Friday, February 08, 2019

The Washington DC Based Wilson Center Begins the Next Phase of Its Campaign for a Renewed Canada/ US Space Partnership

          By Chuck Black

The Washington DC based Wilson Center, the US think-tank which organized the September 7th, 2018 event "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-US Space Cooperation?" which included many US and Canadian senior space focused bureaucrats, has published a February 2019 White Paper on "The Potential for a US-Canadian Spacefaring Partnership: Canada’s Role in The US Return to Space Leadership."

The front cover of the twenty-one page February 2019 Wilson Center position paper on "The Potential for a US-Canadian Spacefaring Partnership: Canada’s Role in The US Return to Space Leadership." Graphic c/o Wilson Center.

As outlined in the position paper:
Canada has a well-developed partnership with NASA that supports space science and exploration, but the changes in US priorities for NASA will require a recalibration of this partnership and open new opportunities for the CSA. Canada’s small but highly regarded commercial space sector will similarly see new business opportunities including the chance to enhance supply chain participation in the US space marketplace. 
But an expanded US space marketplace also implies expanded application of US rules in space and some in Canada may resist the extraterrestrial application of U.S. law in the same way that prior US efforts to apply rules extraterritorially in Earth-bound geopolitics led to strong objections from many Canadians.
To its credit, the paper is a reasonably good inventory of both US and Canadian legislation currently covering each nation's space policy.

The paper is especially good with its mention of the 2008 Canadian Long-Term Space Plan (LTSP), which was commissioned (but never adapted) by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the consequences of the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review, which dealt with space at length in its second volume ("Reaching Higher: Canada's Interests and Future in Space"), but is seldom referenced by most commentators.

In fact, the paper was quite flattering to the Harper government although it was less than complimentary to the current Justin Trudeau Liberal government.

According to the position paper:
The Trudeau government has yet to put its stamp on Canadian space policy, and in particular, it has not taken decisions on major new spending or projects in which the Government of Canada will invest. 
The structures put in place to develop Canadian space policy and priorities are adequate to the task, but decisions must be taken to transform Canadian ambitions for a continued role in the space domain into achievements.
It also argued that a Canada-US partnership could benefit both sides:
First, Canada has been in the position of being one customer among many ever since it developed a space program, and so in contracting, cost-control, and the management of relationships Canada’s experience has value as a model for how US government entities might adapt. 
Second, Canada’s commercial space sector adds to and complements the same sector in the United States.

MDA Group President Mike Greenley is also on the lobbying circuit, a sure sign that, at least as of today, the Federal government has not made a final decision on how to support its space industry. Greenley will be speaking on the topic "Canada in the New Trillion Dollar Space Economy," at a private event sponsored by the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) in Toronto ON on February 15th, 2019. Photo c/o The Empire Club.

The Wilson Center White Paper concludes by stating that:
This review of recent space policy decisions taken in the United States and Canada point to the potential for the two countries to work together. The countries have similar goals, and now the structures necessary in place to facilitate action and partnership. 
With smaller budgets and a smaller space sector, as well as a preference for collaborating with other countries on space related scientific endeavors, Canada’s space policy development has been held back while the United States put its attention and resources elsewhere.  
The renewed US engagement on space provides the missing element for Canada: a set of missions and goals it can consider and even partner with the United States to attain.
But while the call for cooperation between the two nations almost certainly has the approval of many of the senior bureaucrats on both sides, the end result will likely be dependent of the current Justin Trudeau Liberal government and the upcoming 2019 Federal election, currently scheduled for October 2019.

Maybe we'll get some indication when the  2019 Federal Budget is released. Or maybe not.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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