Sunday, June 04, 2017

Part 12: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

Lessons and Conclusions

Astronauts Wanted Part Episode 4. Part 1. Graphic c/o CSA.
By Graham Gibbs & W. M. ("Mac") Evans

This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief history of the Canadian space program, written by two of the major participants.

We could write a book about Canada’s perspectives on international cooperation and the factors that have contributed to our unquestionable success and thus the lessons we have learned. Fortunately they can be succinctly summarized.

The Canadian Space Program, because it is and always has been a modestly budgeted program, has learned that leveraging international cooperation is a necessity, not a luxury.

But we are not free-loaders. We begin at home by focusing on our science and technology expertise.

That is to say we do not branch out into entirely new technologies for which we have no heritage. An example would be the government’s conscious decision in the 1974 Canadian Policy for Space to not develop a launcher capability beyond our sounding rocket program.

We pursue a so-called “niche strategy” where we focus on what we do well and importantly, for our partners, where we can add real value.

Our success, we therefore suggest, is based on the fact that we recognize we are a small space faring nation, especially with respect to most of our partners, and we do not try to pretend otherwise. We focus on areas where Canada excels so as to develop world-class expertise to be a “desired and valued partner.” We achieve this through deliberate and focused investments in research and development (e.g. the CSA’s Space Technology Development Program that mostly supports industry and university researchers).

We also strive for a "Space Team Canada" approach that includes close engagement with other government departments, academia, industry and the public. And, it perhaps goes without saying this includes aligning our space program with Canadian government national and foreign policy objectives.

The criteria for Canada’s participation in space exploration is a good example of Canadian Space policy at work:

  • Canada’s contribution(s) should be: "Early," that is we should be involved at the beginning; "Scalable," that is if we were to contribute a rover, for example, it might start as a small rover but the technology would be such that it could be scaled up into a larger rover; and "Transferable," which is to mean that the technology would be applicable to say Lunar and Mars exploration.
Graphic c/o ISECG.
  • Canada’s contributions should also be "Critical," "Visible" and "Welcomed," since without these attributes our partner(s) may not want us and we would not be able to secure public support for the investment.
  • Potential contribution(s) to a space exploration program need to be 
  • Visible to the Canadian public, 
  • Meet Canadian science goals. 
  • Use Canadian enabling/heritage technologies, 
  • Develop sustainable core competencies. 
  • Result in Canadians flying in space and 
We have used space exploration as an example but these criteria can be, and are applied to, decisions made on contributions to our partners programs in any of the space disciplines for which we have an interest.

In conclusion, Canada has had a pragmatic, flexible and dynamic approach to its space program to date. Our space policies have kept pace with the rapid changes in technology and the evolving international environment. This agility has been a hallmark of the program.

Two major international events will affect the Canadian space program in the short-term. These are the major thrust of the international space community for the robotic exploration of Mars, and the increased emphasis on global security. 

Canada has a unique set of skills and experience to be a major contributor to both of these. Our space robotics capability is second to none in the world and would be of considerable advantage in the exploration of Mars. Our radar satellite capability is also second to none in the world and should be of interest to those concerned about national security, sovereignty and contribution to global security. The CSA, our space industry and our scientific community are actively working to make these possibilities a reality.

In the longer run, new technologies will permit the use of small and micro satellites at much lower costs than today’s satellites. These technologies, coupled with new technologies for communications and earth observation will allow Canada to pursue at substantially lower cost, new applications of space to meet national needs. This should result in a larger number of satellite launches than has been the case in the past.

By all measures, the Canadian space program has been a remarkable success. Over the five decades of the program: 
  • Canadians (on a per capita basis) have become one of the largest users of space systems in the world. 
  • Canadian space technology has become essential to the everyday life of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. 
  • Our space industry has developed an enviable record for innovation and reliability and has become the most export oriented space industry in the world. 
  • Our Canadarm technology is recognized the world over as an icon for Canada’s high technology capabilities. 
  • Our astronauts are a source of immense pride among Canadians.
All of this has been possible because of the efforts of a number of visionary Canadians and a succession of governments willing to support innovation to meet the needs of its citizens. 

Canada has shown an outstanding capability to develop innovative and practical space policies to take advantage of the rapid progress in technology and the changing international environment. Our industries and scientists have developed world class capabilities that are second to none.

Canada has the skills, experience and capabilities in government, academia and industry to continue to be a world leader in the development and application of space technology to meet the needs of Canadians and indeed, all humanity.

Graham Gibbs & Mac Evans. Photos c/o MyCanada & CSA.
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first counselor for (US) space affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of "Five Ages of Canada - A HISTORY from Our First Peoples to Confederation."

William MacDonald "Mac" Evans served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from November 1991 to November 2001, where he led the development of the Canadian astronaut and RADARSAT programs, negotiated Canada’s role in the International Space Station (ISS) and contributed to various international agreements that serve as the foundation of Canada’s current international space partnerships.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast and as a member of the Federal government Space Advisory Board.

Last Week: "The 2000's, Chris Hadfield, Canadarm 2, Dextre, MOST, SciSat, CloudSat, Telesat, RADARSAT-2 and Emerson's Shadow," in part eleven of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets."

To start at the beginning: Check out part one, "Abstract, Introduction & The 1950's" of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page