Canada used to have a Space Advisory Board that provided guidance to the federal government on strategies for the space sector. Now, Space Canada is adding its list to the growing chorus of voices asking for Canada to once again launch an advisory group focused on space.
Canada’s Space Advisory Board was last active just before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020. Its mandate subsequently expired and last we heard, a spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada told SpaceQ that next steps “are still being decided,”even as the United States re-established its National Space Council in April 2021.
Today (Aug. 3), Space Canada said it will hold its first annual conference in October to expand upon previous outreach work with the space community, much of it focused on lobbying the federal government to establish a Canadian space council.
“Space Canada has advocated that the Government of Canada establish a National Space Council, chaired by the Prime Minister and composed of senior ministers, to drive all space-related matters and better establish and synchronize national space policies, strategies and activities,” the organization said in a statement. (Officials were unavailable for an interview due to the August long weekend in Canada, along with travel.)
The goal is to bring the government further into space discussions “due to the complexity of the space domain and its strategic and foundational role in Canada’s national security, economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship and place on the global stage,” Space Canada said in the statement, with an overall goal to assist with “Canadians’ socioeconomic standing and access to modern, everyday conveniences.”
With this announcement, it appears Space Canada is poised to serve as a space-focused industry association that will be lobbying on behalf of the space industry. This would provide even more focus and direction for space industry voices beyond what the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) provides for aerospace at large, as AIAC necessarily can only put a portion of its energy in space exploration.
The conference, therefore, is likely Space Canada’s major unveiling to the space community after it was established in February. The conference will run between Oct. 17 and 19 in Ottawa, “featuring networking opportunities with business and thought leaders in the industry as well as discussions on key topics and industry trends,” according to Space Canada.
Details on registration and programming will be provided shortly, according to the organization, but they added that priorities will include equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), more collaboration among space ecosystem players, and lobbying for more government focus on space technology, research and investment.
The timing for this conference is crucial, as NASA is seeking more opportunities to expand commercial participation on the space station. The recent Axiom-1 mission, which included Canadian Mark Pathy as a participating crew member, shows that Canadians are ready to serve the needs of technology development and medical testing in spaceflight in the commercial sphere. Meanwhile, government astronauts will fly to the Moon’s orbit as a part of the Artemis program and related Gateway space station; the Canadarm3 technology MDA will provide in support of these goals is already being commercialized.
More microgravity opportunities are accruing rapidly as Blue Origin and soon, Virgin Galactic open up brief spaceflights for researchers and participants looking for a few minutes or hours of data collection. On top of that, environmental researchers are interested in next steps from the Canadian Space Agency for satellites, given that Earth satellite continuity beyond our aging fleet is already being discussed – and the community is also looking for a wildfire satellite to monitor this growing problem from space.
These discussions cited above form only part of the space community’s needs, as the sector includes everyone from those who build microcomponents to those who are the prime deliverers of satellites. As such, Space Canada continues to gather information from the community and it is also heavily involved in a membership drive.
The fee structure is meant to be reflective of how much different businesses sizes can afford. Categories range from micro business (one to four full-time employees or equivalents) to very large organizations (500+). Academia, non-governmental organizations and similar groups may join Space Canada as an associate member.
Those interested in membership with Space Canada are invited to reach out to [email protected].