CSA: Canada finds its space in space

The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades. Better yet, make it solar viewing glasses.

As Western prepares to welcome delegates from academia, industry and government next week for the 2012 Canadian Space Summit, a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) official says thanks to scientists and researchers, like those affiliated with the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), Canada is well positioned to remain a major player on the global stage.

“We (Canada) are moving forward to sustain some key areas of expertise in space exploration and Earth observation,” said Manon Larocque, CSA government liaison director. “We’ve done the groundwork and are ready to contribute to future international space missions.”

Larocque cited Canadarm as arguably the country’s most significant aeronautic advancement, even though it was launched 31 years ago this month. She said robotics remain one of Canada’s strength areas and thereby, continue to receive financial support from the government.

“When you look at large space robotics, clearly Canada has an advantage,” Larocque said. “The government continues to provide funding for the industry working in space robotics as they develop the next generation of rovers that could be positioned, eventually, to participate in international expeditions.”

Closer to home, Earth specifically, Larocque said the government is also committed to further developing the RADARSAT Constellation mission. RADARSAT is a sophisticated Earth observation satellite developed by Canada to monitor environmental changes and the planet’s natural resources.

“The next generation of RADARSAT is being developed for Earth observation missions that are crucial to Canada’s security and sovereignty,” Larocque said.

The three-satellite configuration of RSM, expected to launch in 2016 and 2017, will provide complete coverage of Canada’s land and oceans offering Canadian and other international users maritime surveillance (ice, wind, oil pollution and ship traffic); disaster management monitoring (mitigation, warning, response and recovery); and ecosystem observation (forestry, agriculture, wetlands and coastal change).

Larocque, who also highlighted the importance of Canada’s ongoing participation in the International Space Station program, said conferences like the 2012 Canadian Space Summit give government an opportunity to meet university-based researchers and hear first-hand what discoveries are being made at the academic level and also where scientists feel Canada could be better resourced.

“Space is a very small community. And there are really not that many players,” Larocque explained. “Likewise, there are not that many opportunities to advocate for space, exchange ideas and discuss the future of space, which is all very important.”

Larocque will be joined on campus next week by her colleagues Michel Doyon, CSA flight operation manager, and Viqar Abbasi, CSA simulation engineer. Experts on space debris, Doyon and Abbasi will present CSA & Space Debris: Towards a Common Approach for Canada 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.