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Canadian Space Summit 2013 – CSA President Natynczyk Speech

CSA President

I attended the Canadian Space Summit 2013 in Ottawa Canada this week. The following posts are my rough notes. Disclaimer: I jotted down what I understood but I am likely to get names, comments, and some information wrong. Please contact me if you feel I have misquoted you or otherwise mistated some of the conversations, and I will be happy to set the record straight.

Keynote from Canadian Space Agency President Natynczyk

Canada’s former top soldier, General (Ret) Walter Natynczyk, gave his first public speech after becoming President of the Canadian Space Agency. In a parade-ground voice, he gave a hilarious speech that was long on charm and short on specifics.

He said: My mission is to enable Canada’s space success. CSA is a center of excellence to enable other people’s success in space. He approached this new position as a layman – he has no science background. How would somebody at Tim Horton’s understand space?

Space is the most challenging industry – but it is vital to Canadian quality of life. His new mission is to ensure Canadians understand just how vital space is to them. For instance, we can find our way to any Tim Horton’s because of GPS maps, using a cell phone network. Canada has contributed so much to space output – in some key technologies we are world leaders. But we can’t take it for granted. Space is about competition.

The CSA St Hubert facility operates Dextre robot and other technologies because Canadians are trusted for competence. There are 640 people at CSA – with satellite sites at Washington, Paris, and Kennedy Space Center. The CSA doesn’t do R&D, which is better located in the domain of universities and businesses. Instead, CSA tries to find extraordinary ideas and ensure ideas get “flight heritage”.

When it comes to space, people think about the astronaut program. We are definitely pushing the envelope of human endurance and knowledge in space. However people think of extraordinary Canadians because it is personal. But behind all that, is critical infrastructure for Canada and the world – in terms of safety, security and sovereignty, environment and climate change, natural resources and agriculture, and the Arctic.

Canada is united by space technologies just as much as it is by our national railroad. There is $3.5 B revenue in space industry across Canada, with 8,000 sector employment in over 200 organizations.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Hadfield for inspiring students. Space is cool again – we need to energize generations of young Canadians. If we do not do that we will lose our competitive edge. Space is a watershed science – benefits flow down and spin off.

Questions and Answers

  • Q: What kind of response would there be for international cooperation on global protection (such as protecting against asteroid strikes)? A: We are partnering with international organizations, that is being done every day.
  • Q: This is the anniversary of President Kennedy’s death; what is the inspiring goal for the next 10 years? A: We are working on that right now, following the recommendations in the David Emerson report. The CSA has a longer term plan.
  • Q from Chuck Black , Canadian Space Commerce Association Director:  Following the Emerson Report, are there any small business recommendations for Small and Medium Enteprises?  The response from the CSA President: We are definitely interested in following the recommendations in the Emerson report and one of those was for stable funding, and right now we are working on a 10 year plan.

My understanding from reading the news is that the appointment of a former military man to the civilian space agency had caused surprise. There were certainly a number of discussions during the rest of the summit about what the public strategy of CSA would be and what (if anything) the appointment of General (Ret.) Natynczyk meant to political direction of the CSA. As an outsider to this industry, I have no particular opinion on the matter at this time.

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