As Future of RADARSAT Project Uncertain, Metro Vancouver Space Contractor is Shadow of Former Self

Dan Friedmann’s outlook on the future of his company is not bright.

As the federal government dithers on whether or not to fund the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, the CEO of Metro Vancouver based Space and Defence contractor, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) projects a bleak future for his firm.

“All I can tell you is, we are not under contract and our people are leaving,” Friedmann told CBC News.

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission is the follow up to RADARSAT-2, the MDA designed satellite that is able to provide surveillance capabilities even through bad weather and clouds. Launched in 2007, it was considered a success and MDA was awarded a $40 million contract by the Canadian Space Agency to design a successor.

According to the Canadian Space Agency, the RADARSAT Constellation Project is expected to use three satellites – with the possibility of upgrading to six – for enhanced resolution and surveillance capability.

However, this project may be a victim of the age of austerity as the federal government has failed to meet its promised funding deadlines to keep the project alive.

No new funding was announced in the budget tabled this spring. Without this funding, the company that designed the Canadaarm has been forced to begin laying off workers.

According to media reports, the company has laid off 100 employees at its Brampton location with 150 more – some of which likely coming from MDA’s Richmond facility – if funding doesn’t quickly materialize.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the company’s future, some employees have chosen to leave on their own accord. Friedmann is worried that if this trend continues it might be too late for the project even with a commitment from the government.

“I think the Prime Minister is quite committed,” Friedmann told the Globe and Mail. “I just don’t understand why his people in Industry Canada can’t execute.”

To Friedmann, the federal government using The Investment Canada Act to block the sale of MDA to an American firm in 2008 was a sign of the government’s commitment to the Canadian space industry.

“I cannot work in those areas unless my own government is involved.”