Space Canada Releases Defence Recommendations

File photo: Space-based Earth Observation. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

Space Canada recently released a new policy position paper.  Called “Innovating at Home, Defending Our Interests: Canada’s Space Innovators’ Contribution to National Defence,” it’s focused on Canada’s role in the increasingly important space defence domain.

The Department of National Defence identified the Space Domain as a key focal point going forward in their recent Defence Policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE).”  They noted that “satellites underpin an increasing range of daily activities,” that “space-based assets are critical for modern militaries,” and that there are increasing concerns both in Canada and around the world regarding issues like space debris and anti-satellite weaponry (ASATs) that could jeopardize these economically and strategically important tools. 

DND said that they were going to engage in a number of new initiatives focused on space: including working with allies to ensure “continuous access to the space domain” and promote Canada’s interests in space, invest in space capabilities like the RADARSAT replacement and debris-tracking sensors, and conducting “cutting-edge research and development on new space technologies.”

Space Canada took note of this, and also took note of Budget 2022’s investment in NORAD modernization and collective security through NATO. In light of this, and in light of the rapidly-growing Canadian private space sector, the policy position paper makes four specific recommendations: 

1 – Accelerate the Timetable for Identified Space Programs (SSE)

Space Canada lauded how DND “identified many space programs in SSE,” including new communications and sensing capabilities, saying that “the Canadian space industrial base has the capabilities to deliver these programs at a speed of relevance,” whether through traditional government procurement or commercial procurement. 

They said, though, that the timelines are “simply too long.” Space Canada said that DND’s targeting of deployment in the 2030s is simply unrealistic considering the immense growth of the space domain and its constant change, and that the Government needs to “keep pace with new space technologies being developed and fielded by innovative Canadian space companies and by potential adversaries.” The timelines for both definition and implementation should be accelerated. 

2 – Engage with Canadian space innovators on Continental Defence Modernization

Space Canada urges DND and the Federal Government to “engage directly with Canada’s space innovators” to achieve their policy goals. They call for a “meaningful dialogue” that will “allow industry to better understand the Government of Canada’s defence priorities,” and “showcase Canadian industry’s R&D and technology development programs that can support the modernization of continental defence.” 

In order to provide the detection capabilities that the Government is looking for, Space Canada said they’ll need “a mix of sensors, capabilities, and systems including space-based, land-based, aircraft-based, and sea-based sensors, and over-the-horizon (OTH) radars to provide superior early warning and situational defence for continental defence,” among other things. The paper says that they should be looking to the Canadian “defence and space industrial bases” to fulfill those capabilities. As one example given, they should allocate resources needed to ensure that (for example) skilled people in the Canadian space sector can acquire necessary clearances in a timely manner. 

3 – Expand Current Defence Innovation Programs for Space

Space Canada supports the current space-specific defence innovation programming, but would like to see it expanded. Noting that “global competition in space is fierce and Canada risks missing the opportunity to fully participate in the highly strategic new global space economy,” they recommend that Canada “expand space-specific defence innovation programming with increased or dedicated funding to enable Canada’s space innovators to work directly with DND.”  

Not only will this investment benefit Canadian security, they argue, but it will “allow Canada to contribute those capabilities to continental and collective security,” as well as strengthening Canada’s space industrial base. 

4 – Establish the National Space Council

Space Canada’s final recommendation reiterates a repeated request they make to the Government: that they establish the same kind of National Space Council that is seen in the United States and the United Kingdom. It should play a central role in “coordinating strategies for civil space, defence space, and commercial space capability development, and for integration into the Government of Canada’s space enterprise.” 

In the release accompanying the document, Space Canada CEO Brian Gallant said that “Prioritizing space will create a more innovative and competitive, equitable and inclusive, and sustainable and resilient Canada,” and that “investments in new space innovations are essential for defence and national security.”  Space Canada thanked writer Jordan Miller and their Public Policy and Advocacy Committee for assisting in the development of the report. 

About Craig Bamford

Craig started writing for SpaceQ in 2017 as their space culture reporter, shifting to Canadian business and startup reporting in 2019. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and has a Master's Degree in International Security from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He lives in Toronto.

One comment

  1. I think I have to agree with most of it. We’ve even had “Space Launch Vehicles” in the Defence Capabilities Blueprint for years, and yet not a single listed project associated with it:

    I think it also fits very well with some prior low-level recommendations I’ve made as far as how to go about doing some of this for civilian and defence space, including mimicking or working with SpaceWERX, and different approaches toward higher risk innovation in space start-ups:

    I think the concern is that we’ve had even internal government recommendations for many years on changes to support Canadian space, like the CSIN program, but these programs and changes rarely happen or get bogged down, versus U.S. programs like SpaceWERX, the multi-channel NSSL pre-purchasing of launches, and the new Commercial Space Marketplace for Innovation and Collaboration (COSMIC) office just outpace what is possible in Canada so U.S. companies and start-ups get a big leg up on the emerging space markets.

    The ability for public servants to create and innovate programs as they go, with big enough budgets and high-risk, high-return friendly policies, seems to me as a necessary first step.

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