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

May 18, 2017 – WebEx, Canada’s Youth and Next Generation Space Leaders

Hosts: Stephane Germain, Christine Tovee and Michelle Mendes

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

There is an opportunity for greater outreach and awareness about Canada’s successes in the space sector, particularly from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Government of Canada surrounding engagement with academic institutions and small and medium-sized businesses. The efforts made by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in promoting career opportunities within the Forces, which successfully connects with audiences through dynamic and engaging communication, is a model to consider. Communication efforts may also be tailored to target those outside of traditional science and mathematics-based disciplines in order to promote a broad range of career opportunities in fields including business development, design and project management, among others within the space industry.

Significant interest in inspiring the next generation was voiced as many participants suggested that young students should be exposed to the space sector early on. Integrating space material into school curriculums may also prove to be valuable given how dependent society has become on space, specifically with respect to satellite communications.  University students may also play a role in inspiring the next generation by attending elementary and high schools in order to champion post-secondary studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and beyond.  

A call for greater employment opportunities within the space industry in Canada emerged as a product of the perceived rise in space-based activity abroad relative to in Canada. Many highly skilled fresh graduates are being attracted to foreign markets despite a desire to remain in Canada. Greater support for entrepreneurship was also voiced, particularly with regards to more accessible research and development (R&D) commercialization vehicles, incubators/accelerators, and micro-funding programs.

Canada could position itself as a global leader in Earth observation (EO) and planetary sciences given the current United States (US) Administration’s disinterest in climate change issues. Canada’s RADARSAT program, for example, may provide a wealth of proprietary data in this regard.  The importance of government investments to build and sustain space activity was also highlighted with reference to government-backed success stories in the US such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Digital skills and infrastructure: Space-based data collection and dissemination presents new opportunities for expanding digital skills across multiple sectors requiring big-data manipulation. Canada should support the development of satellite technology instead of buying data abroad given its strong position to become a leader in this field.

Space-related priorities: Space policies and frameworks must resonate with peoples’ lives in order to make space exciting to the average Canadian. Policy setting would also benefit from greater engagement with youths who are often excluded from ongoing discussions. Policies should also align with global efforts in ensuring the safeguarding of the planet from a climate change and sustainability perspective.i>

Inclusive growth: the US’ Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, is a model that has received lots of attention in Canada and that could help to advance innovative ideas through partnership.

Education and Public Outreach: The CSA needs to increase its footprint across education and public outreach through in school programs at all levels and social media platforms to better engage with today’s youth in order to better promote space-based careers. A suggested approach to accomplish this would be an education and outreach plan that is able to engage children that follows through into post-secondary. Particular interest was raised around space mining, and the desire for more programs to get students involved in, and educated on the skills required to develop such systems.  

Public communications:  Both educational information and entertaining content is important for captivating the public’s attention and in particular youth. Entrepreneurial success stories can be equally inspiring as astronauts, and showcasing innovative space companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX is one way to incite interest in the space sciences.i>

Emerging capabilities: Autonomous refueling is anticipated to be an emerging capability in which Canada can seek to hold a competitive advantage.

Planetary science:  It is currently perceived that the CSA’s focus is on engineering and building things like robotics, but more space-based efforts could be targeted towards planetary and environmental sciences.  
Lack of coordination: The Canadian Satellite Design Challenges (CSDC) was cited as a well-established program in Canada and served as a benchmark for assessing the CSA’s CubeSat program. It was noted that the CubeSat program may be a duplication of effort and may not result in incremental innovation, as the aggressive timelines would in effect encourage groups to buy subsystems rather than design them from scratch. This impedes necessary skills development and facilities/infrastructure needed to grow these programs across the country. Overall, there is an opportunity to better assess gaps in order to better inform future youth engagement programs.

Top Ideas / Outcomes

Social approach: Approaching space through a fundamental cultural lens will contribute to increasing quality of life as demonstrated by the Connecting Canadians program for example. 

Open data: The proliferation of open data/big-data better positions Canada in the global conversation surrounding New Space.

Brand ambassadors:  Young engineers and scientists who participate in academic clubs and in international competitions essentially act as brand ambassadors for Canada’s science and technology capabilities, abroad. Further support and recognition of these efforts will encourage more to participate, ultimately boosting Canada’s global presence. This will also encourage international partnerships between businesses as students graduate into careers. Additionally, partnership between Canadian and foreign universities, and the mobility of students in studies overseas could be better supported given the broader benefits of such international exposure.

Entrepreneurship: Business coaching to young entrepreneurs and fledging start-ups to stimulate growth and ensure higher success rates.

Access to Facilities: Wider access to command test facilities and safe demonstration sites will help to encourage new innovations from students and youths who typically lack access to these types of resources. 

Continuity and stability: Ensuring Canada’s continued success in space hinges on more frequent missions with continued support and funding. This in turn will keep the Canadian space industry at the forefront of people’s minds, encourage start-ups to remain motivated, and inspires the next generation.

Participants

  • Adam Vigneron – European Space Agency
  • Anne Wen – Space Generation Advisory Council
  • Austin Shirley – University of Saskatchewan, Department of Engineering  
  • Bachar Elzein – École Polytechnique de Montréal, Department of Engineering
  • Bryan Little – Royal Military College, Department of Engineering
  • Carl Demchuck - RockÉTS
  • Cassie Stuurman – University of Texas, Institute for Geophysics
  • Christophe Leclerc – École Polytechnique de Montréal, Aerospace Department
  • Chuck Black  - Commercial Space Blog
  • Clovis Vinant-Tang – McGill University, Space Systems Group
  • Dario Schor – Magellan
  • Elise Harrington – University of Western Ontario, Department of Earth Sciences
  • Felix Valin – McGill University, Department of Physics
  • Francis Picotte - Ryerson Space Society, Aerospace Department
  • Gabriel Rodriguez – École Polytechnique de Montréal, Department of Engineering
  • Jan Clarence Dee – Concordia University, Department of Engineering  
  • Larry Reeves –Canadian Satellite Design Challenge; UrtheCast
  • Lilly Hader –George Brown College
  • Michele Faragalli – Mission Control Space Services
  • Michael Anthony Jordan – Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Olivier Jobin – École Polytechnique de Montréal, Department of Engineering
  • Paul Albert-Lebrun – McGill University, Department of Engineering
  • Pierre Daligault –  École Polytechnique de Montréal, Department of Engineering
  • Pierre-Alexandre Desrochers – RockÉTS
  • Ryan Anderson - Canadian Space Society
  • Tanya Harrison –Arizona State University, Space Technology and Science  
  • Walid Chabchoub – McGill University, Department of Engineering
  • Zaid Rana – Concordia University, Department of Engineering
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