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Canadian SmallSat Symposium surpasses expectations


The first Canadian SmallSat Symposium, held in Toronto last week, exceeded expectations of its event organizers – the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

The event drew 219 diverse attendees, highlighting a long list of quality speakers, supported by bilateral meetings and a commitment to detail by the CSCA. The subject matter of small satellites and their related technologies and services remained a topic of hot conversation for Canadian members and international participants.

Canadian SmallSat Symposium

Research information, such as Euroconsult’s 2015 report, indicates the growing market value of future SmallSats over the next five years is estimated at $7.4-billion. Building capability is clear with the existing exemplary and innovative work being done by the Space Flight Laboratory in Toronto and the growing educational opportunities at several universities including the University of Alberta, Concordia University, University of Manitoba, Victoria University, York University and others. Even traditional heavyweights such as MDA and Telesat are pursuing the SmallSat market.

Promoting Canadian capabilities

“Several international attendees commented that Canada doesn’t do enough to promote its capabilities. If that’s the case, then we’ve succeeded in small way by bringing more attention to what Canadian companies can do,” says Marc Boucher, executive director of the CSCA.

“Canada has purposefully built a perception of being able to serve niche markets. While it is the case that Canada can and does serve niche markets, the Canadian sector is much more than that. Canada has a growing technology base and many companies who don’t count themselves as space companies, can, and do contribute to the space sector.”

Some of the highlights of the Symposium included the opening inspirational plenary by Grey Wyler of OneWeb, stating its goal is to “enable affordable internet access for everyone” serves both a humanitarian effort and is helping to drive the SmallSat marketplace.

Sylvain Laporte, president of the Canadian Space Agency spoke in broad terms of Canada’s space program but did emphasize early in his talk a renewed commitment to have an ongoing and continuous dialogue with industry including noting that the new government and leadership had a common interest to, “engage in a more intense level of collaboration, discussion and dialogue going forward.”

Members urged to develop the marketplace

“In my mind this was a positive signal industry has been looking for,” Boucher adds. “The Association (CSCA) looks forward to working with government on behalf of its members to further develop the marketplace.”

When asked a multi-part question related to SmallSat’s and planetary exploration program including if Canada could lead a mission, Laporte’s emphatic answer was “yes, yes and yes.” It’s clear that Laporte is able to discuss Canada’s space program openly now that the constraints of the previous government have been removed.

An important part of the symposium was the participation by students. About 12% of the attendees were students from across the country. They participated in a student mini-symposium and had access to the full program. They also had the opportunity to interact with industry and government participants.