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Canada Commits to Support Commercial Space Launch 

By Rachel Jewett | January 23, 2023

Canadian astronaut, David Saint-Jacques, left, with Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, center, and MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau, at Canada’s announcement to create a regulatory framework for commercial space launch. Photo: Transport Canada via Twitter.

The government of Canada is making space launch a priority, announcing a series of measures on Friday to license commercial space launch from the country. 

Transport Canada, the nation’s federal institution responsible for transportation policies and programs, said it will license commercial space launch on a case-by-case basis while it develops regulatory requirements, safety standards and licensing conditions. The country expects to have a regulatory framework for commercial space launch in place in about three years. 

In addition, the Minister of Transport will establish an interdepartmental review process so that launches are approved in line with domestic legislation, international treaties and conventions, and Canada’s national security and foreign policy interests.

“Commercial space launches are a natural evolution of space applications and exploration, and Canada is poised to bring its long history and world-leading reputation to this quickly growing field. Developing a commercial space launch regime for Canada will help make our space sector more competitive and will allow Canadian industry a greater market share of the global space economy,” said Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. 

Alghabra announced the initiative on Jan. 20 at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec, alongside Canadian government officials including former astronaut Marc Garneau, who is a member of Parliament.

“I think the advantage is great. There are only so many places that you can launch into space and the fact that Canada will now be an option, not only for Canadian spacecraft, but also for the spacecraft of other countries, is a fantastic new economic opportunity for Canada,” Garneau said

Canada has a long history in space activities and has been a part of the International Space Station since its inception. Nine Canadian astronauts have gone to space and the nation was the third country in space with its satellite Alouette 1. 

The nation released a national space strategy in 2022 that outlines a number of priorities including connecting Canadians with space-based broadband internet, and investing in the nation’s space startups. According to the strategy, Canada has invested $2.6 billion since 2016 in the country’s space activities. 

The government said enabling launch capability will support the Canadian space sector in both urban and rural areas, innovation and research, national security, and good jobs. 

“Canada’s space industry thrives on challenges and delivers world-leading technologies and innovations. By enabling commercial space launch from Canada, we are creating the conditions for a vibrant and growing space sector, including an opportunity to create thousands of more jobs, which will make us more competitive internationally and more resilient at home,” commented François-Philippe Champagne, minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry.

One spaceport is already in progress. Maritime Launch Services, a Canadian company based in Nova Scotia, has started constructing Spaceport Nova Scotia on the north-eastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia after receiving approval from the province in 2022

Maritime Launch Services said it has satellite clients and  a “long list of launch vehicle companies across North America and Europe looking to partner.” It recently signed a deal with rideshare company Spaceflight to launch up to five Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles beginning in 2025 on Ukrainian-made Cyclone-4M medium-class launch vehicles. 

CEO Steve Matier applauded the move by the Canadian government. 

“This is a great day for Canada. This announcement signals a bold move to claim our rightful place as a global space leader,” Matier said. “With today’s announcement, the global space industry can be confident that commercial launch in Canada is not only here, but it has this government’s support.” 

The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), which attended the announcement, said the nation’s space industry is set to grow exponentially. 

“Today’s announcement sends an important signal to the world that Canada will be at the table, building on our storied legacy in space and our industry expertise. Commercial space launch is a rapidly growing field. A framework for commercial space launch will help ensure Canada – and our tremendous Canadian companies and talent – are poised to capitalize,” said Mike Mueller, president and CEO of AIAC.