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Air Force establishes new division to ‘protect Canadian interests in space’

Threats include space junk and malicious actions by private groups or governments
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule lifts off on a second test flight to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, May 19, 2022. The Royal Canadian Air Force’s newest division is focused on extraterrestrial matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-John Raoux

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s newest division is focused on extraterrestrial matters.

A reorganization of the existing space-focused team will now be known as 3 Canadian Space Division, with Brig.-Gen. Mike Adamson in command.

But if you’re picturing Armed Forces members donning space suits, think again.

“Astronauts and space exploration, this really continues to be the purview of the Canadian Space Agency,” Adamson said. “They’re looking at the science of space.”

He also said the new division is not Canada’s answer to the U.S. Space Force.

“They stood up this entire new service and they’ve got new uniforms and the whole nine yards, and a Netflix show. I’m not going to get my own Netflix show, I don’t think,” Adamson said with a laugh.

As opposed to an extension of combat power in space, Canada’s “modest” Space Division is “really just a recognition of the fact that it’s gone beyond just an office.”

He said it’s similar to the way the Air Force itself developed, when early technology during the First World War included balloon-enabled battlefield observation.

“And that turned into airplanes, and eventually somebody said, you know, I think we need an entire organization to do this whole flying thing.”

Members of Canada’s Armed Forces will be trained with specific skill sets to become space specialists.

“We’re more concerned with looking at those components of space on which we have become increasingly reliant as a society in Canada,” he said, including ATMs, internet and cellphone technology, TV and anything that relies on GPS.

Canada is part of the Combined Space Operations initiative, along with six allied countries, which released a document in February outlining its vision for the next decade.

Canada says space-based capabilities are used in communications, navigation, weather services, remote sensing, Earth observation and financial transactions, and that some countries have the ability to disrupt access to these critical functions.

Adamson said the number of satellites in Earth’s orbit has more than doubled in the last two years. It is key to have an understanding of what’s there to ensure critical infrastructure is protected.

Defence Minister Anita Anand called space a “critical domain for national security,” saying in a statement Friday the division is part of building a military that can respond to “tomorrow’s threats.”

Those threats include space junk and malicious actions by private groups or other countries, like China and Russia.

Over the next several years, the division will expand to employ about 175 people, nearly doubling the number of positions in the previous iteration, Director General Space.

– The Canadian Press