The head of the Canadian Space Agency is leaving the position after barely more than a year on the job.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Walt Natynczyk will become deputy veterans affairs minister, effective this coming Monday.

Harper made the announcement in a statement today.

Natynczyk had been head of the space agency since August 2013, when he replaced former Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean.

The retired military general also served as the Canadian Forces' chief of defence staff from 2008 to 2012.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said in a statement Natynczyk "arrives at a crucial time for our department, which is in the midst of an ongoing transformation to further improve how it supports veterans and their families when they make the important transition to civilian life."

Iain Christie, executive vice-president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, expressed surprise when informed of the move.