The following excerpt is a free preview from the March issue of Space Quarterly magazine. This article is only available in the Canadian edition of the magazine.
Canadian Space Agency Taking Capacity Building to the Next Level by By Peter McMahon
The initial stages of the Canadian Space Agency’s new plan to build space science and technology capacity beyond a project-by-project level have started to bear fruit.
Since it first released two Announcements of Opportunity (AOs) for $2.25 million in April of 2011, the CSA has received more than 90 proposals from more than 20 universities eager to contribute in key research areas and help replace the generation of retiring space scientists and engineers who helped make Canada a leading space-faring nation.
“Over the past two years, we’ve actively consulted with senior executives of government departments, academia, industry and heads of space agencies in order to formulate a strategic and integrated vision that will (among other things) expand Canadian space expertise and enhance synergy between government (and) academia,” CSA President Dr. Steve MacLean explained in 2011 when outlining a new vision for the agency.
Part of that new vision – the “Clusters Pilot” AO – involves a mandate to move the CSA’s capacity-building agenda from a model that funds research on a project-to-project basis to one that invites universities to collaborate in three key priority areas in which the space agency plans to focus its efforts:
specialized knowledge and workforce required to generate scientific knowledge
ability to use this knowledge to create new technologies, and
skills needed to build and test technology-intensive products and applications.
“FAST” (For the Advancement of Science and Technology) – the second new AO – focuses on empowering universities and other teaching institutes to train potential space scientists and engineers through funding grad students, post-grad students and other researchers to work on sub-orbital and near-space projects.
MacLean himself is a product of early examples of space science capacity-building in Canada. Before serving as a payload and mission specialist on space shuttle flights in 1992 and 2006, MacLean was the recipient of a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council post graduate scholarship in 1980 and an NSERC post-doctorate scholarship in 1983 – the same year he completed his doctorate in laser physics at Toronto’s York University.
Now, MacLean and the CSA executive team hope to focus their support of grad, post grad, and faculty researchers at Canadian universities to create opportunities for such people to become proficient at space-science-and-engineering-related skills that they might not have otherwise had the chance to develop.
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