Space technologies are essential to support our national needs. Contributing to the economic well-being of our country, space assets serve Canadians and government departments by strengthening our national sovereignty, safety, security, resource management, and environmental monitoring capabilities. The Canadian space sector has established a world-class reputation in many areas, including in Earth observation, space robotics, space science and exploration, and satellite communications; and continues to innovate into emerging capabilities
In February 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Government of Canada’s investment of $1.9 billion in support of Canada’s contribution to the NASA-Lunar Gateway, a cornerstone of Canada’s new space strategy. With this investment, Canada will develop and contribute a smart robotic system—Canadarm3—for the Gateway. Canadarm3 will be able to perform repairs and maintenance work, and conduct science without the presence of astronauts.
The Prime Minister subsequently announced an additional investment of $150 million over five years in support for a new Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). This program will help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Canada develop new technologies for use and testing in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, and health.
Exploration, Imagination, Innovation: A New Space Strategy for Canada
In March 2019, the Government of Canada released Exploration, Imagination, Innovation: A New Space Strategy for Canada (pdf, 1.62 Mb, 22 pages). The Strategy recognizes space as a strategic asset for Canada, where all of government needs to work together so that Canadians can continue to rely on space to help meet national needs.
The Strategy aims to leverage Canadian strengths like robotics, and advance science and innovation in exciting areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and biomedical technologies. It places a priority on applying these innovations to solve important challenges on Earth like improving access to broadband services, protecting Canada’s sovereignty through space-based defense assets, or improving the delivery of healthcare in remote communities by leveraging space medicine.
The New Space Strategy for Canada will strengthen Canada’s capacity to keep pace with the new space economy. It will support innovative space firms through regulation modernization, allowing them to grow and thrive in Canada and abroad. It also outlines how the Government of Canada will position Canada’s commercial space sector to take full advantage of the growing global space economy through programming such as Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) Space Technology Development Program (STDP) and policies such as the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) policy.
Canadian Space Sector
The Canadian space sector is highly innovative and directly employs approximately 10,000 Canadians. The State of the Canadian Space Sector reports that in 2018, the Canadian space sector generated $5.7 billion in revenues and contributed $2.5 billion to the Canadian economy. The Canadian space sector is composed of more than 200 organizations, which consist of firms, universities, and research centres. Research and development (R&D) intensity for manufacturing in the space sector is 11 times higher than the average for manufacturing in Canada. 94% of Canadian space companies are SMEs and account for 43% of Canadian space sector revenues. Canada has strengths in space systems manufacturing in areas such as robotics, satellite communications, Earth observation, and data systems.
Through investments in the Innovation and Skills Plan, the government has supported the Canadian space sector through the SIF program. Since 2018, SIF has invested in four space related projects that are strengthening and developing the space sector:
- On April 11, 2018, the government announced an investment of almost $11.5 million in Advantech Satellite Networks to develop an advanced satellite broadband network that will improve the performance of satellite communication systems.
- On October 19, 2018, the government announced an investment of $7.2 million in exactEarth Ltd. The funding will help exactEarth to become a world leader in real-time satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS) services for ship tracking.
- On November 15, 2018, the government announced an investment of $13 million in NorthStar Earth and Space Inc. The funding will help NorthStar introduce a new, efficient, and effective way to protect space assets by tracking space debris.
- On July 24, 2019, the government announced an investment of $85 million in Telesat Canada. The funding will help Telesat to build and test innovative technologies for its low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. This constellation will significantly improve global connectivity and expand high-speed internet coverage to rural and remote regions throughout Canada.
Canadian space organizations are internationally renowned for their leading-edge technologies. With the support of the CSA, Canadian space organizations have developed long-standing relationships with prime contractors and space-faring nations. Among its international relations, Canada has collaborated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in a wide range of space science and exploration activities over the past four decades. Canada is also the only non-European country to participate in the European Space Agency (ESA) programs.
ISED Canada participates in the development of space policies and strategies, and ensures that the needs of the sector and the government are taken into consideration.