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Science Minister John Roberts announced an increase in federal...

By ANDREW P. HUTTON

OTTAWA -- Science Minister John Roberts announced an increase in federal funding for space research to $260 million Thursday and said he may put all national space projects under a single government agency.

At a news conference on the eve of the U.S. launch of the shuttle Columbia, Roberts said that for the first time the Canadian government was committed to funding space technology development over a three-year period.

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He said funding for space research will be raised $64 million to $260 million. Total federal funding for scientific research and development for 1981-82 has been set at $1.5 billion, up $200 million over last fiscal year.

'For the first time, the government has made decisions on resource allocations on the basis of a long-term plan over the whole of our space interests,' Roberts said.

He added cabinet was expected to decide next fall whether administration of 'the rather dispersed space activity of the federal government' should be brought under the control of a single agency.

'Whether it will be a NASA type agency, or whether it will be a department or division within a department, a crown corporation or agency reporting to a minister, those are questions which have not yet been decided,' he said.

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Roberts said the space plan would give priority to technology development, especially in the area of remote sensing for resource management.

About $14 million in funding will be provided to improve two LANDSAT earth stations to produce higher photographic resolution of pictures of Canada's land mass and coastal waters.

The department will also make available $17 million for development of new satellite technology which would provide day-night all-weather information on land and sea conditions.

'Planning is also underway for a mobile communications satellite,' Roberts said. 'Once the studies for these two satellite systems are completed and their technical and economic feasibility determined, the government will consider their implementation.'

In addition, Canada will contribute $3 million to the European Space Agency to allow Canadian industry to continue participation in development of the European 'large communication satellite.'

He said several Canadian projects were intended to be joint ventures with NASA.

'But recent cuts in NASA's budget may affect our plans. However, it is too early to know exactly what the impact will be since NASA is still reviewing its priorities and allocations,' Roberts said.

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