When science meets space! New Memorandum of Understanding between the NRC and the CSA will strengthen R&D collaboration in support of Canada's space program

- Ottawa, Ontario

From flying zero-gravity missions on earth to growing food in remote or harsh conditions to miniaturized lab-on-a-chip devices to monitor our astronauts' health, research experts at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) continue to work together to advance space science. On February 17, 2020, both organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to continue to strengthen this collaboration for all future R&D and technology projects.

NRC President, Iain Stewart and CSA President, Sylvain Laporte signing the MoU

CSA President, Sylvain Laporte and NRC President, Iain Stewart signing the MoU

NRC President, Iain Stewart and CSA President, Sylvain Laporte signed the MoU at the NRC's aerospace research facilities at Uplands in Ottawa. With this agreement, both organizations have established a framework to develop projects and investigate areas of mutual interest in support of Government of Canada space policies and priorities and future space missions. Areas of collaboration that this agreement will explore include space R&D, development and testing of applications, space technology and systems development, and scientific and technological expertise.

"The National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency have a long-standing history of collaboration in space-related research. We are pleased to be formalizing our relationship through this agreement and look forward to continuing the good work we are doing together to help accelerate technological solutions and advance research excellence in space science," said Stewart.

Laporte shared, "The Canadian Space Agency is proud to collaborate with the National Research Council of Canada. Our respective science and engineering expertise will continue to advance Canadian science and technology to benefit Canadians. These efforts promote Canada's continued excellence and ingenuity in space and generate solutions to important challenges on Earth."

By recognizing the mutual scientific, technological, industrial, social and economic benefits that cooperation in space science, research, technology, services, applications and governance will bring, both parties will advance their knowledge on current and future projects.

The NRC and the CSA will also hold annual sessions to monitor the effectiveness and applicability of the MoU and explore potential new areas of collaboration.

A history of collaborations

Since the CSA's inception, both organizations have been collaborating on numerous projects to tackle technology development challenges and deliver innovative solutions for space.

Over the past 5 years alone, the 2 have partnered on 37 projects across 8 of the NRC's research centres, some of which are still ongoing. The projects have spanned various research areas ranging from microgravity research to health technologies to data management through the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC).

A few examples include:

  • With help from researchers at the CSA, the CADC helps to make big data manageable for 60 per cent of astronomers around the world.
  • The NRC and the CSA have been collaborating to develop MicroPREP.  This lab-on-a-chip technology will help astronauts assess the states of their immune systems, inflammation, bone loss or radiation effects. MicroPREP is a small, portable system designed to help astronauts better monitor their own health during long stays in space. It can also perform the same services for remote communities on Earth. Communities that do not have access to the large medical laboratories found in urban areas.
  • The NRC and the CSA are collaborating to "fly" fundamental and applied research projects in microgravity. Using the NRC's Falcon 20 aircraft, we have provided microgravity familiarization to astronauts and astronaut candidates, and have conducted risk reduction microgravity flight testing on space-based platforms like the International Space Station. This relationship has supported academic research, industry, and the development of highly qualified personnel.
  • The NRC and the CSA are currently working with partners from the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to adapt a research pod into an efficient and sustainable production unit for fruits and vegetables in the community of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. The project will help inform how growth technologies and infrastructure can be delivered in a number of harsh and isolated locations.

Additionally, the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) and the CSA have an existing MoU supporting Canadian small and medium-sized businesses with research and development projects focused on creating biomedical and healthcare solutions for deep space exploration. Both parties also recently signed a MoU supporting businesses conducting R&D projects in other space-related technologies such as robotics and autonomous operations.

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