MDA Outlines Opportunities, Challenges for Canada in Space

September 25, 2018
Ottawa, ON

Canada’s role and potential involvement in the growing new space economy require a commitment from the Government of Canada for a new space strategy that would secure Canada’s place as a leader in space, Mike Greenley, the Group President of MDA, a Maxar company, said in a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa.

“We need a long-term space plan for Canada that establishes the requisite funding to maintain and enhance our existing world-leading capabilities in space robotics, satellite communications, Earth observation and space science, while cultivating new areas of leadership. And we need it now, because there are pressing decisions that need to be made,” Greenley said.

The most urgent question facing Canada is whether the country will participate in the international space community’s next big exploration project. As governments wind down their investments in the International Space Station, the leading spacefaring nations, including the United States, Europe, Japan and Russia, are planning a return to the Moon in the 2020s. NASA is planning to build a small space station that orbits the Moon, which will serve as a base for lunar exploration, a platform for science experiments, and a gateway to explore deeper space.

Canada’s commitment would involve the development of a third-generation Canadarm, the iconic Canadian space robotics technology featured prominently on the five dollar bill. Canadian space robotics would provide highly visible, innovative and critical Lunar Gateway operations, including the assembly of the Gateway itself (and its ongoing maintenance), the capture of visiting spacecraft, and the enabling of science conducted in the lunar vicinity. Given the distance to the Moon, these advanced space robotics would need to operate autonomously, powered by Canadian AI technology. Subsequent contributions could involve lunar rovers and space medicine technology.

“The international community expects Canada to participate in this mission and to provide the advanced robotics systems for the Lunar Gateway, our area of expertise that no other country does better,” noted Greenley. “It is Canada’s role for the taking.”

“Making a commitment to participate in the Lunar Gateway as part of the upcoming space strategy would maintain and enhance Canada’s acknowledged world leadership in space robotics and signal to the world that Canada plans to claim its place in the new space economy,” Greenley added. “The value of the global space market reached US$380 billion in 2017, and analysts forecast it will grow to be a multi-trillion-dollar market in the coming decades.”

Participation in space will not only accelerate innovation and fuel Canada’s future competitiveness, but will also maintain our country’s ability to influence the global discussion around space, Greenley said.

“We know how important it is for Canada to be part of the conversation,” Greenley said. “A re-commitment to space would enhance our ability to participate in shaping developments in space and bolster emerging areas of Canadian expertise like space law.”

Greenley said MDA and other partners in the Canadian space industry will spend this fall talking to Canadians and elected officials about the importance of space.

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