How Canada Can Create a Sustainable National Space Infrastructure

File photo: The How Canada Can Create a Sustainable National Space Infrastructure panel. From left to right: Kate Howells, Micheal Pley, David Kendall, Gordon Osinski and Lucy Stojak. Credit: Canadian Science Policy Centre.

The recent Canadian Science Policy Conference was an opportunity for those unfamiliar with the current state of Canada’s space policy to learn more.

Today’s SpaceQ podcast is panel discussion from the recent Canadian Science Policy Conference organized by the Canadian Science Policy Centre. The panel, titled “How Canada Can Create a Sustainable National Space Infrastructure”, was organized by Michelle Mendes of the Space Advisory Board and features members of the Space Advisory Board.

Each panel member discussed a specific area for the theme and were very articulate in getting their points across. Even those familiar with the topic will find the panel interesting. A list of takeaways and recommendations is available below.

The panel was moderated by:

(2:21) Dr. David Kendall, Past Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The panelists were;

(6:16) Kate Howells, Global Community Outreach Manager and National Coordinator for Canada, The Planetary Society.

(12:18) Dr. Gordon Osinski, NSERC/MDA/Canadian Space Agency Industrial Research Chair in Planetary Geology, Western University.

(21:41) Dr. Michael Pley, President, Pley Consulting Inc.

(29:35) Dr. Lucy Stojak, Executive Director, Mosaic.

(43:07) Short questions and answer session.


Takeaways and recommendations:

Challenges facing Canada’s space sector

  • Canada has diminished the academic and industrial base that was developed between 1960 and 2005. It has also tarnished Canada’s brand internationally by not participating in international missions.
  • In 1992 Canada was the 8th ranked nation in terms of percentage of GDP spending in space. Today we are 18th.
  • There are expected to be significant job losses in Canada’s space sector over the next two years as a result of a changing commercial market (i.e., from large to small satellites), and by Canada’s decision to pass on all recent space opportunities. (i.e., the next two Mars missions in 2020 will not have Canadian instruments on board.)
  • Space science is driven by big missions to answer big questions like our place in the universe and the origin of life. Our lack of participation in upcoming space missions means this pipeline of talented students will continue to leave Canada for jobs elsewhere.
  • Most industrial players in space rely on both the commercial markets and government procurement to survive. Stagnant investments in space and the lack of a current long-term space have resulted in companies relying even more on commercial markets, making it difficult for many to scale up.
  • The global space sector is changing dramatically and quickly with the emergence of “NewSpace”, which encompasses a globally emerging private spaceflight industry driven by technology advances like small satellites and new commercial opportunities such as selling space data.
  • Canadian companies are looking to other countries for investment, which increases the risk of capital, HQP and R&D leaving Canada
  • Sixty nations now have space plans – Canada is not one of them.

An action plan for Canada

  • The Aerospace Review Report (2012), the Aerospace Innovation White Paper (2015) and the Space Advisory Board report (2017) all urge Canada to think of space as a national strategic asset.
  • Canada urgently needs a government framework for space, or a long-term space plan with missions in the pipeline and sustainable funding. Canada’s last long-term space place was released in 1994.
  • Canada needs a balanced of portfolio, from space exploration to earth observation, and over a period of time so there is always something in the pipeline.
  • Adopt new policies and regulations to encourage rapid growth in the space industry and the economy. (e.g., the U.S. is relaxing its regulatory framework for launch and re-entry).
  • Canada should consider passing legislation, as other countries have done, to stimulate space science (e.g., requiring certain agencies to direct part of their budget to space science).
  • Asteroid mining should be a natural for Canada, considering our long history and expertise in mining. Partner with countries that are active in this space (e.g., Luxemburg, U.S.).
  • Like other countries, Canada needs clear policies and regulations that favour buying domestic space services and products, and not launch or operate services that are already available commercially.
  • Canada’s rationale for investing in space should not be motivated by what other countries are doing; rather, these are investments that will deliver real value to Canadians. However, we can learn from relevant ideas in other countries. (e.g., European Union contracts require companies to allocate a percentage of the contract’s value to outreach and education.)
  • Canada needs to invest more in outreach and education. A September 2018 Ipsos poll found Canadians have little awareness of Canada’s space achievements beyond the Canadarm and astronauts.
  • As space becomes more global, there is a need to coordinate activities (e.g. security of satellites). Canada needs to participate or the rules will be written by others.
  • Consider establishing a separate federal ministry for space, as has been done in the U.K., with links to other government departments.

Note: The audio file from the podcast was provided to SpaceQ from the Canadian Science Policy Centre.

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About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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