What We Heard report: Consultation on a framework for future space exploration activities
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Section 1: Executive Summary
From to , the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) sought views from Canadians regarding a framework for future space exploration activities. A total of 194 written submissions were received from various stakeholders, including industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the general public.
This report summarizes what we heard from these stakeholders and will inform Canada's national and international efforts to develop and strengthen frameworks for space exploration activities. Given the depth and breadth of information received, this report aims to reflect the essence of the ideas and perspectives that were raised. It is not intended to imply consensus on the part of participants. The views expressed are those of participants and should not be construed as representative of the Government of Canada's positions or views.
The following key themes emerged from these consultations:
- Canada's Role in the Global Governance of Space: Participants saw a need for an updated international governance framework for space activities. Participants envisioned a leadership role for Canada in developing this framework.
- Updating Canada's Regulatory Framework: Participants saw a need for an updated regulatory framework for space activities and emphasized the urgency of this task given the rapid development of space technology and the proliferation of space actors and new activities in space.
- Fostering Economic Opportunities: Participants offered suggestions for how the Government of Canada could support and foster space industry development by engaging with industry and providing clear regulations, incentives, infrastructure, and funding for commercial space activities.
- Enabling Space Resource Utilization (SRU): Participants expressed support for an SRU industry in Canada and emphasized the need for a clear regulatory framework around SRU to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space.
- Consider Broader Issues: Participants highlighted the importance of incorporating Indigenous perspectives on space exploration and utilization. In addition, participants raised a number of other issues including the proliferation of space debris, the effect of light and radio pollution on astronomy, issues related to living and working in space, terrestrial applications of space technology, funding of planetary science missions, space launch, getting Canadians interested in space, and fostering opportunities for students.
The feedback received related to each theme is explained in more detail in the body of the report.
Section 2: Background
The CSA is working with national and international partners to write the next chapter of space exploration—sending humans to more distant destinations like the Moon and Mars.
In this exciting new phase of space exploration, Canada will continue its leadership in space by pushing the boundaries of science and technology. Our future space exploration activities will increase our knowledge of our planet and universe and advance research and discoveries that lead to breakthrough science in areas that benefit people on Earth. At the same time, Canada recognizes the exciting opportunities presented by emerging exploration, science, and commercial space activities.
These daring missions and emerging space activities pose new challenges. As a result, Canada and other countries are working to define the "rules of the road," a shared framework that will guide the safe and sustainable use of space beyond Earth's orbit.
In , Canada signed the Artemis Accords, a set of principles designed to guide safe and sustainable exploration, science, and commercial activities in deep space, including on the Moon and other celestial bodies. The Accords are based on the existing obligations in the Outer Space Treaty and are an important first step towards establishing a framework for future space exploration activities.
The Government of Canada is committed to working with domestic and international partners, including within the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), to further develop a framework for future space exploration activities. To inform its work in this area, the CSA initiated consultations with Canadians to seek their views.
Section 3: Consultation Process
The objective of the consultations was to engage interested parties in an open and transparent manner, and provide a meaningful opportunity for participants to express their views. All Canadians were encouraged to participate, particularly those with an interest in space exploration, space law, traditional mining, and/or SRU, including Canadian businesses (such as those in the space industry and terrestrial mining industry); academics and experts (such as specialists in space technology, space law, geology/geoscience, and minerals and metals science); non-governmental organizations; and other individuals and groups. The CSA heard from stakeholders in each of these categories during the consultation.
Consultations opened on and closed on , providing Canadians with five months to participate, ask questions and submit their perspectives. Awareness about the consultation was promoted through direct emails to stakeholders and a social media campaign. Information about the consultation was released on the Government of Canada's Consulting with Canadians website as well as the CSA's website which provided information about participating in the consultation. A backgrounder with information on Canada's role in space exploration, international laws and guidelines, the Artemis Accords, and SRU was also published on the website. Public webinars, in both official languages, were conducted in to provide participants with more detailed information on these topics and further opportunities to ask questions. Answers to these questions were posted in the form of Frequently Asked Questions on the CSA website. The webinar videos and transcripts were also made available online. At the end of the consultation period, 194 submissions had been received from stakeholders. Although submissions were received across a broad spectrum of topics related to space exploration, a number of common themes emerged.
Section 4: What We Heard
In this section
Canada's Role in the Global Governance of Space
Overall Stakeholder Feedback: Canada should take a leadership role in multilateral engagement on the development of global governance; Canada should strive for clear rules at the international level.
Participants expressed strong support for Canada to take an active role in the development of an updated global governance framework for space, particularly in the area of SRU, through multilateral fora such as the United Nations. The importance of Canadian engagement in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) was emphasized, including support for a working group on SRU. In general, participants were supportive of the Artemis Accords and also suggested greater international engagement by Canada.
Many participants asked that Canada not only actively participate in multilateral diplomacy on space issues, but also take a leadership role. Participants often pointed to Canada's history in space, as well as its credibility on the international stage, as reasons why Canada would be ideally placed to take an international leadership role in updating the global governance framework for space exploration and utilization.
Participants articulated the importance of the development of international rules for living and working on the Moon. Areas recommended by participants for consideration included landing sites, property rights related to SRU, registration of activities, and management of lunar orbits and debris. Many of the subjects covered in the Artemis Accords, such as heritage sites and interoperability standards, were also mentioned by participants as needing further clarification. Some participants also raised the concept of accessibility and proposed that all areas of space should be accessible for all actors, and all nations.
Updating Canada's Regulatory Framework
Overall Stakeholder Feedback: Canada's regulatory space framework is in need of updating; there is a need to ensure that Canada's regulatory environment has clear rules at the national level; consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders should be undertaken; a coordinated approach across government should be used
A large number of participants felt that Canada's regulatory space framework was in need of updating. Areas raised by participants as those that could benefit from greater clarity included requirements with respect to SRU and extracted resources; living and working in space and space tourism; and activities on the lunar surface.
Many participants suggested that there is an urgent need to update the space regulatory framework given the rapid development of space technology and the proliferation of space actors and new activities taking place in low Earth orbit and beyond. Participants expressed the importance of having rules in place before the expected significant expansion of space activities, rather than taking a retroactive approach once activities have begun.
A number of approaches were suggested by participants with respect to regulatory modernization. Suggestions included: conducting broad consultations at the national level; assessing current rules and regulations and identifying gaps; and preparing a policy document to be presented for public commentary. A coordinated approach across government to regulating space activities was seen as essential for providing clear guidance and simplifying the process for engaging with government when seeking approval for space activities. Suggestions were also made to leverage the Space Advisory Board or to establish a commission for space activities.
There was a strong desire expressed by participants to ensure an open and transparent process to regulatory modernization that enables broad participation from all interested parties including industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, and individual stakeholders. Participants expressed the desire for regulatory modernization resulting in clear requirements and guidelines that would be easily understood for those intending to engage in space activities.
Fostering Economic Opportunities
Overall Stakeholder Feedback: Enabling access and driving growth for Canadians in the new space economy requires clear guidance and rules from government, as well as support for research and development, academia, and SMEs/startups.
Many participants expressed support for enabling space activities and fostering economic opportunities in order to develop a vibrant, world-leading space industry in Canada. Participants outlined challenges the industry is currently facing, as well as possible solutions.
Participants also expressed the desire to see increased public-private collaboration in the space sector. Partnerships between government and industry were viewed as important for fostering Canadian space industry. The importance of government support for the space industry was frequently mentioned in the context of the new space economy and Canada was often compared to other national governments with strong support for their domestic space industries, such as the United States and Luxembourg, in the area of SRU. Participants suggested that public space infrastructure (such as a launch site/spaceport) could help companies in the development of new technologies. The development of space infrastructure, incentives, and funding for space commercial activities were all put forward as ideas to help foster the industry.
In addition to suggestions to increase support for the space industry in Canada in order to foster economic opportunities, participants also proposed that government support the development of terrestrial applications for space technology. Multiple participants expressed the view that particular focus should be given to reinforcing/establishing Canadian areas of expertise, including robotics, AI, quantum technologies, and in-space communications. Participants also mentioned the potential for investments in small satellites ("smallsats" and "cubesats") and radio and optical space telescopes. Interoperability and intellectual property protection were also mentioned by participants as important areas to be given consideration in the development of a framework for future space activities.
In addition to the many comments received with respect to encouraging the development and support of Canada's space industry, several participants noted the importance of non-commercial interests in space, such as scientific discovery. These participants indicated that searching for solutions to problems that affect all of humanity, such as climate change, was a vital part of Canada's space program. These participants cautioned against focusing too narrowly on commercial growth.
Enable Space Resource Utilization
Overall Stakeholder Feedback: Clear regulatory framework around SRU including property rights for space resources is needed; funding for research and development is important to the development of the SRU industry in Canada; Canada should play an active role in the development of an international governance framework for SRU.
Many of the participants expressed support for fostering an SRU industry in Canada and offered a wide range of commentary and suggestions on how to support such an industry. Participants expressed the view that Canada's global expertise in mining including mining technology, regulations and standards, and sustainable mining practices form a strong foundation from which to develop new applications on the lunar surface and beyond. Participants also expressed a desire for Canada to play a leadership role on the international stage related to SRU (see Canada's Role in the Global Governance of Space above).
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)'s Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP) was cited as a good example to follow in terms of establishing a vision and strategic goals for SRU. A participant suggested that the Government of Canada should encourage terrestrial geologists and space scientists to collaborate in the area of space resources.
Participants strongly supported the development of laws and regulations to enable Canadian companies to participate in the lunar economy. Concern was expressed by participants that the pace of technological change was outstripping the pace of regulation, and that timely action on regulatory modernization was needed. The establishment of a clear regulatory framework for SRU was seen as a key driver for the development of a vibrant SRU industry in Canada. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of multilateral international cooperation in addition to domestic guidance for industry. Suggestions ranged from negotiating new international requirements for space resources, to collaborating with other nations in order to establish international coordination and governance mechanisms. Participants proposed Canada should have an active role in the development of an international framework, and that this work should take place through UNCOPUOS and other international fora. Some participants suggested examining other international frameworks, such as the deep seabed regime, as possible models for the governance of SRU activities. Other participants pointed to domestic SRU laws passed by the United States and Luxembourg as potential models for Canada.
Participants indicated that funding for research and development in SRU activities was important to the development of the SRU industry in Canada. The CSA's Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) was cited as an example of a program that could be leveraged or emulated for this purpose. Public-private partnerships (PPP) and start-up funding, superclusters, and consortiums were put forward as possible approaches to funding SRU technologies and activities.
Sustainable mining practices, as well as technology standards that would support sustainable activities, were also raised by participants as good approaches to apply to space resources. International standards, including interoperability standards, were also mentioned as important components in advancing SRU activities. Participants emphasized the importance of clarification around mineral rights and access rights, as well as clear guidance for operators in navigating regulations and obtaining authorization for SRU activities. In the context of SRU, participants also underlined the need for clear rules around space debris, liability, and standards of conduct. Participants also mentioned the issue of heritage sites in space, as was put forward in the Artemis Accords, and the need for a common international approach on this issue.
While some participants stressed the importance of clarifying ownership rights of space resources and the rules around exclusive access, other participants expressed the opinion that space resources should be distributed in a manner that ensures that nations of differing space capability have an equitable share.
The urgency of establishing rules at both the national and international level came up frequently as participants anticipated SRU activities taking place in the near future. Overall, there was a clear focus on rules that would encourage the development of a world-leading Canadian SRU industry, while providing guidance for safe, sustainable, and responsible behaviours for carrying out commercial activities.
Consider Other Issues
A range of other issues were brought forward by participants as areas for consideration in the development of a framework for future space activities. These include:
Participants emphasized the importance of the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and the involvement of Indigenous experts in activities related to the development of a framework for future space exploration activities. The importance of the Moon, Mars, and the night sky to Indigenous peoples was brought forward, particularly in the contexts of SRU and mega-constellations. As activities on the lunar and Mars surface increase, consultation with Indigenous communities was recommended to ensure that Indigenous voices were heard.
Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Several participants emphasized the importance of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, as indicated in Article IV of the Outer Space Treaty.
Some participants expressed the opinion that space is a "global commons".
Living and Working In Space
Several topics related to living and working in space were raised by participants. Some participants expressed concern with respect to the mental health and well-being of astronauts who may experience feelings of isolation during long-duration space missions, and it was suggested that research into activities to boost psychological well-being should be conducted.
Some participants expressed the view that Canada should ensure that human rights are protected for all humans living and working on the Moon, Mars, or other celestial bodies. A participant mentioned the importance of diversity and inclusion when considering space matters. The opinion was expressed that an international framework was necessary to develop and protect common life-support systems (food, water, etc.) placed on the Moon, Mars, or other celestial bodies in the future.
Funding of Planetary Science Missions
A large number of comments were received as part of a coordinated campaign to express support for funding planetary science missions. This campaign called for long-term plans for Canadian planetary exploration missions and for Canada to lead its own planetary science missions in the future, in addition to participating in projects led by other nations. Other participants expressed support for the CSA's LEAP program and a call was made to strengthen this program through increased funding and activity.
Terrestrial Applications of Space Technology
Multiple participants emphasized the importance of keeping terrestrial applications of space technology in mind so that advances in space lead to benefits for life on Earth. Health care was underlined as an important area with application potential in both domains.
Space Debris/Orbital Debris
Many participants raised concerns about the issue of orbital debris, both in Earth and lunar orbits. Participants identified space debris as a pressing issue that needed to be addressed at both the national and international level, and that required clear rules and enforcement mechanisms. Suggestions made by participants included the establishment of an international fund to clean up space debris the development of international standards, and information sharing. As with most issues raised during this consultation, participants felt strongly that international cooperation and collaboration was an essential part of resolving what was widely perceived as a global issue.
The Effect of Light and Radio Pollution on Astronomy
Several participants commented on the issue of light pollution and radio frequency interference stemming from increased activity in Earth orbit, and mega-constellations in particular. Participants also expressed concern that increased lunar activity may negatively affect any future observatories on the far side of the moon, an area seen as ideal for the placement of astronomical instruments and observatories. Participants encouraged the development of international rules to ensure that commercial activities and astronomy could both take place on the lunar surface without one interfering with the other. It was recommended that Canada develop regulatory approaches to address issues related to mega-constellations, while also engaging the international community in discussions to resolve these issues on a global scale. It was suggested that consideration should be given to the possibility of building international consensus to reserve part of the far side of the moon for astronomical instruments.
Several participants took the opportunity to express their support for the establishment of space launch capabilities in Canada. Participants identified a number of issues that they felt should be addressed in order for this to take place, including identifying a flight testing location and associated rules regarding airspace restriction, ensuring a regulatory environment conducive to flight testing and launch, and conducting a study of environmental issues and impacts both on Earth and in orbit relating to launch.
Fostering Opportunities for Students
A number of participants, including both individual students and student organizations, expressed the perspective that there should be more opportunities and funding for students and young professionals in the Canadian space sector. These participants expressed concern about "brain drain" as students, lacking opportunities in Canada, moved to other countries, taking their skill, knowledge and talent with them. Internships, specialized training, scholarships, grants, mentorship and career development programs were all proposed as tools for supporting the advancement for students and young professionals in their studies and careers in the space sector. One participant felt that opportunities in the space sector were concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, and expressed a desire for space opportunities to be more evenly distributed throughout Canada.
Getting Canadians Interested in Space
Many participants raised the importance of getting people interested in and excited about Canada's space exploration activities. Citizen engagement was frequently mentioned as an important activity, as were outreach activities to younger Canadians. Participants suggested educating the public about the use of space and space technology in their everyday lives. Likewise, participants suggested that getting schoolchildren interested in space at a young age is essential to creating the space work force of tomorrow.
Opposition to Further Investment in Space Activities
A small number of participants wrote to express their concern about the spending of public funds on space initiatives rather than pressing concerns being faced by people on Earth today. These participants expressed support for diverting funds to other issues such as a universal basic income or a national pharmacare program. These participants also emphasized the importance of taking action on climate change.
Cybersecurity and Space
The view was expressed that efforts should be made to protect space infrastructure from cybersecurity threats.
Section 5: Conclusion
The CSA would like to extend its thanks to the many Canadians who took the time to share their views on this important topic.
The feedback received during the course of the consultation will be used to inform Canada's national and international efforts to develop and strengthen frameworks for space exploration activities.
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