The Canadian and European space programs provide an outstanding model for international cooperation in the development of new technologies for the demanding environment of space. Since 1978 a far-reaching Cooperation Agreement has brought significant benefits to both sides of the Atlantic, through the creation of alliances between space industries.
Canada’s cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) provides an ideal platform for the sharing of knowledge and expertise and the promotion of Canadian space industries specializing in niche areas such as satellite communications, Earth observation, and space technologies. Canada and the Canadian space industry actively participate in many ESA programs. As a cooperating member, Canada participates directly in ESA programs, activities and decision-making. No other country outside Europe has such a relationship with ESA.
Space agencies play a vital role in the development, design and testing of new capabilities, applications and systems. Canada and ESA are working to develop a range of key satellite communications technologies. Newly designed onboard antenna systems make satellites more energy efficient. Digital and advanced transmission techniques, including V-band, Ka-band, and Ku-band provide faster and cheaper services with greater capacity to handle high-speed digital communications, Internet, direct broadcasting and multimedia applications.
Canada perfected the design of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites, producing the first digital SAR image from space in 1978. Canada brought this expertise to ESA’s European Remote Sensing Satellite program (ERS) whose mission matches Canada’s interest in using remote-sensing activities to monitor and protect our global environment and climate. Canada’s work on ERS-1 and ERS-2 spurred the design and deployment of Canada’s first Earth observation satellite, RADARSAT-1, the world’s first operational commercial SAR system. Plans for cooperation with ESA in RADARSAT-2 are under discussion. Canada shares many of ESA’s objectives for the Living Planet programme which promotes the use of satellite data to broaden the understanding, preservation and management of the Earth and its environment.
The CSA and ESA are committed to the development of space science and technology for exclusively peaceful purposes. Both agencies promote the competitiveness and success of their industries through technology development programs and offer innovative and flexible funding mechanisms.
Canadian investments in ESA have spurred the creation of jobs, the acquisition of knowledge and expertise, and led to important subsequent commercial sales, alliances with European prime contractors and indirect benefits in the Canadian economy. Over the past twenty years, through the Cooperation Agreement, 500 contracts, worth in excess of $300 million, have been awarded by ESA to space companies in all regions of Canada.
This cooperation has brought substantial socio-economic benefits to both sides of the Atlantic and strengthened the bonds between Canada and ESA in critical areas of science and technology.