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SPACE & COMMUNICATIONS REPORT

SPACE & COMMUNICATIONS REPORT

BY JAMES CARELESS

AD ASTRA ‘TO THE STARS’

When it comes to Canada’s future in military space, the Department of National Defence (DND), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), industry associations and Canadian space-centric manufacturers/service providers all have their views on what should happen next — although most agree that the federal government needs to take the lead. Here’s what they had to tell CDR for this year’s Space Report.

THE RCAF’S SPACE MISSION RCAF

Brigadier-General G. Michael Adamson is Commander of 3 Canadian Space Division (3 CSD), the branch of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) that handles space defence for our country. He told CDR that 3 CSD performs three major missions for the RCAF. The first is ‘space domain awareness’ which includes knowing not just what is in orbit, but what it is doing there. “Mission number two would be surveillance from space, which is obviously using satellite vehicles in order to conduct any manner of information gathering,” said BGen Adamson, “The other broad area for operations is satellite communications.” These missions are fulfilled using the RCAF’s own resources, support from defence contractors, and information sharing with Canada’s allies. The RCAF has been relying on Canada’s RADARSAT Earth Observation (EO) satellites for data since the launch of RADARSAT-2 in 2007. RADARSAT-2 has been supplemented by a trio of EO satellites working together known collectively as the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). They were launched in 2019, with Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne announcing plans to add a fourth satellite to the RCM and fund the system’s ultimate replacement RADARSAT+ at Space Canada’s Spacebound 2023 conference in Ottawa on October 18, 2023.

Over the years, the private sector has been an increasingly important partner for the RCAF’s space arm. “It has been a real shift in paradigm over the last few years that has seen industry become not just a supplier of capability but actual an operator or contributor into some of these mission sets to the point, where we actually take into account commercial operators as participants in some of these activities,” BGen Adamson told CDR. “We’ve seen this exemplified in things like the Ukraine conflict where you have a number of civilian or industry partners such as Maxar (Technologies) or Starlink that are providing capabilities or products supporting allied operations or Ukrainian operations.” Such industry support is welcome not just for 3 CSD, but for all of the military space units operated by our NATO allies. “Space is hard, it’s expensive, it’s resource-intensive, and I don’t think any one country can really go it on their own,” BGen Adamson told CDR. “So, if we can look at what co mmercial operators are doing and if they’ve got a capability that is absolutely aligned with something we might need, whether that be telecommunications or what have you, then it makes absolute sense for us to be able to leverage those kinds of capabilities.”

CSA WORKING CLOSELY WITH DND

As Canada’s version of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is focused on civilian space projects. They include domestic projects such as RADARSAT+, and international missions such as providing CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen to fly on NASA’s Artemis II mission to the Moon, along with CSA astronaut Jenni Gibbons serving as a backup crew member. This being said, “while the mandates and missions may differ, CSA and DND work collaboratively on a number of issues, from R&D to policy views on the responsible use of space,” said Canadian Space Agency President, Lisa Campbell. “In fact, in the past year the CSA and DND/CAF have renewed a memorandum of understanding, which seeks to explore opportunities for coordinated/ joint space-related activities that can meet and support mutual objectives and priorities. This MOU includes governance at the highest levels of each organization, and notably has three standing working groups focussed on policy, capability development, and research and development. Additionally, CSA and DND share in the operation of the RCM constellation.”

That’s not all: “The CSA is pleased to support DND/CAF’s upcoming Surveillance of Space 2 project (SofS 2) by providing technical expertise and services,” Campbell told CDR. According to the CAF’s website, SofS 2 will provide space surveillance data through a space- and/or ground-based sensor system to the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), the organization that operates the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN). “In addition, the CSA is advancing its Health Beyond Initiative through a collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) for a project with Thales Digital Solutions, Université Laval, and Public Safety Canada According to BGen Adamson, the private sector has been an increasingly important partner for the RCAF’s space arm WWW.CANADIANDEFENCEREVIEW.COM 21 to develop a model for contactless/remote monitoring of individuals’ stress,” she said. The Canadian Space Agency is also seeking help from Canadian space companies. The reason: “Encouraging the growth of the space industry is a key part of CSA’s mandate,” Campbell told CDR. “For example, last July, MDA in Richmond, British Columbia, was awarded a contract to conduct a pre-formulation study for an Arctic Observing Mission with the objective to refine options. Thales Digital Solutions was awarded a contract to mature the technology under the Health Beyond initiative, including an updated data platform with new monitoring hardware that will be used for testing in simulated environments.”

Founded in March 2022, Space Canada is the Canadian space industry’s national trade organization. In this short time, it has made its mark through conferences like the annual Spacebound conference in Ottawa, which have become ‘must attend’ events for defence, government, and industry leaders alike. When it comes to the defence of this nation, “Space Canada and its member organizations recognize the critical role that space and communication capabilities play in the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said association CEO and former New Brunswick Premier, Brian Gallant. “The Minister of National Defence’s announcement in June 2022 about investment in innovation for continental defence capabilities was welcomed by Canada’s space innovators. This suite of programs, and in particular the Earth Observation and Northern SATCOM projects, will enhance Canada’s defence and national security and provide a major contribution to NORAD for the defence of North America.” This being said, Space Canada wants the federal government to pay more attention to this sector through the establishment of a National Space Council, which would mirror high-level government organizations found in other countries.

“A meaningful dialogue between the Government of Canada and the space industrial base will enable industry to better understand the requirements and to share the current state of capability and the art of the possible for continental defence,” said Gallant. “Given the extreme interdependencies of all space stakeholders across Canada, establishing a National Space Council presents a golden opportunity for the Government of Canada to create wholeof-nation outcomes including the assurance CSA and DND work collaboratively on a number of issues, says Lisa Campbell CSA astronaut, Col Jeremy Hansen, during the Artemis I SLS launch Credit: Mr. Sean Costello 22 WWW.CANADIANDEFENCEREVIEW.COM that Canada’s space industrial base can deliver on national security and defence applications.” On the defence side, Space Canada wants the federal government “to expand spacespeci c defence innovation programming with increased or dedicated funding to enable Canada’s space innovators to work directly with the CAF to turn innovative ideas and industry capacity into operational solutions,” Gallant told CDR. “This will support Canada’s commitment to continental defence, and defence space capabilities more broadly.”

AIAC WANTS TO SEE ACTION FROM GOVERNMENT

Although some might expect the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) to have its sights set on in-atmosphere flight, the association is also interested in space based aerospace and its importance to Canadian industry — and the effort of the federal departments/agencies that govern space in this country.

To this end, “space technologies should be recognized as critical infrastructure for communications, surveillance and national security reasons,” said Mike Mueller, the AIAC’s President and CEO. “A national aerospace strategy is required to guide ongoing activities and help ensure that projects and procurements are not being developed in isolation, but rather with the understanding for how all these pieces together so that we can better connect the dots on key priorities and investment opportunities.”

A national aerospace strategy isn’t all that’s needed to support the CAF in space. For this to happen on a consistent and dependable basis, “close collaboration between government and industry is essential,” Mueller said. “To achieve this, streamlined communication channels, transparent procurement processes, and mutual understanding of strategic objectives are necessary — which further underscores the urgent need for predictability and a national aerospace strategy, that encompasses both aerospace and space ecosystem perspectives, to harness the capabilities of Canada’s aerospace industry.”

Echoing the views shared by 3 CSD’s BGen Adamson, Mike Mueller agrees that the CAF is turning increasingly to private industry to address its space-based missions and challenges. He also supports the idea of establishing a domestic satellite/spacecraft launching capability, such as the one currently being built in Canso, Nova Scotia by Maritime Launch Services. “Canada is well-positioned, geographically speaking, to support space launches,” said Mueller. “However, a lot more work needs to be done in terms of modernizing our current regulatory framework to better address all aspects associated with this emerging industry.”

According to Mike Mueller, making this happen is up to the federal government. “Not only does Canada need responsible leadership and direction at the national strategic level, but a clearly defined aerospace strategy that includes space,” he said. In the meantime, “Canada is already taking steps in the right direction, with the announcement in support for commercial space launches in Canada earlier this year, and industry is already stepping up to the plate and demonstrating its ability for domestic space launch.”

MDA & THE DPU

Like the AIAC, the people at space equipment manufacturer MDA (as in Canadarms 1, 2, and 3 for the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and lunar Gateway space station respectively) “are strong advocates for the creation of a National Space Council,” said company CEO, Mike Greenley. As well, “all Allied space forces, including the CAF, are assessing what they need to own and what they can access as-a-service with either an ‘own-collaborateaccess’ or a ‘buy what we can, build only what we must’ context,” he observed.

MDA has made several recommendations to the Defence Policy Update consultations. They include ensuring that the established Canadian Defence Industrial Base (DIB) is fully leveraged and expanded before inviting foreign defence companies to establish a Canadian presence; engaging early and more often with Canada’s defence innovators so that they can better understand and inform Canada’s defence requirements; accelerating the defence space programs already identifinrd in Strong, Secure, Engaged and reinforce NORAD Modernization; and taking “advantage of industry capacity, agility and innovation speed by experimenting with more predictable Continuous Capability Sustainment (CCS) concepts,” said Greenley. Given its long history with the CAF, MDA is a wise voice for DND to listen to. After all, “In the area of Geointelligence (GEOINT), MDA developed the Polar Epsilon 2 ground system that is used by the CAF to access the Government’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) — MDA was prime contractor for this mission,” Greenley said. “In Space Domain Awareness, MDA delivered Sapphire, Canada’s first military satellite, and continues to operate this mission.”

Going forward, “MDA continues to invest in advancing our own capabilities, such as our new commercial Earth observation mission CHORUS — the fourth generation of RADARSAT technology that will launch in Q4 2025,” Greenley told CDR. “MDA is also investing in a software-defined digital satellite product line as the market continues to transform from analog to digital satellites.”

BRINGING LAUNCH CAPABILITIES TO CANADA

Maritime Launch Services is building Spaceport Nova Scotia —Canada’s  first commercial launch facility — in the seaside town of Canso with a clear trajectory path over the Atlantic Ocean.

“Relying on capabilities of international allies may mean Canada’s defence is lower on their priority list,” said company President and CEO, Stephen Matier. “We are based in rural Nova Scotia and once operational, will create hundreds of jobs and make a signi cant impact on the Canadian economy. Launch capability will provide more  flexibility and assurance for CAF in planning and deploying future space assets.”

On September 28th, 2023, Maritime Launch Services announced its suborbital launch program, which is scheduled to begin during the second quarter of 2024. The DART (Dedicated Altitude Research and Testing) program will lift payloads up to 15 kg in total across two separate launch configurations. For its first suborbital flight, Maritime Launch has already received commitments from payload clients such as GALAXIA Mission Systems, a Nova Scotian space computation company. 

“Our suborbital launch program is a turnkey solution for clients,” said Matier. “Given the success of our [amateur highpowered rocket] launch in July 2023, we are focussed on maturing our launch heritage at the Spaceport while at the same time supporting an underserved market.”

MEDICAL CARE IN SPACE

Lunar Medical’s mission is encapsulated in its name. “Our company is focussed on developing medical system solutions for spaceflight,” said company CEO, David Musson. “The technologies we are developing are targeted for human missions for low Earth orbit, lunar, and deep space expeditions.” Although Lunar Medical does not currently deal with space-based defence missions, Musson can see a way forward for their technology in this field. “Space assets will play an increasingly important role in defence,” he said. “Increasingly, human presence in space will be a major part of that infrastructure. Companies like ours are providing key Canadian role capabilities for joint missions.” David Musson is strongly in favour of Canada establishing a National Space Council. “We are working in aspects of space operations (human support) providing solutions that are relevant to other ministries (such as medical care for DND), but they likely do not know that we exist,” he explained. “A National Space Council would provide a forum to align procurement and strategy across multiple domains and ministries. This would increase ef ciency, increase buying power, and spur development. Having people work on siloed solutions is not in the country’s best interests.”

SPACEBRIDGE SUPPORTS CAF

Based in Montreal, SpaceBridge develops and provides satellite network equipment and services, including VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) hubs and terminals, as well as SCPC (Single Channel Per Carrier) and broadcast modems. The company also provides cloud-based autonomous managed services.

These capabilities mean that SpaceBridge can support DND as “the Canadian Armed Forces become more reliant on commercial satellite assets and services in the future,” said SpaceBridge CEO, David Gelerman. The good news: “Reliance on commercial satellite assets and services can provide numerous benefits for the CAF’s ground segment infrastructure such as cost efficiency,” Gelerman said. “By leasing or purchasing commercial satellite services, the CAF can save on the high costs associated with launching and operating their own satellites.”

Another benefit of the CAF using SATCOM suppliers such as SpaceBridge is speed. “They can lease existing satellites or services, which are already operational, rather than waiting for the development and launch of military-specific c satellites,” said Gelerman. “Additionally, relying on commercial satellites can offer redundancy and diversity in space assets. In the event of a failure of one system, alternative options are readily available. Finally, commercial satellites bene t from ongoing technological advancements, ensuring the CAF has access to the latest and most advanced capabilities without the need for constant satellite upgrades.”

CONNECTING THE CAF IN SPACE

Network Innovations has been harnessing the power of satellite communications for its customers since 1989. “Although I will not mention specific projects, Network Innovations serves many military customers around the world, including Canada, the US, and other Five Eyes nations,” said Frank Czulo, President of Network Innovations’ Advanced Networks division.

He identifies funding and modernization as the CAF’s two most pressing challenges. “As with many western militaries around the world, the machinery of procurement has slowed down or discouraged innovation in the sector,” said Czulo. “Our militaries used to lead the technology drive. It feels now as if they even have trouble procuring current technologies.”

Connecting to commercial satellite services – and providers like Network Innovations and SpaceBridge – could help the CAF modernize in an economically affordable and efficient manner, which is why Frank Czulo expects Canada’s military to choose this option. “I am an optimist,” he said. “I envision the CAF using the space domain just like any other connectivity and modernizing their capabilities to fully utilize all of the next tools modern space technologies bring to the table.”

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief

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