Canada to focus on payloads, not rockets, says space boss

CSA president Walter Natynczyk said it's cheaper to rent rocket rides from corporations or other...

CSA president Walter Natynczyk said it's cheaper to rent rocket rides from corporations or other space agencies rather than starting a launch program from scratch. (JOCELYN MALETTE/QMI AGENCY)

Brian Daly, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:59 PM ET

MONTREAL - The Canadian Space Agency will stick to its bread and butter of robots and satellites while leaving rocket-launching to others, Canada's space boss says.

CSA president Walter Natynczyk said it's cheaper to rent rocket rides from corporations or other space agencies rather than starting a launch program from scratch.

"There's a lot of countries, both national systems and commercial systems, that are into the launch business," Natynczyk told reporters following a speech in downtown Montreal.

"So when Cassiopie (satellite) launched, we used a commercial company, SpaceX. Just over a year ago, we launched Neosat from an Indian rocket system. So ... what we're able to do is to get extraordinary value for the Canadian dollar."

Canada's two active astronauts sit in a lengthy limbo with uneasy partner Russia as the only country that can shuttle humans to the International Space Station.

In 2008, the CSA studied the possibility of a homegrown satellite launcher but has apparently scrapped the idea.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper turned last year to Natynczyk, the former chief of defence staff, to refocus Canada's space efforts around technology that creates jobs and economic growth.

The Conservatives are being criticized for recent cuts and layoffs but Industry Minister James Moore says the CSA has "more than enough money to move forward."

Natynczyk said the CSA's budget isn't the only federal money that can be used for extra-terrestrial projects.

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and other grant agencies, will put up money for out-of-this-world ideas, he said.

"The tendency is for some to come to the space agency and say 'OK, we need the space agency to pay for everything,'" Natynczyk said.

"And I say why don't we work in these partnerships? Because when I talk to the granting councils, some of them haven't spent money in space in many years even though it's in their charter."

 


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