Cooperation Agreement between Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA)

The Cooperation Agreement between Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA) enables companies from the Canadian space sector to participate in ESA activities and programmes, while Canada gives its European partners the benefit of its Canadian expertise. By stimulating innovation, this programme supports the Canadian space industry in order to keep it dynamic and competitive in the global market, thereby fulfilling one of the avenues of strategic action set out in Canada's Space Policy Framework.

1. History of collaboration

Canada and the ESA have been collaborating in the space sector since the early 1970s. Formal cooperation began in 1979 with the signing of the first Cooperation Agreement. The Agreement has since been renewed four times (1984, 1989, 2000 and 2012).

2. Information on the ESA

The ESA is an international organization that is headquartered in Paris and currently has 22 Member States. Canada, the only non-European cooperating state, participates in certain ESA programmes.

The purpose of the ESA is

"to provide for and to promote for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems."

3. Canada/ESA Cooperation Agreement

The most recent Cooperation Agreement was signed on December 15, 2010, and ratified on March 28, 2012. It will be in effect until December 31, 2019.

Through the Cooperation Agreement, Canada benefits from the unique privilege of participating directly in selected programmes and activities as well as in the ESA's decision-making process. Also, the Agreement allows Canadian companies to submit bids in response to invitations to tender relating to programmes in which Canada participates.

Below are some of the points set out in the Cooperation Agreement:

  • Canada shall contribute annually to the ESA's General Budget expenditure (excluding the output "Technological research") in its initially approved version. This contribution shall represent 50% of its contribution scale calculated on the basis used for the Member States of the Agency.
  • Canada shall contribute to the expenditure of the optional activities and programmes in which it participates.
  • Canada shall have the right to be represented at open meetings of the Council of the ESA, and Canada shall have the right to vote on questions relating to the programmes in which it participates. Canada shall not have the right to vote in Council on the General Budget or on matters related to it.
  • Canada shall have the right to be represented at meetings of the subordinate and advisory bodies of the ESA to discuss activities and programmes in which Canada participates.

With respect to the geographical distribution of work relating to the activities and programmes in which Canada participates, the ESA shall:

  • Allow Canadian organizations to submit bids in response to ESA invitations to tender relating to programmes in which Canada participates;
  • Ensure a fair industrial return to Canada for activities under the General Budget, excluding the technological research programme (TRP); and
  • For optional activities and programmes, implement for Canada the applicable rules developed for the various activities and programmes, to the same extent as for the other Participating States.

The objectives of the Canada/ESA Cooperation Agreement are to:

  • Foster innovation and competitiveness by exposing companies from the Canadian space sector to ESA activities and programmes dedicated to developing space applications, technologies and systems;
  • Maintain or increase the ability of the Canadian space sector to successfully contribute to Canadian space initiatives by providing access to ESA flight opportunities, so as to demonstrate and qualify technologies and elements of space systems;
  • Facilitate access to European space contracts and international public and private space contracts, if applicable; and
  • Keep abreast of European space policy directions and Europe's technological, scientific, programmatic and commercial space environments to better guide the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) strategic planning process.

In addition, Canada's participation in ESA programmes can:

  • Facilitate the participation of Canadian scientists in ESA missions; and
  • Facilitate access to ESA data and/or infrastructure that meets the needs of academia and government departments/organizations.

The implementation of the Cooperation Agreement between Canada and the ESA is primarily accomplished through a contribution programme.

4. ESA industrial policy

The ESA industrial policy ensures that all Member States participate in implementing ESA programmes in a fair and efficient manner, while taking advantage of free competitive bidding.

One of the policy's key elements is the set of regulations in the ESA Convention on geographical distribution and fair return for ESA contracts. The Cooperation Agreement contains the necessary provisions to ensure that the ESA policy on fair industrial return for its Member States also applies to Canada.

5. Opportunities

  • Opportunities for Canadian organizations:
    Canadian companies, universities and research centres interested in bidding on contracts for programmes in which Canada participates may consult the ESA website to find out about the latest opportunities and obtain information on how to do business with ESA.
  • Opportunities for students:
    Some of ESA's opportunities for students may also be available to Canadian students.

6. Canada's current areas of action in ESA programmes

Originally, the Canada/ESA collaboration was essentially limited to the fields of Earth observation and satellite communications.

In the 1990s, Canada started participating in the Galileo preparation phase (European navigation satellite system) and then in the in-orbit validation phase for the same project.

In the mid-2000s, Canada also started participating in exploration and microgravity activities/programmes, as well as in the GSTP technology development programme.

Today, Canada participates in programmes in the fields of telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration, microgravity and generic technology development.

Here is a brief overview of those programmes:

Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES)

The ARTES programme transforms research and development investment into successful commercial products. This helps secure the futures of Europe and Canada in the worldwide satcom market.

Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP)

The EOEP is the backbone of ESA activities in the field of Earth observation. Through the EOEP a diverse series of innovative instruments and missions have been designed and readied for flight, with the intention of targeting specific scientific and monitoring challenges of the Earth system.

General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)

The GSTP exists to convert promising engineering concepts into a broad spectrum of mature products – everything from individual components to subsystems up to complete satellites – right up to the brink of spaceflight or beyond.

European Programme for Life and Physical Sciences (ELIPS)

The ELIPS has produced many advances in a variety of scientific disciplines since its inception in 2001. These advances have had a positive impact on European citizens and processes on Earth as well as on future spaceflight activities.


The Corpernicus Programme (previously known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) provides accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure civil security.


The Aurora Programme implements a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of solar system bodies holding promise for traces of life.

A letter of support from the Canadian delegation to ESA may be required to submit a bid for some programmes (particularly some components of ARTES and GSTP) in order to make sure that funds are available and that the proposed activity is aligned with Canadian priorities.

7. Benefits to Canada

Canada's investments in ESA programmes have resulted in significant business opportunities for Canadian industry through the development of alliances with European industry. They have contributed to job creation, acquisition of knowledge and skills, and indirect benefits for the Canadian economy.

Here are some examples of results arising from Canadian participation in ESA programmes:

8. Contact us

If you have any questions about the cooperation between the CSA and the ESA, you can contact us via email at the following address: