Want to go to space? Canada’s ‘door is open’ for future passenger flights with new plan

Click to play video: 'Canada to enable commercial space launch activities on ‘case-by-case’ basis: Alghabra'
Canada to enable commercial space launch activities on ‘case-by-case’ basis: Alghabra
WATCH: Canada to enable commercial space launch activities on ‘case-by-case’ basis, Alghabra says – Jan 20, 2023

Canadians dreaming of space travel might one day be able to launch from within their home borders, as the government announces a new strategy for commercial space launches.

The first step, though, will be focusing on more Canadian launches for things like satellites.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the new plan wants to see more commercial space launches in Canada to meet the needs of the emerging space industry — including developing a regulatory framework and establishing review processes.

Read more: Commercial space launches in Canada? Minister to make ‘important’ announcement

Friday’s announcement was specifically about “interim” steps that the government said in a press release will review launches on a “case-by-case basis.”

“But today’s announcement means the door is open for passenger space flights in the future,” Nadine Ramadan, spokesperson for Alghabra, said in an email to Global News.

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While Canada has had domestic launches in the past out of Manitoba, they’ve only been sub-orbital — meaning they never went fully into orbit.

“For many years, Canadian satellites have launched from sites in other countries,” Alghabra said, speaking at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) outside of Montreal on Friday.

“It’s time for us to start launching them right here at home.”

With this new framework, Canada will now be empowered to make those orbital launches happen, according to former astronaut and current Liberal MP Marc Garneau.

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Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques said there are several factors that make Canada ideal for commercial space launches.

“Canada … is ideally positioned to launch particularly satellites that are better served by an orbit which is kind of pointing from to from pole to pole … while the Earth spins underneath it,” Saint-Jacques explained.

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Because of this, Canada has been receiving requests “not only from domestic Canadian companies,” but also from companies “from around the world,” to make this happen, Alghabra said.

The requests came “from South Korea, from Germany, from the Netherlands, from Italy, and others who understand that not only Canada has the geography, but also the talent and the ecosystem,” the transport minister explained.

“But we didn’t have this framework that we announced today.”

There’s clearly an “appetite domestically and internationally to launch from Canada,” he added.

“And today’s announcement is a strong signal to invite those who are interested to come on in and take advantage of the advantages that Canada has.

Read more: A Canadian astronaut will be on NASA’s Artemis deep space lunar orbit

For the next three years, Canada intends to review commercial space launches on a “case-by-case” basis using “existing legislation and regulations,” a press release about the announcement said.

Transport Canada will use those years to develop the “regulatory requirements, safety standards and licensing conditions” that will be needed to take the leap forward into performing commercial space launches within Canadian borders.

The government also intends to establish an “interdepartmental review process,” the release said, to make sure any launch is consistent with not only domestic legislation, but also international treaties, conventions and national security concerns.

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For example, a number of space launches take place on Russian soil — but Russia has been an increasingly hostile geopolitical actor, invading neighbouring Ukraine and weaponizing energy supplies against European countries supporting Kyiv’s defence.

“So setting us up right now, as a country, to be able to compete when it comes to launch is a very important piece for the Canadian space sector to succeed and create the economic opportunity that the global sector represents over those years, and also with the potential for geopolitical tensions in the future as well,” said Space Canada CEO Brian Gallant.

“For economic security and for many other reasons, we want to be able to have that capacity.”

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Saint-Jacques added that Friday’s announcement invites exciting possibilities for Canadians who are passionate about space and this country’s potential in the industry.

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“In terms of dreaming of one day launching astronauts from Canada, that would obviously be incredible for us — to be able to host our friends here, do the training here. Everything is possible,” Saint-Jacques said.

“I like to think that we first have to have a dream, and then we see how we can make it happen.”

In the meantime, science enthusiasts and children dreaming of one day soaring among the stars will be able to watch space launches without an expensive trip abroad.

“It really brings the whole community together: children, parents, science enthusiasts, everyone comes out to watch,” said Canadian Space Agency president Lisa Campbell.

“We need the perspective of space more than ever. It shows us that we can collaborate. It shows us our fragile planet.”

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