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article imageNo homegrown rocket programs — Aerospace talent leaving Canada

By Karen Graham     Feb 20, 2018 in Technology
One expert says Canada is falling behind in the space industry by focusing on other endeavors such as satellites and robotics because there are no homegrown rocketry programs.
This is not to say Canada has fallen behind in the space industry in general, said Jeremy Wang, the chief technology officer for an Ontario drone company called The Sky Guys. “The leadership that Canada has had has become very much channeled into signature areas,” Wang told CTV’s Your Morning.
Wang pointed out that much of the Canadian Space Agency's budget goes toward satellites, the Canadarm and the International Space Station (ISS). Wang went on to say there has been no effort to establish rocket facilities that could launch these projects into space from Canada itself.
Instead, Canada must depend on other countries to launch its projects into space. “It sort of leaves us at the mercy of the schedules and launch times of other launch providers,” Wang said. “There was a time when Canada was a world leader in rocket technology,” Wang said.
Space Shuttle Endeavour  docked to the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station  is fea...
Space Shuttle Endeavour, docked to the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station, is featured in this image photographed by a crewmember during the STS-118 mission. The shuttle's Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System (RMS) robotic arm and station's Canadarm2 are also featured in the scene.
NASA
Canada's Investment in Space Industry
Mr. Wang may be correct in his saying funding for the space industry has been channeled into robotics and similar technologies. Just last year, in April 2017, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development proposed to provide $80.9 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The proposed space agency budget for Budget 2017 also came about right after the Government of Canada announced the renewal of the country's Space Advisory Board. The board's mission was to provide input that will inform the strategy, which will focus on using space to drive broader economic growth and innovation.
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, on announcing the proposed funding said, "The space program advances next-generation technologies that create new opportunities for the sector and well-paying jobs for the middle class. The proposed funding in Budget 2017 will support research and development in emerging fields such as quantum technology and advanced radar technology for Earth observation."
Maritime Launch Services Ltd. plans to send Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4 rockets into orbit from Canso ...
Maritime Launch Services Ltd. plans to send Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4 rockets into orbit from Canso, N.S.
Maritime Launch Services Ltd.
"The technologies that are designed for space today can one day be applied to the everyday lives of Canadians. That means an investment in today’s space sector is an investment in a higher standard of living tomorrow.”
Interestingly, and something this writer just learned, according to SpaceQ, "In the last 17 years the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has left $802 million in planned spending unspent. In the last three years, the CSA has underspent its budget by $201 million. In 2010 the Conservative government began the process of decreasing the CSA’s base budget from $300 million to $260 million."
Why doesn't Canada have a rocket program?
CBC Canada was instrumental in getting the discussion started. Nicole Mortillaro, a senior writer in Science and Technology, asked: "Why doesn't Canada have a rocket program?" She also pointed out that years ago, Canada was one of the world's leaders in rocket engineering.
Mortillaro also brings out a point that is distressing to Wang, as well as others- "Students are getting their aerospace education in Canada and then leaving the country. They are going away at a time when there are increasing endeavors to launch into space, by both governments and private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic."
And as SpaceQ points out so vividly - Should Canada have its own space program? The answer is yes, of course. But it will never happen as long as a long-standing government policy remains in force that says Canada doesn't need its own rockets.
And this writer agrees with those who have brought up this discussion. I have been writing about the remarkable technologies coming out of the space industry in Canada for a number of years, and it has always been a part of the story involving a NASA launch. And while Canadian technology is an important addition to any space endeavor, CSA is capable of even more.
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