Space Advisory Board (SAB) Roundtable on Canada's Future in Space

Hosted by: Jim Drummond and Gordon Osinski

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.


Canada has key capabilities in Earth observation, and has developed leading edge technologies that can be used to address national priorities and global challenges, and to spur innovation. Canada has an opportunity to promote the growth of the space sector with open data policies (e. g., for Canada's RADARSAT) that would further enable the development of new applications and services, as many other countries have done in making publicly funded earth observation data accessible.  

Canada, as an Arctic and maritime nation with vast territory, can use space technologies, applications and services to grow the sector and to improve quality of life (e. g. , for emergency response, telecommunication in remote areas, coastal monitoring and navigation, forest fire surveillance, ice monitoring, sustainable mining and forestry development, and climate change).

There is considerable optimism and excitement regarding plans for a spaceport in the Province of Nova Scotia. Developing Canadian launch capabilities may provide new opportunities for economic and regional development (e. g. , jobs creation, skills and talent hub); increased access to space to deploy technologies in space; and public interest and support for the Canadian space program.

It was suggested that a focus in Canada's space strategy should be on inspiring the next generation, as well as the current generation. The objective to 'grow the space sector' is integrally linked to the second objective on 'quality of life' and the related goals.   Inspiring the next generation is a continuous process that begins young, and that ends with a job in their field. There is presently a perceived gap in the space sector and other high tech fields as talent and innovations continue to leave due to lack of opportunities in Canada.

Anticipation of opportunities — particularly international opportunities — and continuity of objectives (and funding processes) are keys to long term development of the sector.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Data policy: Free and open access to space data will help SMEs to scale up, and support development and innovation in new applications and services. Stakeholders await decisions on access to data from Canada's RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) that will provide satellite imagery on Canada's territory and the world's surface. Availability of existing RADARSAT data and archive data was also identified as valuable for research.

Digital skills and infrastructure: As big data including Earth observation data becomes readily available, Canadians need to have the digital skills to analyze the information. Digital infrastructure to enable open access to space-related data sets may also need to be considered.

Space-related priorities: Government was advised to identify strategic priorities that will provide direction to industry and academia to plan and make decisions. A long-term space plan may help to grow the sector and address global challenges by establishing mandated activities/priorities for government, academia and the private sector to chart together. Reference was made to the approach used for shipbuilding (the National Shipbuilding Strategy) as a model to consider, particularly the long-term strategic development aspect.

Canada First: The principle of the Space Policy Framework, "Canadian interests first,” resonated with many participants as an important objective to maintain going forward.

International competition: Aligned with existing trade agreements, Canada may wish to pursue industrial policies and procurement models to support Canadian integration with global value chains and a strong domestic industry. A balanced approach is important; foreign competitors subsidized by other jurisdictions may limit the long-term sustainability of SMEs, while protectionist policies can hinder the ability of domestic firms to compete internationally in export markets.

Government procurement: As markets are opened to foreign competition through trade agreements such as the recent Canada — EU trade agreement (CETA), Industrial and Technological Benefits policy, Canadian content and Value Proposition requirements may safeguard scale-up and growth of Canadian firms/SMEs.

International contracts: Canadian firms need to have support from the Canadian government to bid on other government contracts and/or opportunities; this support can also take the form of coaching and mentoring as it can be challenging to leverage opportunities with other international governments/space agencies (such as ESA, NASA).

Inclusive growth: Programming, similar to the US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and US Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) set-aside programs, may be models to advance innovative ideas with small businesses, academia, and minority groups through a phased approach to commercialization. Cooperative research between small business and universities under the STTR program also supports STEM development.

Outreach and awareness: Government outreach may raise the profile of existing opportunities available to the space sector. Stakeholders —  such as academia, companies, and associations — need to engage locally to promote their work, to help build the global brand of the Canadian space program and to inspire a talented workforce. The inclusion of STEM related activities by the Canadian Space Agency as a requirement in competitive processes (i. e. , Requests for Proposals), was lauded and encouraged.

Intellectual property: Intellectual property (IP) has the potential to enhance export opportunities, and innovation. IP could be made more widely available (e. g. , disseminate information on hardware solutions for other entities to sell and/or commercialize for spin off applications); or, incentives could be established to encourage investment and commercialization (making IP available after a certain amount of time has expired, 5 years or upon first right of refusal). Difficulties were acknowledged relating to the interests in the treatment of IP in contracting and research and development.

Public Communications:  Both educational information and entertaining content is important for captivating the public's attention and in particular youth. Innovative technologies can be equally inspiring as astronauts, and showcasing innovative space technologies is one way to spur interest in the space sciences. Enabling industry and academia to "get the word" out, particularly by younger members of the community, is important.

Emerging capabilities: Canada's future deep space activities could consider micro-systems and nanotechnologies (to reduce payload for space manufacturing) and habitats (for living outside low-earth orbit). Cross — disciplinary areas (systems development and data analysis) may have significant spin-off applications.

Top Ideas / Outcomes

Open data: To advance economic interests and societal benefits, space-related information/data should be available for the public through open data; this includes consideration of both historical data (past RADARSAT), and imagery that might be available in the future through the Government's RADARSAT Constellation Mission.

Modernize legislation: Canadian legislation and regulations need to be adapted to promote innovation and technology development. It was noted that GPS would not have been imaginable under the restrictions of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA). For the proposed spaceport in Nova Scotia, there are a number of regulatory hurdles that must be overcome.

Encouraging effective collaboration and partnerships: Government, industry and academia can work together to create jobs and grow the space sector through specific initiatives and planning, similar to the experience of the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Outside of directly funding projects, the CSA can play a role to help bring stakeholders together and connect ideas to the marketplace. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) may wish to actively work with industry/academia to encourage the formation of consortia to bid on international opportunities (e. g. , under ESA or NASA programs). Existing Government of Canada programs and/or contracts could also be structured to require consortia bidding.

Launch capabilities: Developing  launch capability in Canada may be an area for high growth that would establish anchor tenancy in the space sector and serve as a springboard for other priorities (such as Canada's Cubesat program). The satellite industry is a growing global market, and there is a level high demand from partners for launch services.

Continuity and stability: Enduring policy objectives, and stable funding levels for core activities (flagship missions), and to respond to emerging capabilities (mid-level, small missions) on an ongoing basis is important. It may be helpful to understand government decision-making processes and level of ambition (to be world leaders, or makers of small widgets). It was noted that big programs and or large contributions to other space agency programs help to attract and develop talent.


  • Bradley Farquhar—Space Generation Advisory Council
  • Carl Kumpic of IMP  Aerospace and Defence
  • Desmond Power—C-CORE
  • Duncan McSporran — Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada 
  • Harvey Doane—Nova Scotia Business Inc.
  • Howard Moyst—AIME Consulting Inc.
  • Jeff Burlock—Xplornet Communication Inc.
  • Luigi Gallo—St. Mary's University, Department of Astronomy and Physics 
  • Monique Arsenault, Nova Scotia Government
  • Penny Morrill—Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Sciences—Earth Sciences
  • Rich Billiard—Atlantic Alliance of Aerospace and Defense Associations
  • Rob Thacker—St. Mary's University, Department of Astronomy and Physics 
  • Stephen Matier —  Maritime Launch Services