of earth observing satellites, according to MacDonald, Detwillier and Associates Ltd. (MDA), a Canadian satellite company.

In 2010, the CSA selected MDA to design the successor to Radarsat-2, the agency’s current earth observing satellite. But, Dan Friedman, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said the federal government missed a target deadline for awarding the building contract in January, according to a story in the Globe and Mail and the CSA may not have enough money for the project.

However, Industry Minister Christian Paradis said the Canadian government is committed to the satellite project. “We are taking it seriously and we are going to deliver this project in the most cost-effective way. It is a matter of sound cost management,” he recently said in the House of Commons.

The new satellite system’s price tag may be part of the hold up. Original estimates put the cost of the project at CAD 600 million (CAD – Canadian Dollar), but revised calculations almost doubled the amount to CAD 1 billion, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

MDA expressed concern over the future of the mission after the federal budget was released in March, saying that the budget didn’t “include the funds required to continue RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) as it is currently envisioned.” Canada’s 2012 federal budget reduced CSA funding from a peak of USD 443 million in 2011 to USD 363.2 million this year, with further declines projected in subsequent years. At the time, the company said it would have to restructure its work force. This week, the CEO told the CBC News that the project’s scientists and engineers will lose their jobs and that any further delay in awarding the contract may kill the project entirely.

Source: Nature