Canadian industry is once again asking for a fresh and new Canadian space policy – along with a national space council – in the latest consultation process by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Government of Canada.
Strategy – Council – Policy – Plan – Execute
We have covered the need for a space policy many times here on SpaceQ (here’s one example), pointing out that there is an internal will in government to align work with the new priorities of industry and to keep up with international partners.
The CSA identified four key themes from the consultations including:
- The need to modernize (as investors may go to other countries or in other directions if the government does not provide “legal and regulatory certainty for space activities”);
- Where to focus (e.g. industry innovation, international partner alignments, sustainability, security, etc.);
- Feedback on regulations (in-orbit servicing, launch, remote sensing, satellite constellations, etc.);
- Feedback on other issues (the need for a national space policy and national space governance body, alongside a want for space traffic management, diversity and inclusion and mentoring newer people in the industry, among other things).
Consultations were submitted between Jan. 31 and April 4 after being asked to participate through emails and social media; information was posted on both the Government of Canada’s Consulting with Canadians website and the CSA website. One-on-one meetings were available to stakeholders as well.
The government has, to its credit, released several major space announcements in 2023 alone. Examples include three astronaut assignments (the Artemis 2 prime and backup moon seats with Jeremy Hansen and Jenni Gibbons, along with an International Space Station assignment for Joshua Kutryk); continuing to fund Canadarm3 that is furnishing those Artemis 2 opportunities; extending our ISS commitment to 2030, which is furnishing Kutryk’s seat and other opportunities and expanding and then renewing the Radarsat program; pledging a lunar utility vehicle for the moon’s surface.
But what industry has been asking for is a direction; as welcome as these space announcements are, many of them represent one-time pools of funding that are spread out across several years. Industry is also asking for, again, a national space council – we had an advisory group for a while, but it closed out around the start of the pandemic. Industry nevertheless has brought up the topic at basically every opportunity available, including Space Canada’s ask around the last federal budget in 2023.
There are numerous directions in which the government could go, however, which is why this consultation process was useful – especially given the 2024 budget consultation process is well underway.
Space Traffic, Launch, and ISAM
It was no surprise that Canadians raised the launching policy question, as that has been an ask of Canadian industry for more than a decade now and Maritime Launch Services is ramping up its activity at Nova Scotia’s Canso spaceport. The government, again to its credit, has promised to update the rules – but a new update on how that’s going would be welcome given the announcement was almost a year ago.
Canada is also keeping an eye on discussions in the United States, which is why space traffic and in-space assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) were likely brought up in the consultations. Space traffic has been brought up numerous times on the regulatory side on that country. Just in November, for example, the White House-led National Space Council released a draft bill now putting responsibility for space debris under the Department of Commerce.
Rules for satellite and orbital debris are specifically administered under a new Space Bureau of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that was announced in April. And in August 2022, the FCC also pledged to include ISAM among its measures to prevent space debris from occurring in the future.
But with the calls for a national space council renewed in Canada, it appears that what industry is wanting is not only specific project funding for space issues and projects – which has been helpful, to be sure – but a more integrated strategy so that industry and Canada can put all of that work together and find alignments.
Canada, as we have said many times here on SpaceQ, is good at having its departments work together in space strategy and finding industry expertise as well. While the CSA is often the highlight of this website, there are crucial integrations with departments touching on defense, environment, policy-making, Indigenous affairs and society at large (speaking to the diversity and inclusion bit) that are equally beneficial. Meanwhile, Canadian industry has done its job in uniting under Space Canada and similar organizations to present a coherent voice. What is needed is a coherent path forward for stakeholders to regularly meet up.
So far there is no concrete action promised on the strategy, although there are pledges to move forward with the information. The CSA, at the end of the document, stated that “the feedback received during the course of the consultation will be used to inform Canada’s review of a modern regulatory framework for space.” Additionally, the minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency said in a statement that he is listening.
“Through reviewing the framework, we are ensuring that Canada’s space-related regulations are keeping pace with the rapidly evolving and highly innovative global space sector so that Canadian industry is equipped to compete in this global market,” the statement from François-Philippe Champagne, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, read in part. “The consultations highlight the needs of the Canadian space sector and ways the government can support the growth of the sector in the new and evolving global space environment.”