The space sector has eyes on Ottawa this week, looking to see whether Canada will sign on to become part of a historic NASA project that will build a new space station 1,000 times farther than today’s International Space Station. It would function as a base to explore lunar minerals and as a stopover point to Mars.
According to POLITICO Pro Canada, the space sector will be watching a conference in Ottawa taking place this week, where NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Navdeep Bains, the minister who oversees the Canadian Space Agency will speak.
Canada has been asked by NASA to supply robotics for the project, however, Ottawa needs to decide if they will spend the estimated $1 billion to $2 billion over the next two decades that it would take to fund the project to build robotics equipped with artificial intelligence that the station requires.
Two Canadian officials speaking to POLITICO said to expect additional signals of interest from Canada at this week’s conference, but without a firm financial commitment yet.
Officials explained that the funding decision will most probably take place closer to next year’s Canadian federal budget.
Moreover, a major industry player stated that it sees the budget as a make-or-break moment in deciding if Canada will supply long-term funding for Gateway.
The owners of the famous Canadarm, Maxar’s MDA company, told POLITICO that if Canada doesn’t commit to funding the project, NASA and MD will look to other countries for help building the robotics needed for Gateway.
Mike Greenley, the group president of MDA, which is now owned by Maxar Technologies based in Colorado said that if this is the case their expansion for the Lunar Gateway would happen outside of Canada, as they would have to follow the money.
It could be a big collective hit as the subsidiary employs 1,900 people in Canada, out of 6,500 Maxar employees globally. Greenley expects that several hundred companies, in addition to academic institutions, would be involved with his company on the next NASA project.
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