In the past week we’ve seen some remarkable progress in the commercial space sector of the United States. On Tuesday, NASA has selected two companies to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) with their Dragon spacecraft, and the Boeing Corporation with the CST-100.

This is great news as Canadian astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen will most likely use one of these two companies spacecraft to visit the ISS, as the cost to fly on them will be substantially lower than flying on a Russian Soyuz.

On Wednesday, Blue Origin, a relative new space company privately owned by Amazon founder Steve Bezos, announced a deal with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to jointly fund a next generation rocket engine, the BE-4, which is an advanced liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas engine. This represents an important step forward in rocket propulsion.

Also on Wednesday at the fall meeting of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting it was announced that the FAA had issued a spaceport license to the Midland International Airport in Texas home to commercial spaceflight services company XCOR Aerospace. The spaceport license is the 9th to be issued by the FAA in recent years.

This is obviously an exciting time to own a company or start-up a company in the commercial space market. Unfortunately, while Canada has seen some successes in the commercial space market, notably through such companies as MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), COM DEV, and Neptec, the government has done little to foster a strong commercial space market in Canada for either the domestic or the export market.

Over the last six years the Canadian government has tasked each new President of the Canadian Space Agency to develop a Long Term Space Plan for the country. We’re still waiting for that plan.

The government initiated the Aerospace Review in 2011. Of the eight recommendations outlined for the space sector it could be argued that only one was truly enacted, the creation of the secretive deputy minister-level Space Program Management Board.

While the Canadian Space Agency’s A-Base funding has dropped from approximately $300M a year to $259M this year, India with a similar GDP and which in recent years surpassed Canada has also increased its lead over Canada in the latest Futron Space Competitive Index.

The United Kingdom is going in the opposite direction of Canada, increasing their annual budget from $367M in 2010 to $627M next year. In recent government speeches the U.K. the government has defined the space sector as one of the “Eight Great Technologies.”

With Canada heading into an election year and a surplus budget at hand, is it now time the government recognize the importance of the space sector to the everyday well-being of Canadians and invest accordingly?

Media Contact:
Marc Boucher, President (Interim)
Canadian Space Commerce Association
Mobile: 647.985.9203