Economics of Space Innovation

Sep 25, 2017

The space industry’s role in the Canadian economy is significant, including earth observation, communications, robotics, and pure and applied research. Federal numbers for 2014 show that the industry generated some $5.4 B in revenues (with 29% of that in exports). Its employment roster tops 10,000 – many with multiple degrees.

ISED Minister Navdeep Bains at CSA facility
to welcome Canada’s two newest astronauts, Jenni Sidey and Joshua Kutryk. 
(Photo: Canadian Space Agency)

Getting to space isn’t cheap; and space programs in general are criticized by those who argue that money would be better spent on Earth. However, given the forementioned billions in economic benefits, Canada’s relatively modest investment clearly pays handsome dividends. 

The federal government committed up to $379 million to extend Canada’s participation in the ISS until 2024, enabling our astronauts and their ground support teams to position Canada’s space industry to prepare for the next outward push. That was followed this year by $80.9 million to the CSA for continued research and development – which could yield new manufacturing and other technologies and generate new private sector opportunities.

Typical is the $2.75-million contract awarded in August to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), a British Columbia-based manufacturer of communications and informations systems which has extensive experience in space. It has been tasked with, among other things, identifying the requirements for a deep-space robotic exploration system which could be used to operate and maintain a future waystation between the Earth and the Moon, a key element in future exploration missions. 

“Technologies that are designed for space today can one day be applied to the everyday lives of Canadians,” Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister Navdeep Bains said in announcing the latest MDA contract. “That’s how innovation leads to a better Canada.”