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Space Café Canada by Dr. Jessica West: Canadian space innovation: A sneak peek at 2023

On January 27, Ploughshares Senior Researcher Dr. Jessica West spoke with Brian Gallant, the founding and current CEO of Space Canada, an association established in March 2022 to represent Canada’s outer space innovators and allied industries.

Nine companies originally came together to found Space Canada (https://space-canada.ca), with the aim of “strengthen[ing] the Canadian space ecosystem.” Since then, Space Canada has grown to 50 members. They come from the private sector and include Canadian startups and large global companies, as well as academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. Gallant mentioned Eagle Flight Network, Inc., which is described as “an Indigenous Space Hub, Space Port company.” Non-Canadian organizations can join as associate members.

Space Canada held its inaugural conference, Spacebound 2022, to encourage networking and discussion with Canadian “thought leaders in the industry.” Jessica attended the two-day event in Ottawa last fall, speaking on space sustainability, and noted the “fabulous energy in the room.” Federal government departments, including National Defence, the Canadian Space Agency, and Transport, sent representatives and made useful contributions. Spacebound 2023 is expected to take place later this year.

Space Canada promotes the critical role of space in solving many of the world’s problems. First, it strives to inform ordinary citizens about the extent to which they are already dependent on space for much of what they value in today’s world. As Mr. Gallant said, space is “omnipresent” in modern lives.

People tend to associate space with exploration and science fiction. It’s not always easy to convince them that money spent on developments in space is going to help them with their immediate problems. But Gallant pointed out that fintech and greentech are harder to develop and maybe not even possible without the space sector. And there are a lot of job opportunities in the space industry.

Gallant explained how four of the five top risks set out at the 2022 World Economic Forum can be fought with help from the space sector. Space can monitor and provide data on climate change. It can address social inequality by diminishing the digital divide. Cyber security, which is a feature of geopolitical tensions, is “completely intertwined” with the space sector. And the fourth risk is space traffic, which relates directly to the space industry.

Outer space, which is no longer accessed only by governments, is being rapidly commercialized. Space Canada wants the government to understand how the use of space is changing and regulate accordingly. A new space economy is developing in which businesses play an immense role. Gallant believes that Canada needs to figure this out quickly if it doesn’t want to be left behind. The January 20 government announcement, “Government of Canada supports commercial spaced launches in Canada,” is viewed by Space Canada as a step in the right direction and can lead to an “end-to-end” space sector in Canada. This will help both Canada and its allies, all of which need to increase their space capabilities.

The Canadian government can help space businesses by providing as much certainty as possible. On the Space Canada wish list are investments, policies, and a clear regulatory framework. It is also pushing for a national space council in Canada, in which government ministers and civil servants from different sectors collaborate to coordinate on and prioritize space, which impacts “almost everything.” Such a council would help to ensure that investments and policies would be more robust and timelier. It would show that Canada is prioritizing space and send an important message to the world. As Jessica noted, other guests on Space Café Canada have also recommended the establishment of such a council.

Space Canada promotes innovation in the space sector which, according to Gallant, flows from the “collision of ideas.” Right now, Canadian innovators are “making stuff that will go on the moon,” and developing new uses for space systems such as methane emissions monitoring devices. NorthStar is monitoring space traffic and debris. Such innovations can “make space sustainable for generations.”

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