Canada hopes to promote its massive geography, as well as its burgeoning technology and aerospace sector, into a flourishing commercial space launch industry.
The federal government plans to spend at least three years developing a new regulatory framework for this emerging sector. Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra said updating Canada’s policies will be critical as space becomes accessible to more countries and corporations.
“We want to convey the message loud and clear — not only to Canadians but also to foreign countries and businesses — that Canada intends on being a leader in the field of space,” said Alghabra at a press conference at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Longueuil, Québec on January 20.
“For many years, Canadian satellites have launched from sites in other countries and it’s time for us to start launching them right here at home.”
Canada had sub-orbital launches in the past, but the rockets never reached full orbit. For now, Canada relies on commercial and government launch sites in other countries to reach orbit. This puts Canada at risk of being left behind in the emerging political and economic space landscape, which is no longer exclusively led by governments.
A government statement following the press conference said Canada’s aerospace industry in 2020 contributed more than $22 billion in GDP and employed nearly 207,000 people. While new legislation is being drafted, Alghabra said Canada will allow commercial space launches that current legislation considers safe, secure, and environmentally sustainable “on a case-by-case basis.”
In the meantime, Transport Canada will work with other federal departments and agencies to develop new safety, regulatory, and licensing standards. CSA President Lisa Campbell said the agency will have consultations on regulating space activities. This includes in-space servicing, space resources, and satellite constellations.
Any new legislation will ensure that launches and payloads reflect Canada’s security, environmental, and economic interests.
“Enabling commercial launch from Canada will allow our sector to capture its share of the growing global space launch market,” Campbell said during the press conference. “Space Launch will increase Canada’s domestic capability to cover the full lifecycle of space missions, adding to our world-leading capabilities in design, construction, and operation.”
Representatives from the private sector praised the announcement. Brian Gallant, CEO of Space Canada, said development of an “end-to-end space sector” would also help Canada improve communications and internet access across the country, and meet the country’s defence and sovereignty goals.
Space Canada represents 50 Canadian companies involved in space technologies and research. Last October, Gallant called on the federal government to create a national space council that would set civil, commercial, international, and defence priorities in space.
“There are people that project that the global space sector will reach hundreds of millions of dollars yearly, if not even a trillion dollars yearly by 2040,” said Gallant.