This Week in Space for Canada: November 20th, 2009

This week in space for Canada is all about trial balloons released from the Canadian Forces (CF) and a variety of civilian experts regarding Canadian capabilities to monitor, protect and defend our arctic sovereignty at the recently concluded Canadian Space Summit, held this past weekend at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.

At least that’s what what Ian Elliot, in his article “Canada’s space program hampered by US laws” published recently in the Kingston Whig Standard seems to be intent on telling us. Reporting on events from the Canadian Space Summit, he states:
“Canada’s space program has lots of ideas and commercial potential, but one of the big things holding it back is the lack of a Canadian launch program, the Canadian Space Summit was told over the weekend.”
The specific problem is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a set of United States government rules controlling the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List.
According to the article, these laws give the US complete veto power over launches of equipment that contain any American components or research contribution. There is even evidence that ITAR considerations have been major factors in decisions by foreign governments to avoid US products in order not to subject themselves to ITAR regulations.
“Having [launch systems] in Canada would solve a lot of our issues,” states Maj. Catherine Marchetti, a graduate of the Royal Military College who spoke at the Space Summit.
This is not the first time Canadian Space Summit participants have discussed issues relating to the development of a potential Canadian launch capability. At the 2008 Canadian Space Summit, Arny Sokoloff from Continuum Aerospace presented a paper on the topic “Why Canada Should Have it’s Own Launch Capability” where he suggested that it’s would cost less than a new ice breaker and be much more effective in maintaining arctic surveillance.
But the issue of launch capability is usually cloaked and wrapped securely around a broader strategy focused on space based surveillance capabilities which include the RADARSAT-2, the RADARSAT Constellation and the Polar Epsilon project.
No one normally talks about the US as being a hindrance to arctic sovereignty and this seems to be the first time that members of the CF have publicly acknowledged the internal debate going on within government and military circles over how closely to align the Canadian space program to NASA and the United States which once was the “only game in town” but now is quite simply unable to function because of a serious, long-term and mission destroying lapse of vision plus catastrophic budget cutbacks caused by a President preoccupied (perhaps rightly) with other, more pressing issues.
It will be interesting to note where this debate eventually carries Canadian space focused efforts given our long term and deep relationships with the United States in this and other areas.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.

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