Monday, April 27, 2015

The REAL Secret Behind Canada's Next Space Budget

          By Chuck Black

Jay Aspin. Photo c/o Richard Coffin 600 CKAT Country.
According to the head of the parliamentary space caucus, the April 21st, 2015 Federal budget will provide "$30 million over four years to support the satellite communications sector which is what we're all about. We're going to be launching satellites out of North Bay."

As outlined in the April 22nd, 2015 article, "Budget good for city's space industry says Aspin," those are the comments attributed to Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Jay Aspin, who currently acts as the vice-chair of the parliamentary aerospace caucus and as the chair of the parliamentary space caucus.

Joe Oliver's speech. 
Now that we've heard the hyperbola, what's the real story?

As outlined most effectively in the April 22nd, 2015 Space News article, "Canada’s New Space Budget Extends ISS Commitment to 2024," the new budget will include "a commitment to increase Canada’s spending on satellite telecommunications at the European Space Agency and to continue as a partner in the international space station to 2024."

According to the Space News article, the new budget would direct an additional $30Mln CDN over the currently allocated totals to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), program over a period of four years, beginning in 2016. 

The 28 page budget brief.
So how does spending money in Europe assist Canadian companies in North Bay?

That's a little bit more difficult to explain.

In essence, as a "participating member" of the ESA, Canada is allowed access to most ESA programs, but only so far as it pays for them.

As outlined in the Space News article, "in 2015, Canada is expected to spend some 15.5 million euros ($20.39Mln CDN) at ESA covering both direct program participation and ESA overhead charges."

The extra funds allocated in the new budget would be on top of the currently allocated funds, at least according to the April 21st, 2015 post, "Canadian 2015 Budget Includes New Space Funding and Space Station Extension."

And, as outlined in the Space News article, previous Canadian audits of the arrangement "have concluded that Canada’s membership in “Europe’s space club” generates more revenue in the form of contracts to Canadian industry than the Canadian Space Agency pays in annual ESA dues."

So the allocated funds, could just possibly end up back in North Bay and Mr. Aspin's riding at some point, although that's certainly not guaranteed.

The 528 page full budget.
Even better, the Federal budget did not indicate which ARTES effort would be receiving the additional funding.

As for the part about continuing as a partner in the ISS until 2024, that promise should also be taken with a grain of salt, at least until the funding is allocated and the upcoming election, currently expected sometime later this year, is finally concluded.

Just like the promised funding to the ESA, this new ISS promise is heavily dependent on the current government receiving a renewed mandate.

Perhaps the best aerospace industry feedback relating to the budget is the April 21st, 2015 Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA) press release under the title, "CCAA Applauds Minister Oliver and AIAC for Championing Canadian Aerospace Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training for the Workforce."

According to the press release:
The Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace, (CCAA) welcomes Minister Oliver’s initiatives for the Aerospace industry, and congratulates the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, (AIAC), for its successful efforts to secure the federal funding necessary to increase support for the skilled trades in aviation and aerospace, as presented in the Economic Action Plan 2015.
The press release goes on to say that:
Taking action in accordance with the recommendations of the Emerson Committee on Canadian aerospace skills and development means connecting experienced and knowledgeable people from, industry, training institutions and government. CCAA’s experience in developing respected competency standards, curricula and skills development strategies complements the work, resources, and mandate of AIAC...
In essence, at least according to the CCAA, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and even the Emerson Aerospace Review Report (not the "Emerson Committee on Canadian aerospace skills and development," as it's described in the press release), it's all about jobs, even if those jobs are in a cool industry.

Aren't elections always that way?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Ugly Battle over the David Dunlap Observatory

          By Glen Strom

Inside the DDO. Photo c/o Mark Girard from the DDO website.
Sometimes the real story isn't what's being publicly said.

An example of this would be the April 15th, 2015 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Toronto Centre (RASCTO) press release, "Dedicated Astronomers Given Canada's Largest Telescope." The group announced that Corsica Development was donating the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) to them.

What the press release didn't mention was the conflict, the mudslinging, the pressure tactics or the broken relationships over DDO.

The observatory opened in 1935 in Richmond Hill, Ontario, a town just north of Toronto. David Dunlap, a mining executive, wanted to endow the University of Toronto (U of T) to build a new observatory. After Mr. Dunlap died in 1924 his widow, Jessie, went ahead with the endowment.

When completed, the facility housed a 1.9-metre (74-inch) reflecting telescope, at that time the largest in Canada and second largest in the world.

Several astronomers have done groundbreaking work at DDO. Astronomer and science advocate Helen Sawyer Hogg, a notable personality in a time when many universities would not award scientific degrees or offer academic positions to women, published the first of a series of major catalogs of variable stars and globular clusters. Sidney van den Bergh expanded the DDO catalogue with a database of dwarf galaxies. Tom Bolton was one of first astronomers to find evidence of black holes.

The view of DDO in 1935, with Observatory House and its three smaller domes visible in the upper left. Photo c/o the Town of Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Over time newer facilities surpassed the observatory, and local development closed in around it. The university announced in 2007 that they would close DDO and put the property up for sale.

That’s when the simmering conflict over the future of DDO boiled over.

As outlined in the July 13th, 2009 Globe and Mail article, “From stargazing to navel-gazing: Astronomers feud over historic observatory," the university sold the 77-hectare (190-acre) property in 2008 to Corsica Development, a commercial real estate developer and subsidiary of Concord, Ontario based Metrus Development.

The initial sale almost certainly contained a redevelopment component for the lands surrounding the DDO. After all, Metrus (now known as the DG Group as per the April 15th, 2015 Urban Toronto article, "Metrus Development Rebrands with Name Change to DG Group") has been one of Ontario's largest residential real estate developers for most of the last decade.

But, to be fair, the developer also expressed a public interest in having an astronomy group continue to operate the observatory and knew of two groups who wanted it: RASC, and a group of astronomers who called themselves the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders.

Corsica chose RASC.

In 1960, the nightly work of Dr. Donald MacRae, an astronomer at DDO, formed the narrative framework of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) short film Universe, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1961. Universe Co-director Colin Low eventually worked with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey as did Universe narrator Douglas Rain (who became the voice of the HAL 9000 computer), Wally Gentleman (who did optical effects for both films) and others. Graphic c/o NFB.

In response to the decision, the Defenders tried to block the opening. They said the telescope was a precious piece of Canadian heritage and expert astronomers should operate it, not amateurs as they claimed RASC members were. But their attempt failed and DDO reopened in July 2009 under the stewardship of the RASC.

Things then settled down into a period of snide asides until an article from The Varsity, the U of T’s student newspaper, raised questions about both the university’s motives for selling the land and their legal right to sell.

As outlined in the October 1st, 2012 Varsity article, “U of T and the Dunlap Observatory: 'A breach of public trust'?,” the U of T said they wanted to sell the property because light pollution made the telescope unusable for research. The Defenders disputed that claim. Both they and a Richmond Hill official said the sale was about maximizing financial return, not science.

The Varsity article also said the deal violated the terms of the endowment, which said that the land must be used for research or else ownership would revert to the Dunlap heirs.

Did the U of T have the legal right to sell the property? The university’s actions suggest it did not. Two of the heirs agreed to the university’s plan after a few months but the third, Donalda Robarts, held out. She launched a lawsuit. After four years of intensive lobbying by the university, Robarts gave in. Her lawsuit was settled and the records were sealed.

But the fighting continued over the next several years between the groups—the developer, RASCTO, the Defenders, the town of Richmond Hill and even a new group called the Richmond Hill Naturalists, which focused on preserving the unused land surrounding the observatory.

Graphic showing the outline of the 2013 OMB decision covering final usage of the lands associated with the DDO. Graphic c/o OMB.

Finally, after a five year battle and as outlined in the May 2nd, 2013 Globe and Mail article, “Fight over David Dunlap Observatory lands ends peacefully,” the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), an independent adjudicative tribunal, got the groups to negotiate a settlement. (The 24-page decision is here).

In essence, Corsica Development could build 520 housing units on the site; the town of Richmond Hill would get ownership of the observatory and its surrounding land. The Naturalists were the lone official holdout to the deal. However, the OMB rejected their appeal.

The conciliatory tone of the Globe and Mail article suggested that the war was over—prematurely, as it turned out.

In a December 18th, 2014 editorial “Competing observatory groups should work together,” the website said the sniping continued in letters to them from some of the groups' members. The editorial ended with a plea to the groups to put aside the bad blood and work together.

Of course, that doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon. As outlined in the April 22nd, 2015 follow-on article “Richmond Hill observatory donation by developer raises concerns,” the Defenders claim that, because RASC is a registered charity and not a public agency as the agreement stipulated, the surprise donation of the DDO to RASC on April 15th, 2015 violates the terms of the 2013 settlement and should be reversed.

Aerial view of the DDO taken in 2005 showing the slow encroachment of surrounding residential subdivisions and the potential lands still available for further development. Over time, the light pollution from the built up areas have degraded the capabilities of the observatory. Photo c/o the Town of Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Another lawsuit could be coming.

This is a familiar story: competing visions, elitism and a sense of entitlement, the tempting smell of money, hardening battle lines and a lengthy, exhausting process with no one coming out looking good.

Glen Strom
It’s too bad that in their winner-take-all battle over a reflecting telescope, the combatants didn't do a bit of reflecting of their own.

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. He's also the editor of The Gazette Weekly, the newsletter of the Canadian Space Society.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Part 12: 100 Years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield

Canadian Astronauts, SPAR's "Deconstruction" and a New, Canadian Space Agency

By Robert Godwin 
This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief synopsis of the history of astronautics in Canada.

The author wishes to thank the late Dr Phil Lapp and his wife Colleen Lapp for their permission to reveal some of Dr Lapp's memoirs. Dr Lapp was a founder of the the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) and of SPAR Aerospace.
He passed away in 2013; the text herein was written by Robert Godwin.

Long before the establishment of a national space agency, Canadian astronauts began training to fly in space.

On July 14th 1983 the National Research Council (NRC) placed an advertisement in the newspapers inviting candidates to apply for a position as an astronaut to fly aboard the space shuttle. Over 4400 people applied and six were selected. A second group of three was then added nine years later.

Dr Marc Garneau was the first Canadian selected to fly, aboard STS-41G, the thirteenth shuttle mission, on October 5th 1984. Garneau was aboard as a payload specialist and would be involved with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) experiment placed in the cargo bay and aimed down towards the Earth. This mission helped to reinforce the value of SAR for studying the earth. Garneau also conducted two atmospheric experiments, as well as eight other Canadian derived experiments. He would also be the first Canadian to work with the Canadarm system in space.

Due to the Challenger accident in 1986 another eight years would pass before a Canadian would again fly in space.

This time Dr Roberta Bondar became the first Canadian woman in space aboard STS-42 in January 1992. Dr Bondar would be a payload specialist for the first mission of the International Microgravity Laboratory, which carried experiments from over 200 scientists in 16 countries.

Steve MacLean would follow Dr Bondar into space in October of that year; flying aboard STS-52. Dr. Maclean conducted the CANex-2, which was a package of seven experiments in technology, materials processing and life sciences. Dr Maclean would return to space in September 2006 aboard STS-115 during which he would be the first Canadian to operate the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Work on the MSS, had begun at SPAR in 1985. At that time SPAR had contracts to supply parts and end-effectors for Canadarm to NASA. The Canadian government then contracted SPAR to put their expertise to good use in creating Canada's contribution to the multi-billion dollar ISS. The Canadian government would spend about $1.5 Billion on the ISS program.[i]

The MSS would consist of several components including the Mobile Base System (MBS); the arm or Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), which became known as the Canadarm2; and the hand, or Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM) affectionately known as "Dextre."

The MSS would be launched into space in April 2001 and could handle loads up to 116,000 kg. The MBS would provide the base for the arm and would be built in California by the SPAR subsidiary Astro Aerospace. It would be launched in June 2002. Six years would then pass before Dextre would complete the system; being launched in March 2008.

All of the MSS system would be launched after SPAR's robotics division had been purchased in 1999 by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).

SPAR had gone through a long period of expansion and growth during the 1980s and early 1990s. Their collaboration with Hughes Aerospace had resulted in a string of satellite successes including the ANIK series, the Brasilsat series and the revolutionary MSAT built for TMI Communications & Company Ltd. of Ottawa.

However, at the end of 1993 the Board had elected to give more autonomy to the four separate sectors of the company, removing some of the immediate decision making from the executive management. By 1995 space represented only 41% of SPAR's total revenue, the rest being divided amongst communications, aviation and defence and informatics.[ii]

At one point in the early 1990s it appeared that SPAR might purchase MDA, which was itself struggling at that time; but MDA resolved their problems and soon the restructuring of SPAR's internal processes began to cause problems for Canada's top aerospace company. By 1996 the problems became evident when sales dropped by $25M over the previous year and their share price dropped by almost half. Many of the problems stemmed from the SPAR Comstream Division in California that was expected to go public, but lost its primary customer.[iii]

Between January 1998 and March 1999 an assortment of purchases and sales led to the deconstruction of SPAR Aerospace including the aforesaid purchase of the robotics division by MDA. Hawker-Siddeley had already sold some of the fragments of Avro to Magellan Aerospace in 1995, including the Orenda engine plant. Two years later Magellan also added Bristol Aerospace to their portfolio of companies elevating them to the fourth largest aerospace company in Canada behind SPAR, Bombardier and CAE Industries.[iv]

In early 2000, just before the successful launch of Canadarm2, SPAR would finally be reduced to nothing more than a service company to the aviation industry, thus ending perhaps the single most important story in Canadian space industry. Dr Lapp noted, "SPAR, before its deconstruction, became a huge unmanageable conglomerate with so many moving parts that it became impossible to control effectively." [v]

The STEM however, continued on unabated. Astro Aerospace, the California based company that SPAR had purchased to circumvent the US Congress, is currently a division of Northrop Grumman. The STEMs built there are slated to appear on the multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope.

Despite this serious blow to Canada's aerospace engineering capacity the space program, now firmly centered on the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Quebec, continued onwards in many areas. The most highly visible aspect, of course, was the continuing presence of Canadian astronauts aboard the space shuttle and ISS.

Steve MacLean would retire from the astronaut corps and would later assume the role of President of the CSA. His original back-up for his first mission, Bjarni Tryggvason, would fly in August 1997. In 2009 Tryggvason would recreate for the 100th anniversary John McCurdy's historic flight in a replica of Canada's first aircraft, the Silver Dart. 

Dr Garneau would return to space twice more, once in 1996 and again in 2000 and would also take on the role of President of the CSA before being elected as a Member of Parliament. Julie Payette would become Canada's most travelled female astronaut with flights in May 1999 and again in July 2009.

Robert Thirsk would fly on STS-78 in 1996 before becoming Canada's first member of an ISS Expedition crew in May of 2009. Dr Thirsk would establish a new record for long duration spaceflight for a Canadian before returning home aboard a Russian Soyuz.

Dafydd Rhys "Dave" Williams flew twice, once in April 1998, during which he conducted many medical experiments with the Neurolab. He then returned to space in August of 2007 and conducted three spacewalks, assisting in the construction of the ISS. He returned to earth and became the first foreign national to assume a senior management position at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center.

Dr Ken Money had the longest standing relationship with the space program having consulted for NASA as early as the Mercury days in 1962. He was selected as one of Canada's first astronauts but never flew in space, returning to the private sector in 1992.

Finally, Chris Hadfield would fly in November of 1995 and again in April 2001. From 2001-2003, Hadfield was the Director of Operations for NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia. From May 10 to 23, 2010 Hadfield was the Commander of NEEMO 14, a NASA undersea mission to test exploration concepts living in an underwater facility off the Florida coast. Hadfield would be the only Canadian to board the Russian MIR space station; he would also be the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in space. He would install the Canadarm2 system aboard ISS becoming at the same time Canada's first space walker.

In December 2012 he launched to ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA 07M, to join Expedition 34, after three months he took over as Commander of ISS, becoming the first Canadian to command a spacecraft. As one of Canada's most traveled and experienced astronauts, much was expected of Hadfield who certainly didn't disappoint. During his command of ISS Expedition 35 Hadfield created a media storm with his regular transmissions to Earth of his daily activities, which included him recording a David Bowie song and video while in space.

Robert Godwin.
Before Hadfield made headlines around the world at least one Canadian imagined a time when Canadian astronauts would be launched into space from Canada.

Robert Godwin is the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books. He is also the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum

He has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series "The NASA Mission Reports" and appeared on dozens of radio and television programs in Canada, the USA and England as an expert not only on space exploration but also on music. 

His books have been discussed on CNN, the CBC, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes. He produced the first ever virtual reality panoramas of the Apollo lunar surface photography and the first multi-camera angle movie of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. His latest book was written with the late Frederick I Ordway III and is called "2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey" about the history of spaceflight at the movies.


[i] Phil Lapp Memoir Pg 223
[ii] Ibid. Pg 235
[iii] Ibid. Pg 237
[iv] Globe and Mail Jun 20 1997
[v] Phil Lapp Memoir Pg 240

Last Week: "The REAL Story Behind RADARSAT, COM DEV and MDA," in part 11 of "100 years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield."

Next Week: "Geoff Sheerin and Space Tourism, our "Humble" Space Telescope, Emerson's Review and Snow on Mars" as the final part of "100 years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield" concludes!