Thursday, April 20, 2017

Space Advisory Committee Members Announced: Various Stakeholders Release Independent Assessments, Just in Case

          By Chuck Black

With almost no fanfare in either the mainstream media or amongst the Federal government, but with a great deal of confusion from the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), the Federal government department tasked with administering its activities. the members of the long awaited space advisory board were finally announced last Tuesday evening.

Industry minister James Moore at the 2014 Canadian Aerospace Summit and his successor, innovation minister NavDeep Bains at the 2016 edition of the same event. As outlined in the November 19th, 2014 post, "Industry Minister Moore Announces Space Advisory Board Members," the membership of the space advisory board was long-awaited even in 2014, when Moore appointed Colonel Chris Hadfield, retired general and former CSA president Walt Natynczyk and others to the original committee. However, the 2014 board never issued a report and so the search for a new board was announced by innovation minister Bains in November 2016 at the 2016 Aerospace Summit. The creation of a space advisory board was one of the recommendations of the November 2012 Federal Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies (or "Emerson Report") which was presented to another industry minister, Christian Paradis, in November 2012. Photo's c/o Chuck Black & Brian Orlotti.

As outlined in the April 18th, 2017 Government of Canada news release, "Government of Canada renews Space Advisory Board," the new board, chaired by Dr. Marie Lucy Stojak, the Director of the Summer School on Management of Creativity in an Innovation Society at HEC Montréal, will:
... engage with Canadians to develop a new vision for Canada’s space sector and define key elements of a strategy that will be launched this summer. The advisory board’s input will inform the strategy, which will focus on using space to drive broader economic growth and innovation, while inspiring the next generation of space scientists.
The other committee members include:

A reminder that one of the real issues currently preoccupying  the Canadian government is whether it should continue  supporting at least one Canadian based contractor capable of building large, multi-function Canadian military satellites like RADARSAT-2 and the upcoming RADARSAT Constellation or open future competition to lower cost, international bids. The March 29th, 2017 SatCom Frontier post, "Commercial Space Operators to Canada; 'We're Here and We can Help,'" argues that large, international satellite providers like Intelsat General Corporation are able to assist with complex military programs like the proposed Enhanced Satellite Communication Project (ESCP). For a contrary view on this issue, its worth taking a look at the April 9th, 2017 post, "Part 4: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," which focused on "the 1970's, "Equal Access" to Communications, "Improved Industrial Capability" and the Hermes Communication Satellite" and was even co-written by one of the new members of the current space advisory board. Graphic c/o Intelsat General Corporation.

The new members replace others appointed by the previous government to the same board in 2014. That board never issued a public report or held any public meetings.

The new board is expected to engage in a process similar to the methodology employed during the "massive" review of Federal science funding which wound up last week.

As outlined in the April 17th, 2017 post, "'Massive' Review of Federal Science Funding Finally Released; Will Likely Soon 'Drop Down the Memory Hole,'" that review seems to have achieved less than stellar results and might not be a good model to emulate.

The only real surprise expected to come out of this review (and how's that for irony) could be an acknowledgement that foreign companies like Airbus and Intelsat General Corporation might soon be able to bid on large Canadian space projects.

This is especially likely given the inclusion of Pley and Tovee on the board, although the debate on this particular issue originated in the early days of Canada's space efforts.

Some organizations are willing to lobby the Federal government even without the bully pulpit provided by the space advisory board. An example would by the 8th Joint Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium (PTMSS) and Space Resources Roundtable, which will be held in conjunction with the 2017 Canadian Institute of Mining (CIM) Convention in Montreal, PQ and promises "major announcements" from international space mining companies. Event organizers, such as Deltion Innovations CEO Dale Boucher have long advocated the use of tax credit system currently used in the mining, to grow the Canadian space industry. Boucher was last profiled in the April 10th, 2016 post, "Deltion Innovations Receives Gov't Funding to Develop Multi-Tool for Space Mining; Will Anyone Buy It?" For more on the mining industry and how it could drive space exploration, check out the July 30th, 2012 CSCA submission to the Aerospace Review, "Using Tools from the Mining Industry to Spur Innovation and Grow the Canadian Space Industry." Graphic c/o Deltion Innovations.

Besides, as recently as a few years ago, Canada had two domestic firms capable of building large satellites.

However, as outlined most recently in the April 19th, 2017 post, "American MDA Subsidiary Promotes "DEXTRE" for US as NASA RESTORE-L Satellite Servicing Budget Slashed," Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) is currently hunting US government and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contracts, which subjects the company to many of the same US export licencing regulations that delayed the launch of RADARSAT-2 for almost seven years, and currently causes concern among those responsible for developing Canadian policies relating to northern sovereignty.

Also, in February 2016, common shares of Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International were de-listed from the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) as the iconic Canadian company finished up its final task of becoming a subsidiary of US conglomerate Honeywell.

However, nothing is ever certain in politics or in political committees. Board member Evans has often argued publicly for a policy of "capacity building" which would favor specific Canadian companies with additional funds and tax benefits to allow them to compete with large foreign multinational competitors, who typically also receive subsidiaries from their national governments.

Evans argues that the creation of a domestic space industry outweighs the up-front costs associated with "capacity building," and supports the growth of domestic expertise and industry.

The Canadian Senate isn't waiting for the space advisory committee to issue a report when it can issue its own. As outlined in the April 19th, 2017 Space News post, "Report: Canada should work with U.S. to protect satellites as “critical infrastructure,” a report from the Senate’s Standing Committee on National Security and Defence and Security advocates the designation of "satellites and radar installations as critical infrastructure and seek ways to secure the full spectrum of all critical infrastructure assets against significant threats, including electromagnetic pulse, by 2020 in partnership with the United States and other countries." The article notes that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has long been advocating this approach. Screenshot c/o Space News.

Support for the new space advisory board, at least among the Federal government departments likely to be the most affected by any final report, seems tentative at best.

For example, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is in the midst of a series of announcements related to the development of technologies they expect to utilize over the coming years and have been doing this without any guidance from the space advisory board.

As outlined most recently in the April 3rd, 2017 post, "The Canadian Space Agency is "Very" Cautious About Its Post ISS Role," and the April 19th, 2017 More Space News post, "The Canadian Space Agency has just announced 15 more "priority technologies" it wants to develop," the CSA already has a strong, if also strongly conservative, sense of where it wants to go over the next decade.

There is also some question about whether the Department of National Defense (DND) is on-board with the new board.

As outlined in the April 17th, 2017 post, "An Update on NS Rockets, Intelsat Hunting for Canadian Gov't Satellite Contracts & More Ukrainian Lybid News," DND is pushing its own military space program, the proposed Enhanced Satellite Communication Project (ESCP), and the new project is likely out of the scope of the space advisory board mandate.

Professor Ram Jakhu, the associate director of the Centre for Research of Air and Space Law at McGill University, was one of two authors of the February 17th, 2017 "Independent Review of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act." The report makes a number of recommendations directly relevant to the mandate of the new space advisory board but there was no plans from the Federal government to release the report for public comment. Fortunately, and as outlined in the April 20th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Exclusive: A Review of Canada’s Remote Sensing Law Recommends Creating a New General Outer Space Act," that review is now open to public perusal. The report and other issues relating to it, will be the topics of discussion when Jakhu and the Centre hold the 5th Annual Manfred Lachs International Conference on Global Space Governance, which will be held in Montreal, PQ from May 5th - 6th. Hopefully, someone from the space advisory board will also be there. Photo c/o McGill University.

It's also worth noting that, while the space advisory board members are expecting to hold a series of town halls across the country to solicit feedback and assist with the development of useful policy, the secretariat supporting the space advisory board has so far refused to confirm or deny any activities the committee could possibly be conducting, except for one meeting taking place in Ottawa on Friday, April, 21st.

Here's hoping that they organize a few more meetings after that first one. There's a lot of data to collect and some actual activities culminating in a proper, publicly available report would certainly be an improvement over the last time.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

  1. good job collecting and collating facts on this. Here's hoping the SAB moves Canada back into a less risk averse position and enables and encourages the development of a vibrant Canadian space sector. Emerson report was clear about the way forward, now CSA and ISED need to act on those recommendations. To paraphrase someone from down is time to make Canada's space sector great again.


Support our Patreon Page