Sunday, April 20, 2014

CSA President Walt Natynczyk Pops-up and Looks Around

          by Chuck Black

Nine months after formally stepping into the role of Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president in August 2013, retired Canadian Forces (CF) Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) General Walt Natynczyk has finally begun providing details on the direction he's been tasked to take the agency. But the media response to this new openness suggests that there are many questions still to be addressed.

"The General" highlighting important drivers behind "Canada's space policy framework" in Montreal on April 15th. As outlined in the April 15th, 2014 article "Walter Natynczyk à Montréal: avenir du Canada dans l’espace et Russie," these drivers include sovereignty, security and  national prosperity, plus the creation of a "vigorous" economy derived from space sector innovation and international collaboration. Photo c/o Nicolas Laffont/ 

In a series of articles related to coverage of his April 15th, 2014 appearance at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations (MCFR) to speak on the topic of "A Strategic Vision for the Future of Canada in Space," Natynczyk responded frankly and publicly on a variety of topics.

But the specifics of the answers aren't entirely a glowing endorsement of the CSA or of its ability to follow-through with its proposed role as outlined in "Canada's space policy framework," the Federal government position paper announced by Industry Minister James Moore on February 7th, 2014 and most recently discussed in the April 13th, 2014 post "Power-Points from the February 25th Canadian Space Agency Meeting."

For example, the April 16th, 2014 Canadian Press article "Tensions with Russia not affecting space station: Canadian Space Agency," quoted Natynczyk as stating that Canada continues to work with "all its partners involved in the space station," which include the United States, Russia, Europe and Japan without noting that the final decision to continue on with International Space Station (ISS) activities is primarily a political decision, which likely won't be made at the CSA level.

As outlined in the April 7th, 2014 post "The Crimean Crisis and Canadian Aerospace Activities," other Canadian aerospace and space partnerships have indeed been derailed or curtailed due to the Crimean crisis. The April 19th, 2014 NetNews Ledger article "Canadian businesses should prepare for broader sanctions against Russia" has suggested that further sanctions and more disruption could be around the corner.

International relations might not be the only external constraint on CSA activities. There might also be budget concerns.

For example, the April 15th, 2014 QMI article "Canada to focus on payloads, not rockets, says space boss" quoted Natynczyk as stating that it's cheaper to rent rocket rides from corporations or other space agencies rather than start a launch program from scratch and that "the CSA's budget isn't the only federal money that can be used for extra-terrestrial projects."

The article also quoted Natynczyk's boss, Industry Minister Moore, who said that the CSA has "more than enough money to move forward," but the overall focus of the article on CSA budget concerns suggests that there are those who doubt the official statements in this matter.

The man behind "The General." Industry Minister James Moore watches as a robotic arm performs a demonstration at the official opening of Dynamic Structures Ltd.'s expanded facility in Port Coquitlam, BC in September 2013. Dynamic has been involved in the design and construction of most of the world's largest observatories. Photo c/o Richard Lam.

The most wide ranging interview was the April 20th, 2014 Canadian Press article "Canadian Space Agency boss insists his appointment does not spell militarization," which focused on Natynczyk's previous military job and the effects it could have on his current appointment. According to the article, the government retains full confidence in Natynczyk and his abilities to manage the CSA.

1 comment:

  1. some comments for discussion:

    1. Tensions with Russia will affect everything across the board as it involves contacts at all levels, business and scientific. It is posturing to say it will not especially with sanctions against the Russian economy in the works. Putin does not need ISS but it provides him with two interesting situations: it does make a great margin on the cost per seat for a ride to it and it demonstrates declining US capability as they have no way to access it. For Canada, it was/is a costly 15 minutes of fame in the media universe.

    The larger question is what does ISS involvement actually provide to Canada based on our investment in it.

    2. Cheaper to rent rockets? This has become a catch-all summary that is never backed up by any detailed explanation of how those few words summarize a set of complex size/technology options. Yes, in some scenarios, but more importantly is it in Canada's national interest-politically, economically (business) and scientifically- to develop the capability to access space independent of these "cheap" rides? Of course, "cheap" means indefinite launch schedule, indefinite priority to be on the vehicle as a secondary, significantly delayed use of what the payload was suppose to provide and so on. The other major question is what does that "cheap" rental bring to Canada in terms of investing the very meager tax dollars we have. Like all renters, nothing, its money tossed away.

    3. Canadian militarization of space? The Army cannot afford new vehicles. This is some kind of false media ego boost for Canadians (?), to make us feel like we like the Big Players (?). We can barely militarize ourselves on the ground and we have no access to space. No, the balloon program is not a space program.

    4. By stating CSA has all the money it needs, Natnczyk is there to maintain the status quo. For Canadians, the question should be asked whether under spending is worth spending at all.


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