All countries are becoming increasingly dependent on space. There are more than 1,200 operational satellites in space playing and ever-growing role in human activities and development, in such areas as weather forecasting, transportation navigation, communication, banking, urban planning, and disaster relief, to name only a few. The security of humanity’s space-based assets is therefore vital to the smooth operation of our daily lives on earth. Canada works in close partnership with the US and other space-faring nations to ensure the safe, secure and sustainable use of space. As such, Canada supports international initiatives suggesting a step by step approach to address space security.
The most important global treaties to ensure the safe, sustainable use of outer space include:
- The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the "Outer Space Treaty"), adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2222 (XXI), opened for signature on 27 January 1967, entered into force on 10 October 1967;
- The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the "Rescue Agreement"), adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2345 (XXII), opened for signature on 22 April 1968, entered into force on 3 December 1968;
- The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the "Liability Convention"), adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2777 (XXVI), opened for signature on 29 March 1972, entered into force on 1 September 1972;
- The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the "Registration Convention"), adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 3235 (XXIX), opened for signature on 14 January 1975, entered into force on 15 September 1976;
The international community is building on these existing treaties to strengthen confidence and transparency among space-faring countries to promote the peaceful and sustainable use of outer space. One of the most important forums for doing so is the United Nations’ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). COPUOS was created in 1959 to promote international cooperation in the outer space. Recently, the UN General Assembly asked a Group of Governmental Experts to examine ways to promote transparency and confidence building measure. They group presented its report in 2013 setting out proposals for actions by countries to promote confidence and transparency among those who use space. The European Union is leading efforts to promote an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Such a Code of Conduct would set out voluntary global norms for responsible behaviour by space-faring countries. Talks to draft such and International Code began in 2012 and are scheduled to be completed in 2015. Finally, the issue of the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) is a subject of discussion at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Under this agenda item, the Russian Federation and China have proposed a “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT)”. The Russian Federation and China presented a draft PPWT treaty in 2008 and in 2014.
In Canada, in addition to these international instruments, space security includes ensuring that remote sensing of earth using satellites is regulated, to ensure that observation of earth from space is conducted in peaceful ways consistent with Canada’s security interests. In 2006, Parliament passed the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act to regulate space-based earth observation systems by Canadian companies, including satellites and their ground support stations.
Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Canadians are actively participating in the supply of high performance remote sensing (earth observation) data, products and services for domestic and foreign clients. The Remote Sensing Space Systems Act and its Regulations authorizes the Minister of Foreign Affairs to oversee the activities of any remote sensing system operating from Canada or by Canadian entities abroad. Licensing actions, including the setting of conditions, is exercised to ensure that remote sensing activities are not injurious to national security, to the defense of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor are they inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations. As part of the licensing process, DFATD consults with the Departments of National Defence, Public Safety, Industry Canada, and the Canadian Space Agency.
The Act requires an independent review of the RSSSA every five years. On April 5, 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs tabled in Parliament the second independent report of the RSSSA (PDF, 1.24 KB).
Applying for a licence
We provide licensing information and advice to our clients seeking to obtain a licence to operate remote sensing space systems in any manner, directly or indirectly, in Canada or by Canadians elsewhere in the world.
- Licenses may be issued to Canadian or foreign entities operating on Canadian territory as well as Canadian entities operating abroad.
- Licenses may cover all or only some of the controlled activities related to the operations of remote sensing satellites or ground receiving stations (ex: distribution of data, telemetry, tracking and command stations...)
- Certain systems, persons and data may be exempt from the application of parts of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act under certain criterion.
If you are considering applying for a license under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act please consult Schedule 1 of the Remote Sensing Regulations for more information. For further assistance, please contact us at:
Global Affairs Canada
Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division (IGN)
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Canada K1A 0G2
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