Daniel Sax, Co-Founder and CEO, Canadian Space Mining Corporation speaks with the Hon. Lisa Raitt about why space mining matters, its multiple applications and how Canada can be a leader in the energy supply chain.
Lisa Raitt: Thank you for tuning in to The Raitt Stuff. I’m your host, Lisa Raitt. And in this podcast, I’m going to share insights on current hot topics in the areas of public policy, politics and business with some guests along the way. And welcome back to The Raitt Stuff. So it’s going to be an interesting discussion we have today. And from the topic that you’ve clicked through, you can see that it’s something unique, but it’s still a little bit of the same of what we talk about here, mainly in the natural resources sector. I’m at Daniel Sax at a luncheon that was being hosted for the Premier of Yukon, and we had a conversation about what space mining is, what it isn’t, and the applications in real life and thought what a great opportunity for him to be able to tell all kinds of other folks about the exciting things that are happening now. Let me tell you a little bit about Daniel Sax. He’s a co-founder and CEO of the Canadian Space Mining Corporation since 2020. And he’s a futurist. He’s an entrepreneur. He’s an investor and advisor, and he wants to focus on moving that needle for humanity by building new supply chain untethered from Earth’s gravity. Hi, Daniel. Thank you very much for joining The Raitt Stuff.
Daniel Sax: Hi, Lisa. Thank you for having me. It’s an honour to be here.
Lisa Raitt: So when got your card and we were sitting down, I looked at it and it said Space mining. And my first question was, What the heck is space mining? So what the heck is space mining?
Daniel Sax: Think that is a very natural reaction to the topic. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I think there’s several facets to it in one and in part of our conversation here, I think your listeners take one thing away. It’s Canada’s right to win, right? So we have this deep heritage in in mining and in natural resources. We are the world leader in that we were the third space faring nation with the Alouette satellite. And we have a deep expertise in space, robotics and communications. And this should really be our kind of industry as a nation going forward. So then what space mining means and again, it means several things to several people. For us it’s about there’s this return to the moon going on and that return to the moon seeks to establish permanent lunar bases. Those lunar bases will require resources consumed in the lunar environment. And the most efficient way for us to do that is to actually produce those resources like water and oxygen and hydrogen in the lunar environment for local consumption. So the scientific term is in-situ resource utilisation. Resources are produced and consumed where they are. And beyond that, think there’s a longer term vision to space mining, which is to harvest resources on other planetary bodies. So, you know, asteroids, the asteroid field between past Mars has more precious metals than, you know, by a order of magnitude, an exponential order of magnitude than than anywhere on Earth. Right. There’s single asteroids who have more precious metals than we do on this planet. So a lot of that stuff is in kind of long term vision for space mining. For us, it’s about sustainability. It’s about making space travel more sustainable. The less you have to bring there with you. The better and the more you can establish permanent operations in these places.
Lisa Raitt: So it’s not about necessarily you don’t have a mining company that’s seeking rights to go and mine on the moon, for example, you’re focusing on the things that are going to be needed in order for us as mankind, humankind to actually mine in space. Correct.
Daniel Sax: We’ll obviously have to deal with rights on the moon as the moon is a commons right now for humanity. And of course with anything there has to be the right legal pathway. But we’re really focussed on delivering goods in space as a company. In many ways it’s easier to think of us as an energy company as the future kind of shell of space, creating an energy supply chain and consumable supply chain for things like water, things like oxygen and things like rocket fuel, which is mostly made of hydrogen and oxygen. So rocket fuel is just water and there is abundant water on the moon as well as on other planetary bodies of hydrogen and oxygen. It’s just a question of how you get it out of the dust, how you get it out of the the rock there, and then process it into a usable form.
Lisa Raitt: Growing up, a lot of us would have been aware of the fact that a number of inventions that we use today, practical things, were actually invented for the purpose of the moon mission in the United States. And we can find these things in our everyday life. Is it right to assume that it’s the same kind of attitude with respect to developments that you’re seeking to make in space mining? These things are going to be applicable in our everyday life and further our own understanding of what we can do here on Earth.
Daniel Sax: Yeah, fundamentally space and space technology and us solving big challenges in space has continuously led to these technologies. These revolutionary technologies, which has impacted our everyday lives, is a great example. It’s how we all get around on a daily basis. It was actually not intended when it was originally created for GPS, you know, MRI technology and medical imaging. Some of that is based on the data analysis actually that they did of images for the moon, for the original Apollo missions, as well as astronomy technologies, Velcro, something we use in our everyday lives on our children’s shoes comes from some work in space technology. So there’s a number of examples on this. And as we’re going to the lunar environment this time to stay, we’re going to end up creating a lot of technologies that will be very impactful. Where we’re focussed as a company at CSMC is in these dual use technologies. So are we solving a long term problem in space and does that solve an immediate problem on Earth and, and on the processing side, the side where we’re creating squeezing water out of rocks? Fundamentally, the two biggest problems facing humanity over the next century are going to be clean water and clean air. And we think that this will yield insights and technologies that we’re not even quite clear right now on what they will be, where we will end up making those inventions. But we think that’ll be impactful to humanity’s big problems. On resources. We’ve already created some new technologies for resources that are very disruptive from our work on the early stages of space mining.
Lisa Raitt: That’s really cool. And I understand that the Canadian Space Agency has granted you some funding for something that would be needed in space, but as well is something that could pretty well be put to use in rural and remote communities.
Daniel Sax: Yeah, so, so we actually have three big contracts with the Canadian Space Agency. So, so we’ve evolved as a company from just a pure play space mining company to, to that mission of, of dual use technologies where we’re really what I would call a long term infrastructure company focussed on solving big problems in areas that are long term in space, but immediate on earth. And we do that across three verticals. One is resources. So the space mining side, the second is health care, and the third is energy side. So we’re vying for visions for Canada’s next big space program, and that’s the contract where we’re advancing all the space mining work for Canada. Right now, we’re the only Start-Up competing for the next $2 billion space program against the big incumbents. And then in the second vertical in the health care vertical, we just built a prototype space hospital for the CSA. So Canada went and kind of said, Well, maybe we want to own and be the leader long term in health care delivery in space. And so they tasked us and a couple other players with building a prototype hospital of what an early stage prototype of a moon hospital would be. But what it really is, is a shipping container hospital, super advanced hospital environment that can be disruptive immediately to the Arctic and Indigenous communities and remote communities where there’s a huge gap in health care infrastructure. So that’s our C3 project that are connected care capsule funded by the Canadian Space Agency, and that was a $2 million project. We went from concepts to beginning construction in about a month and then deliver the project about six months later on time and on budget.
Lisa Raitt: Well, coming from the government, I say Bravo. That’s pretty cool that you got it on time and on budget. And as a as a taxpayer, I say thank you for getting it on time and on budget.
Daniel Sax: Yeah, this is a new way of doing procurement, and I know you’ve been around government for a while. Procurement has its challenges. Everyone will tell you it’s a very inefficient system. There’s there’s a new model in the space industry and it’s to walk away from what’s called old space, which is the old prime contractor model towards what’s called new space, where space agencies and governments are finding ways to iterate more rapidly, maybe take a little more risk, but move much quicker in a way that could advance technology faster and capabilities faster with overall less risk. As they move and progress things at a lower cost. And so the went out to us and some other parties to develop these pods on a very short basis. We had about six months to deliver the project and they expect to continue iterating upon these pods with new versions, solving ever more kind of complex challenges on a very fast basis. If this was done the old fashioned way, it would have probably taken many studies and, you know, 5 to 7 years just to get to this point. We got it in, in six months.
Lisa Raitt: An I appreciate that, As I said, that’s pretty awesome. Now, you have a recent new hire that I’m very interested in. Tell us about the new role for your NASA astronaut.
Daniel Sax: Two weeks ago, the acting chief astronaut of NASA, Drew Feustel, retired from NASA and the next day joined our company as the head of strategy of strategy. It’s obviously, you know, for an entrepreneur like myself, it’s a very surreal moment that Drew would choose us. Someone like that could obviously go to any company he wanted on the planet. Drew is the only Canadian astronaut, actually has a very interesting background, accomplished geophysicist, worked in mining exploration resource exploration for Exxon and then went to NASA, started his career as a mechanic. So he started kind of from the community college blue collar route, which is not a typical pathway to becoming an astronaut and then was commander of the Led the repairs on the Hubble. And and Drew brings tremendous experience in spaceflight in the inner workings of the space agencies. And space industry obviously knows it’s a very small community so he knows every other astronaut, every company quite impactful, very passionate about space Mining has always been someone who believed in space mining and that’s why he got into NASA in the first place, wanting to apply his geophysics background to space. And so this is a great opportunity for him to now apply that background and for us to to work with someone like this who brings really deep understanding firsthand of space operations, how governments and space agencies perceive and look at risk. Everything in business, as you know, is about estimating, quantifying and trying to hedge risk. And so Drew brings really unparalleled experience in that regard.
Lisa Raitt: So where do you see the market going in the future?
Daniel Sax: I think ultimately it’s the largest market in space. Take a terrestrial analogue. If you look at all of the airline companies and all of the aeroplane companies, you some those and then you look at their market cap and you look at the market cap of 1 or 2 oil and gas companies that will tell you where the market is going for consumables in the future. I think, you know, the SpaceX’s of the world are solving real problems. But ultimately, you know, you may look back on this at 100 years and realise that they are maybe building the school buses or the aeroplanes and not in the consumables business. So so I see this as a very large business. There’s huge numbers that have been thrown out around space mining. It’s said to be that the first trillionaire will be the first person to mine asteroids. That’s possible. The market for water on the moon is estimated by PwC to be between 50 and 100 billion between now and 2040, and we think that will be a very viable market servicing both the lunar environment, trans Mars travel. So from the moon to Mars as well as low earth orbit, where there’s tons of commercial activity happening and a huge opportunity to refuel and service all of that activity with consumables.
Lisa Raitt: Well, thanks so much, Daniel. Really appreciate your time here today on The Raitt Stuff. I bet there’s a lot of listeners out there who hadn’t even been thinking about this and thought it was something that you watch on television or you see in the movie theatre. But it’s a reality and it’s something that in Canada you’re going to help us get to that forefront of competition. So thank you so much for joining me today on The Raitt Stuff.
Daniel Sax: Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
Lisa Raitt: Thanks so much for tuning in. Now, if you have any questions or comments or even requests on topics to discuss, drop me a line at Lisa.Raitt@CIBC.com. Your interactions actually will make this better. I’m your host, Lisa Raitt, and this has been The Raitt Stuff.
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Featured in this episode
Co-Founder and CEO
Canadian Space Mining Corporation