LONGUEUIL, Que. — Ottawa is hoping to capitalize on the country's vast geography and space expertise to lure in companies that want to launch commercial space flights from Canadian soil.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced Friday that the federal government will develop the regulatory requirements, safety standards and licensing conditions necessary to authorize commercial satellite space launches from Canada within the next three years.
"For many years, Canadian satellites have launched from sites in other countries," he said at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Longueuil, south of Montreal.
"It's time for us to start launching them right here at home."
Alghabra said the country is also ready to approve launches in the interim period on a case-by-case basis, and he invited private companies to come forward with projects.
"Today's announcement is a strong signal to invite those who are interested to come on in and take advantage of the advantages Canada has," he said, adding that he's confident a first launch will happen within the next three years.
Marc Garneau, a Montreal-area MP and former astronaut, said Canada has a number of geographic advantages when it comes to launch locations, including a vast, sparsely populated territory and high-inclination orbits, which are "very much in demand for Earth observation and other specific applications," he said.
He said that while Canada has previously launched suborbital rockets — which go up into space and fall back down — it has not yet launched an orbital space flight.
Alghabra said a number of companies have expressed interest in launching from Canada, including Maritime Launch, which recently broke ground on the country's first spaceport in northeastern Nova Scotia.
The company's CEO, Stephen Matier, has said the company hopes to launch a first suborbital test later this year in Canso, N.S., followed by a small orbital rocket next year.
The company hopes to be able to launch a first rocket capable of carrying a load in 2025, with plans to scale up to eight to 10 launches a year soon afterwards.
Friday's commercial space flight announcement refers to satellite launches rather than manned passenger flights. But Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, who was at the announcement, said it's not out of the question that astronauts could one day be launched into space from Canada, once the country's capacity is built up.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2023.
Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press