Canadian Space Agency boss holds conference on future of space program

Canadarm2, which played a large role in the construction of the International Space Station. NASA

LONGUEUIL, Que. – About 100 key players, including representatives from industry, academia and government, met at the Canadian Space Agency on Tuesday for what was billed as the country’s first annual space conference.

The event took place just a few weeks after Industry Minister James Moore announced Canada’s new space policy framework.

The federal policy framework makes sovereignty and security the top priority and one presentation at Tuesday’s conference focused on the Department of National Defence’s involvement in space strategies.

Space agency boss Walt Natynczyk, whose mandate is to revitalize the space sector, opened the day-long conference.

The morning session focused on presentations from several senior government officials who are in charge of the use of Canadian space assets.

Federal officials with Defence Research and Development Canada, the National Research Council and Environment Canada also spoke.

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All government departments had been asked to take stock and articulate what their requirements in space would be.

The afternoon sessions dealt with a number of themes which included commercialization, the key capabilities of the industry, space exploration and earth observation and satellite services.

One project that many observers consider to be a major priority is the Polar Communications and Weather satellite system. It would involve putting two satellites into high elliptical orbit for communications and weather observation in the Arctic and they would begin operations in 2017.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made Arctic sovereignty one of his priorities.

The space conference took place under tight federal budget restraints although Moore said earlier this month the Canadian Space Agency under Natynczyk has plenty of money to achieve its goals.

The current CSA budget is $260 million.

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