The future of the Canadian Space Sector: Recommendations from the Space Advisory Board

As tasked by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), the Space Advisory Board (SAB) released their report on the roundtable meetings held in 2017 in various locations. Participants expressed their thoughts and concerns about the future of the Canadian space sector, and almost all agreed that, although Canada has had a successful space program, we are falling behind from other nations that are developing more advanced technologies and increasing investment in their space sectors.

Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), met with the Space Advisory Board in July 2017 to discuss the future of Canada in space (Credit: ISED)

The following six categories were listed in the report to summarize the issues that were discussed during the roundtable meetings:

  • Designating space as a National Strategic Asset: Recognize space as a strategic sector essential for our sovereignty, security, and economic growth that is worth sustaining and growing.
    • Key proposal:
      • Adopt a whole-of-government approach that makes the space strategy applicable to all government departments and agencies
  • Strengthen world-class Canadian capabilities: Adopt policies, use procurement and seek international cooperation to support the growth of an internationally competitive space industry and scientific capacity
    • Key Proposals:
      • Utilize all applicable procurement and policy tools as essential elements of a space industry development strategy.
      • Foster international cooperation and partnerships that support the development and growth of our domestic capacity, enhances Canadian science capacity and furthers the country’s international foreign policy objectives.
  • Adopting new policies and regulations to capitalize on technological advances: Adopt policies, and review existing regulations to make them responsive to the realities of the New Space environment
    • Key Proposals:
      • Recognize the New Space environment as critical to future growth and adopt policies (regulatory, procurement, legal, financial) that support and encourage New Space entrepreneurship.
      • Procure space services (as opposed to owning and operating space systems) whenever possible in order to promote private sector investment.
  • Continuity of policies and sustainable funding: Pursue a balanced space program in program sizes, phasing and category
    • Key Proposal:
      • Pursue a balanced space program that includes all areas where Canada has world-class expertise, contains activities in all phases (studies, program definition, design, build and operate), and has an appropriate mix of flagship major programs and smaller, shorter duration missions.
  • Outreach and educational activities to inspire and prepare Canadians: Undertake extensive outreach and public education to engage Canadians of all ages in the space program
    • Key Proposal:
      • Establish a comprehensive outreach and educational program to involve Canadians of all ages in the Canadian space program and to encourage youth to pursue careers in science and technology.
  • An urgent call to action: Reverse the decline in Canada’s space capability before it’s too late
    • Key Proposal:
      • Develop, in time for the next federal budget, a new space strategy and follow-on space plan that provides the policies, programs and funding essential for the re-vitalization of Canada’s space capacity.

David Saint-Jacques (left) will visit the International Space Station in late 2018, becoming be the first Canadian astronaut to do so since Chris Hadfield (right)’s mission in 2013 (Credits: Canadian Space Agency).

Based on these discussions, the Space Advisory Board has made the following two recommendations:

  • Designate Space as a National Strategic Asset to ensure that:
    • the country (governments, industry, academia, and civil society) focuses on the importance of space to Canada’s economic and social growth;
    • a whole-of-government approach is taken in the development and management of the national space program;
    • the regulatory and procurement regimes support commercialization and export of space technologies;
    • Canada has the capacity to develop and use space to meet national needs; and
    • Canada has the specialized human resources required by government, industry and academia to conduct space activities.
  • Ask the Space Advisory Board to:
    • engage stakeholders on plans for implementing the Space Strategy;
    • provide independent advice on the implementation of the Space Strategy; and
    • develop metrics for evaluation of the implementation of the Space Strategy.

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The Canadian Space Society encourages their members to help communicate with the general public about the importance of space technologies and explorations, and/or reach out to their local Members of the Parliament (MP) to suggest adopting SAB’s recommendations.

If you would like to spread the word on social media, please use the hashtag #SpaceNeedsCanada.

A downloadable pdf version of the report could be found here.

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