Space Advisory Board (SAB) roundtable on Canada’s future in space

May 5, 2017, St Hubert, Quebec

SAB Hosts: Lucy Stojak, Michael Pley, and Stéphane Germain

Areas of focus

  1. Grow Canada’s Space Sector;
  2. Innovate and Explore Space;
  3. Strengthen Long-Term International Partnerships;
  4. Inspire the Next Generation;
  5. Contribute to our Understanding of the Earth;
  6. Improve Quality of Life for Canadians; and,
  7. Ensure a Safe and Secure Nation.

Highlights

The industry is transforming and there is an urgent call for action, to help reinvigorate Canada's space sector through a space strategy that will enable predictable and balanced programming, while also providing the flexibility to respond to emerging technologies and changing business models.

Forward-looking laws and regulations are necessary in the near-term to keep up with technologies; and Canada has an opportunity to lead. Potential changes to the current framework for telecommunications and remote sensing may be proposed, and potential for legislation related to emerging space activities, such on-orbit servicing and space mining.

Inspiring the current and future generation is a priority, and there are different approaches that may be considered, including revitalized education and outreach activities by the Canadian Space Agency, consideration of new and novel ways of engaging Canadians, especially youth, and new approaches for increased collaboration with education and outreach groups. Consideration should be given to enabling the transition of inspired students from the education system into employment in the Canadian space sector through challenges and competitions.

Research and engagement to learn from other public outreach organizations (e.g., Planetary Society, Actua, Let’s Talk Science) may be necessary to understand Canadians’ awareness of the space sector, people’s interests, and to identify efficient communications tools (e.g., web-based platforms to target youth). For instance, Canadian youth are generally captivated by modern day pioneers (such as Elon Musk) and may be less aware and inspired by Canadian flagship missions (e.g., the RADARSAT Constellation Mission).

A multidisciplinary approach to space that integrates social sciences and legal studies is proposed. The number of Canadians in STEM is strong, but fewer students are going into space studies. Canada may wish to consider the creation of a Canadian space policy institute in collaboration with stakeholders, and similar to other countries (e.g., US George Washington University, and European Space Policy Institute).

Key implementation considerations/challenges

Changing environment: It was suggested that the Canadian space sector is struggling and that action is needed sooner as opposed to later. The space strategy will need to be adaptable in order to respond to the rate of technology development, changing business models, and new ecosystems. Due to the move to High Throughput Satellites and hybrid LEO-GEO constellations, the traditional satellite manufacturing sector where Canada has considerable strength is struggling as operators delay their satellite orders in the GEO market to adjust to the flexibility required by the changing market (e.g., only one commercial GEO satellite ordered year to date versus the typical average of 20-25 satellites per year). In the absence of any new government programs, this is creating a near term crisis in the satellite systems manufacturing market, exacerbated by competing spacefaring nations investing in new product development to re-tool for the changing market.

Continuity and program alignment: Program activities need to be guaranteed over a longer term horizon. Canada could consider a commitment to a regular cadence of missions, and a regular timeline such as: ten nanosat missions per year; one SmallSat mission every two years; and, a large international mission every 5 years. Alignment of programs, and coordination of funding (e.g., NSERC, MITAC, NRC-IRAP) to ensure continuity for training, fundamental to applied research, and demonstrations and ultimately help to bring innovative products and service to the market.

Legal frameworks and global leadership: Domestic laws and regulations need to be viewed as a facilitator in creating certainty and stability in the business environment, as opposed to a barrier. Canada must continue to work with international partners and like-minded countries through multilateral forums such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) to address national interests, and lead internationally on the development of rules and norms to ensure our interests are reflected (e.g., space debris, weaponization of space, space mining).

Investment planning: Investments should be targeted to provide the opportunity to fly the next generation of technologies (e.g., V Band satellite technology, asteroid mining technology, space servicing). Canada needs to make decisions on key strengths and capabilities to invest in. The International Space Station mission is nearing its end, and the Government needs to be ready to respond quickly to invitations for collaboration from international partners and not miss opportunities.

Funding levels: While Canada is a country that “punches above its weight in space”, this analogy suggests that Canada will lose the battle in the long-run. Canada’s overall funding for the space sector must be examined, and spending levels determined that are appropriate so that the Canadian space industry can remain competitive against other countries that are investing heavily in this domain.

Defence procurement: Considering militaries are often the biggest spenders for space technologies, there may be an opportunity to leverage space defence procurements to re-invigorate the space sector and support the purchase of Canadian good/services. It was suggested that contracts should always be open and competitive, but guarantee that a portion of the work will take place in Canada. Procurement processes are slow and programs that have been in planning for years need to be launched to support growth of the space sector.

Space science: Space science missions generate important benefits that deepen our understanding of the Earth, including our environmental impact. There is need for continuity of science funding and research teams after instruments are built and flown in space. While there was some discussion as to whether Canada should fly its own science satellites, and instead fly payloads on international satellites, there is strong support overall from the space community for Canadian science missions. The last two science programs were standalone microsats (MOST and SCISAT) which were sources of Canadian pride. There has not been any new science mission initiated in Canada since 2003, which was interpreted as the relevant scientific community not being sustained.

Start-up and scale up: Government can support early stage companies by providing opportunities for flight heritage, serving as a first customer or anchor customer, developing eco-systems through programming (e.g., UK Catapult) and regulatory reforms (e.g., Luxemburg). Continuity is needed to maintain capabilities and to enable scaling up of firms and advancements in science excellence. To keep pace with technology advancements, it is increasingly important to demonstrate technologies in space and to progress to TRL level 9 rapidly. SMEs in Canada can support the development of super-constellations, but it is a challenge to find a platform to test new technologies.

Top ideas / Outcomes

Balanced space program: a long-term strategy is required to move from a program-by-program approach. A long-term strategy should include a mix of flagship programs (e.g. International Space Station and RADARSAT Constellation Mission) that have high visibility, and smaller, responsive programs to stimulate commercial businesses and allow the universities to develop skills and talent.

Focus on action: to reinvigorate the space sector and retain expertise in Canada, government support may be required in the near-term to develop key technologies and to help prepare for the next-wave of disruptive technologies (e.g., mega-constellations). A ‘next generation communications satellite program’ was proposed, similar to the government’s investment in Telesat's Anik F2 that established Canadian commercial leadership for the next decade in two-way satellite internet at Ka-band back in 2004.

Modernize laws and regulations: existing telecommunications and remote sensing regulations may need to be reviewed and refreshed, and new regulatory mechanisms may need to be developed quickly to protect Canadian interests. Modernized and adaptable laws and regulations are needed to address commercial activities in space and emerging technologies and capabilities (e.g., private space stations, on-orbit servicing, space mining, private space transportation, space tourism). The idea of a space policy institute was proposed as a focal point within government to deal with the task of ensuring a dynamic regulatory framework.

Partnerships: it is important to leverage existing financial resources and ecosystems through agreements with international partners, existing organizations including provincial networks, and to seek opportunities for cost-sharing arrangements or co-programming.

Renewed Commitment to Outreach: a robust education and outreach program is necessary to inspire the next generation – the Canadian Space Agency ’s education and public outreach (EPO) program should be re-established and include active participation of the EPO community (e.g., space societies, Canadian museums, libraries).The Government may wish to consider directing a small portion of contract funding toward EPOs; and, re-assess the capacity of the Canadian Space Agency to influence space-related education (e.g., through on-line resources, learning sessions for teachers).

Skills and talent development: While astronauts and Canada’s space activities are an important source of inspiration, competitions and events (e.g., like the NASA Apps Challenge, hackathons, rocket competitions and cubesat development programs) can be a highly effective way to inspire the next generation and develop talent.

Big data and accessibility: in the advent of super constellation satellites, a surge of information is expected and new partnership may need to be developed to support worldwide knowledge, as well as to address global challenges (climate change, environmental monitoring). Expertise in informatics will be important, and a strategy for integrating space-based data with other sources to make data more useful and accessible to the public through open data policies. The idea of a ‘New Space initiative’ was proposed, whereby the government can foster startups and act as an anchor customer for data that supports Canadian needs and is then leveraged for exports.

Participants

  • Alain Aubertin – Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec
  • Martin Aubé – Ministère de l'Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation Québec
  • Richard Boudreault – Sigma Energy Storage Inc.
  • Nathan De Ruiter – Euroconsult
  • Natalia Larrea Brito – Euroconsult
  • Carl Demchuck – RockÉTS
  • Karl Doetsch
  • Chantelle Dubois – Space Generation Advisory Council
  • Marie-Eve Ducharme – Nüvü Caméras Inc.
  • Eric Edwards – Xiphos Technologies
  • Jacques Giroux – ABB Bomen Inc.
  • Kate Howells – The Planetary Society
  • Ram S. Jakhu – McGill University, Centre for Research of Air and Space Law
  • Virendra Jha – VRSpace Consultants Inc.
  • David Kendall – United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
  • Alexandra Kindrat – Aerospace Program for the Lester B Pearson School Board
  • John Landovskis – Advantech Wireless Inc.
  • Julie Mandar – ABB Bomen Inc.
  • Joanna Boshouwers – MDA
  • Marina Mississian – COM DEV Canada, Honeywell Aerospace
  • Ewan Reid – Mission Control Space Services Inc.
  • Warren Soh – Magellan Aerospace
  • Mathieu Trudelle – Canada Economic Development for Québec Regions
  • Gregg A. Wade – Royal Military College of Canada, Department of Physics
  • Jane Diane Bachynski – MPB Communications Inc.
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