Friday, May 22, 2015

Canadian Academics in Space

          By Chuck Black

While Canadian aerospace and space firms contribute useful amounts of research and development funding, this private sector money is normally bolstered with larger pots of Federal, provincial and academic funding.

Below is the 2015 listing of some of the better recognized academic institutions and organizations for space and aerospace focused firms to collaborate with, learn from and maybe even hire a few of their graduates.

Happy hunting...

The Association of Universities and Colleges (AUCC) - As the "voice of Canadian universities," at least according to their website, the AUCC is a useful first stop when building an inventory of Canadian educational facilities focused on science, engineering, space activities or anything else. According to the AUCC, "Canadian universities educate more than 1.5 million students annually. They perform more than one-third of Canada’s research and development. And, as a $30 billion enterprise, our universities generate economic wealth in communities across Canada." AUCC also publishes the annual "Directory of Canadian Universities,"  the 2014 edition of which lists "97 universities and university degree level colleges in a consistent, indexed format."

The Canadian Universities Website - A useful overview of academic expertise in this area covering universities and colleges from the self-proclaimed "Canada's higher education and career guide." Of particular note is the listing of Space Science Scholarships in Canada although other academic sectors can also be accessed from the search page.

The Canada's Top 50 Research Colleges List - An annually updated listing of Canada's top research colleges tracked by amounts spent and areas of expertise. Designed to educate those who believe that the only true research is done in universities.

Canadore College - The Canadore College School of Aviation Technology, located at Jack Garland Airport, recently began construction of a new Advanced Composites Fabrication, Repair and Test Centre (ARC-TC) and continues to perform tests on a mock-up of the proposed SOAR suborbital space plane for European based Swiss Space Systems (S3) as part of Federal MP Jay Aspin's plan to turn the sleepy community college into an international high tech business hub.

Carleton University - The Carleton Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is the home of the Carleton Mechanical and Aerospace Society (CMAS) and the CU3SAT micro-satellite project, which competed in the 2012 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). A second team from Carleton competed in the 2014 CSDC.

Centennial College - The Centennial College Centre of Aerospace Training and Education (CATE) provides several post-secondary, apprenticeship, corporate and secondary school co-operative programs in aerospace manufacturing and support. The facility received $26Mln CDN from the Ontario government to relocate these programs to the former de Havilland aircraft manufacturing centre at Downsview Park, in June 2014. The new facility will be part of a larger aerospace training and research hub being developed for the commercialization of new technologies.

Concordia University - Home of the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation (CIADI), which promotes "awareness and provide leading edge know-how among engineering students engaged in aerospace design and innovation." Also home to Space Concordia, a team of Concordia University engineering students which was an entrant in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

Laurentian University – In partnership with Science North, Laurentian offers the comprehensive Science Communication graduate program, which covers "the theory underlying good communication as well as the practical challenges of effectively communicating science and the issues involving science in society.

McGill University - Home of the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law, focused on "training aviation and space focused lawyers to serve throughout the world." The faculty maintains close relationships with the American Bar Association (ABA) Forum Committee on Air and Space Law, organizes conference on the topic and publishes the Annals of Space Law Journal.

The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics- A basic research centre dedicated to "exploring the world around us at its most fundamental level." The institute supports over 80 resident researchers and a vigorous visitor program of cross-disciplinary research in condensed matter, cosmology & gravitation, particle physics, quantum foundations, quantum gravity, quantum information theory, superstring theory and other related areas.

Polytechnics Canada - The "voice of leading research-intensive, publicly funded colleges and institutes of technology." Strong advocate for moving at least some of the government money focused on R&D out of universities and into community colleges and trade schools.

Queens University - Home of the annual student run Queen's Space Conference (QSC), aimed at connecting university student-delegates with leading professionals in the space industry.

Royal Military College (RMC) - The Department of Space Science program at RMC offers both undergraduate and graduate programs with specialization focused around theoretical, experimental and observational aspects of space science: from space mission analysis, mission and payload design, remote sensing, satellite tracking, ionospheric physics and space weather, and astronomy and astrophysics.

Ryerson University - Possesses a well respected Engineering Graduate Program, which focuses on aerodynamics and propulsion, aerospace structures, manufacturing, avionics and aerospace systems and has some overlap in technologies, with the space industry.

The University of Alberta - Home to both the Centre for Earth Observation Sciences (CEOS), which uses Earth observation and imaging technology to monitor environmental changes, manage resources and formulate sustainable development policies, and the Institute for Space Science, Exploration and Technology (ISSET), a pioneering interdisciplinary centre for planetary and space research. The university also hosts the annual Canada-Norway Student Sounding Rocket (CaNoRock) exchange program and is home to the AlbertaSat team, which competed in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

The University of British Columbia - Home of the UBC Orbit team which competed in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge and of Dr. Jaymie Matthews, who acts as chief scientist and principal investigator for the Microvariability & Oscillations of STars (MOST) micro-satellite.

The University of Calgary - Home of the Institute for Space Research, which is part of the Department of Physics and focused on the areas of space plasma, aural imaging and analysis and modeling. Projects include the Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e-POP), a scientific payload for the CAScade, Smallsat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer (CASSIOPE), satellite, a scientific mission focused on telecommunications advances and solar weather research funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) as part of the Technology Partnerships Canada program with MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA). A team from the University of Calgary also competed in the 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge.

The University of Guelph - Home to the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF). As part of Ontario Agricultural College, CESRF and its Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture program focus on plant research for space and other closed environment related activities. Has useful connections with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the strong support of NASA's Advanced Life Support (ALS) community.

The University of Manitoba - Home of the University of Manitoba Space Applications and Technology Society (UMSATS), which competed in the 2012 and 2014 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge. As outlined in the March 4th, 2015 UM Today article, "Partners in space, U of M and Magellan Aerospace to build satellites," the university is also home to a new Advanced Satellite Integration Facility, a 6,000-square-foot area, large enough to accommodate up to three satellites at various stages of assembly, plus an ISO Class 8 clean room facility to satisfy the requirements of current and future Canadian government satellite programs. The satellites comprising the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) are expected to be built in this facility.

The University of Saskatchewan - Home of the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST), a student run organization which dominated the 2011 NASA sponsored Space Elevator Games and competed in the 2012 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC), plus the University of Saskatchewan Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies (ISAS).  ISAS maintains strong links to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) through various contributions to the Canadian Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imager System (OSIRIS) for the Swedish ODIN satellite, the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission, the various Canadian Geo-space Monitoring (CGSM) programs and the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change (CANDAC) plus international research connections through the Climate And Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES) program, the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) and the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) program.

The University of Toronto - Home to both the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), the first Canadian academic institution able to build low cost spacecraft, micro-satellites and nano-satellites, and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA). As the "big boy" of academic space activities in Canada, the UTIAS-SFL collaborates with business, government and academic institutions on the development of new space technologies and strengthening the Canadian skill base in space systems engineering. Recent UTIAS-SFL satellites have included the Brite Constellation of micro-satellitesAISSAT-2 (a follow-on from the very successful AISSAT-1) and the Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat). The facility also has close relationships with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Bombardier, the NASA Ames Research CenterMacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and multiple foreign governments.

The University of Waterloo - Home of Canada's largest engineering faculty (divided up into several different schools and research centres, most notably Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering), the university faculty has contributed to a variety of space focused projects. These include the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory, the VASCULAR and BP-Reg medical experiments conducted in 2012-13 aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by Commander Chris Hadfield (who joined the Waterloo faculty in 2014) and a proposed micro-satellite mission (the Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite or QEYSSat) that would demonstrate long-distance quantum key distribution from space. The university also hosts the Waterloo Space Society (WSS), which organizes and promotes space-related events at Waterloo and within the larger community. WSS has two active engineering sub-teams: WatSat which participated in the 2012 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge and the Waterloo Rocketry Team.

The University of Western Ontario (UWO) – Home to the Canadian Lunar Research Network (now a part of the new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute), the Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration (CPSX) and the co-host of the Canadian Astrobiology Network. UWO contains Canada's only graduate program in planetary science, with over 40 PhD and MSc students and a new undergraduate minor degree in planetary science and space exploration. The university can also boast of its role in development of the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSAT), the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the proposed 2016 ExoMars Orbiter and EDM mission, plus the proposed ExoMars 2018 mission and has a close relationships with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the NASA Ames Research CenterMacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and multiple foreign governments.

York University - Home of the Lassonde School of Engineering, which includes the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering and the Earth and Space Science graduate program.York scientists, engineers and students have contributed the Phoenix Scout Mission, SCISAT (the Canadian Space Agency mission to research the ozone layer) the Canadian Wind Imaging Interferometer (WINDII) on NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) and the Canadian Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imager System (OSIRIS) for the Swedish ODIN satellite. York is also home of the York University Rover Team.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Space Station With Laser Beams

          By Brian Orlotti

A research team working on a cosmic ray-detecting space telescope has announced their plans to use this tool to also detect orbital debris, as a prelude to testing a laser cannon on the International Space Station (ISS) designed to destroy space junk. The announcement interestingly parallels the US military's recent deployment of laser weapons for battlefield use.

Graphic of JEM-EUSO on the ISS.  The telescope, which is expected to be installed on the ISS in 2017, will observe brief flashes of light in the earth's atmosphere caused by particles arriving from deep space. Graphic c/o JEM-EUSO website

As outlined in the May 18th, 2015 DNews article, "Space Station Could Get Laser Cannon to Destroy Orbital Debris," the telescope, called the Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO), is scheduled to be installed on the Japanese Experiment Module (also known as Kibo), of the ISS in 2017.

EUSO will be a first-of-its-kind mission concept focused on investigating high-energy cosmic rays and neutrinos by observing the streaks of ultraviolet light produced when these particles interact with Earth's atmosphere. EUSO, in essence, uses Earth's atmosphere as a detector.

Originally a European Space Agency (ESA) mission design, EUSO was to be hosted as an external payload on the ESA's Columbus module on the ISS. Although an initial design study was completed,  the ESA decided in 2004 not to proceed with the mission due to financial constraints. EUSO was then re-tasked as a payload to be hosted on board the Kibo module and the mission was renamed JEM-EUSO.

The Extreme Universe Space Observatory telescope. The telescope is a fast, highly-pixelized, large-aperture and large field-of-view digital camera, working in the near-UV wavelength range (330÷400 nm) with single photon counting capability. Graphic c/o JEM-EUSO in the USA

In the April 30th, 2015 article, "Space Station Could Get Laser Cannon to Destroy Orbital Debris," Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, an astrophysicist at the RIKEN Institute in Wako, Japan (one of the institutions taking part in EUSO), said that a team at RIKEN believe that EUSO could be used for space junk detection in addition to its cosmic ray work.

Once space junk is detected by EUSO, the RIKEN scientists have proposed using a coherent amplification network (CAN) laser to destroy it. A CAN laser utilizes many small lasers working together to generate a single powerful beam. This type of laser is currently being developed to drive particles to high speeds in particle accelerators.

The RIKEN scientists propose using the CAN laser to vaporize a thin layer off the surface of space debris. This vaporized layer would become a high-speed plasma (superhot gas) that would act like rocket exhaust, pushing the space junk away from the ISS to eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

A full-scale version of their system would be armed with a 100,000-watt ultraviolet CAN laser that can fire 10,000 pulses per second, each pulse lasting one-tenth of one-billionth of a second. The RIKEN team says this system could have a range of about 100 km. The CAN laser would require about 8 kg of lithium-ion batteries.

They plan to deploy a small proof-of-concept version of their system at the ISS. This would consist of a miniature version of EUSO and a prototype 10-watt ultraviolet CAN laser firing 100 pulses per second. A RIKEN spokesman stated that the mini-EUSO telescope has been accepted as a project on the ISS and could perhaps be installed in 2017 or 2018, but the laser system has yet to be built.

Should the proof-of-concept and full-scale versions succeed, the RIKEN researchers suggest developing a satellite devoted solely to destroying space debris. They propose that the satellite could be placed into an orbit that traverses both of Earth's poles, enabling it to destroy debris all around the planet, and be armed with a 500,000-watt ultraviolet CAN laser able to fire 50,000 pulses per second. The researchers estimate that such a satellite could destroy one piece of debris every five minutes, or 100,000 pieces of space junk in a year.  Such a system would be a powerful weapon against the increasing threat of space junk.

The U.S. Navy Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) with the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS). The system was installed just prior to it's most recent deployment to the Arabian Gulf. in November 2014. US Navy photo c/o John Williams.

In November 2014, the US Navy deployed its first operational laser cannon in the field. The 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was installed on the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce and run through various tests, including destroying target ships and drones. The US Navy sees laser weapons as having major advantages over projectile ones, including a much lower cost per shot, no reload time, and no risk of running out of ammunition.

Although currently limited to defending against close-in targets due to limited power and a slow targeting system, the US Navy intends for next-generation LaWS to replace projectile-based systems like the Phalanx CIWS for defence against missiles and aircraft.

Brian Orlotti.
Laser weapons, long a science fiction staple, are now entering the realm of science fact. Also as in science fiction, they serve as instruments of both war and peace.

Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Things to Do in TO, When You're Buzz Aldrin

          By Chuck Black

It's difficult to believe, but one of our greatest living space advocates was once known by an earlier generation for just being the second man to walk on the Moon. 

Buzz Aldrin explaining to Ali G (played by Sasha Baron Cohen) that astronaut Neil Armstrong and not musician Louis Armstrong,  was the first man to set foot on the Moon. Later in the interview, Aldrin said that he was not jealous of Michael Jackson, even though Jackson had received the credit for the "Moonwalk," dance while Aldrin had only walked on the Moon. Screenshot c/o Ali G in the USAiii

Eighty five year old Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., a strong practitioner of the William Shatner School of not taking oneself all that seriously (even when engaged in serious discussions), will be in Toronto this week as part of the National Space Society’s (NSS) annual International Space Development Conference® (ISDC), which is being held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Toronto.

Here are a few of his recent and more memorable moments.

In 2010, Aldrin competed as a contestant on the ABC television series "Dancing with the Stars." According to Aldrin, dancing is a more "rapid" activity than Moon walking and doesn't have a lot of the floating about normally indicative of lower gravity environments.

As outlined in the March 23rd, 2010 article, "Buzz Aldrin Moonwalks for 'Dancing with the Stars' Debut," Aldrin's dancing was generally considered inspirational, if only because of his age as compared to that of some of the other competitors.

Early in 2013, Aldrin announced his partnership with the Axe brand of personal care products to promote the Axe Apollo Space Academy, a contest to fly sub-orbital space missions aboard the still being built XCOR Lynx spaceplane.

Under the tagline, "Nothing beats an astronaut, ever," the campaign, evidently targeted at high school and university males without a significant romantic relationship, ran throughout 2013. As outlined in the February 13th, 2013 post on "The Buzz Aldrin Show" the campaign even initiated a certain amount of controversy.

As discussed in the December 8th, 2013 article, "23 Axe Apollo Fans with the Right Stuff Win Free Space Trips," two women and twenty one men from twenty one different countries eventually ended up winning the contest.

One day, they may even go to space if the XCOR Lynx spaceplane ever becomes operational.

That same year, Aldrin paired up with singer Thomas Dolby to perform Dolby's song "She Blinded Me With Science," at the 2013 Smithsonian conference on "The Future is Here."

Although focused mostly on the great triumphs and potential future innovations expected from science and technology, the conference also provided a forum for Aldrin to get down and have a little fun while promoting "SCIENCE!!!!"

In 2014, Aldrin even provided his likeness and portions of his history to Jockey International for a whimsical commercial suggesting how much more Aldrin could accomplish with the right underwear.

What does Aldrin plan for Toronto? For that, you need to check out the ISDC 2015 website, which is available online at

Enjoy the show.