Friday, January 18, 2019

US Government Releases 2019 Missile Defence Review

          By Henry Stewart

The US government has released it's latest military review covering the threat posed by Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Iranian missiles and the ways to counter such threats. And this time, at least according to US President Donald Trump, US allies like Canada will have to pay their "fair share" when the new system is deployed.

Cover page of the unclassified version of the "2019 Missile Defence Review." Graphic c/o Office of the Secretary of Defence

As outlined in the January 17th 2019 CTV News post, "Canadian officials look for answers as Trump unveils missile-defence plan" the new report puts a heavy emphasis on "space-based sensors and defences to detect, track and ultimately stop missile attacks against the US and its allies from anywhere in the world."

According to the post:
The final report had been highly anticipated in Ottawa as Canada and the US prepare to launch discussions about upgrading North America's aging early-warning system to protect against attacks that use more advanced technology. 
The North American Aerospace Defence Command, or Norad, is currently configured to detect incoming ballistic missiles and foreign aircraft such as bombers, but not threats such as cruise and hypersonic missiles.
The report also "underscored the importance of being able to defend against attacks with interceptors like those employed by the US ballistic-missile defence shield, which Canada famously opted not to join in 2005."

A partial, unclassified, version of the review is available online, under the title, "2019 Missile Defence Review."

As outlined in the January 17th, 2019 The Drive post, "Here's All You Need To Know About The New Missile Defense Review That Was Just Released," expanding and improving "the US missile defense shield will require significant time and resources, as well. At present, it's unclear whether or not the next defense budget will be smaller or larger than the last."

It will also require much discussion and cooperation between traditional US allies like Canada in order to effectively deploy and fund. A lot of Canadian based think-tanks including the Calgary AB based Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Vancouver BC based Fraser Institute have recently been recently arguing for Canadian participation in the program, although the Federal government has offered up no concrete movement in this area.

Here's wishing them luck with that.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Maxar Technologies Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over "False and Misleading Statements." More Lawsuits On the Way

          By Chuck Black

Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies has been hit by a class action lawsuit from disgruntled Maxar shareholders.

The claim accuses Maxar of using its $2.4Bln US ($3.2Bln CDN) acquisition of Westminster CO based DigitalGlobe in 2017 to inflate company assets and hide problems with at least one of the vendor’s satellites, the DigitalGlobe WorldView-4 Earth imaging satellite reported lost earlier this month.


As outlined in the January 14th, 2019 filing in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (Case 1:19-cv-00124-SKC) under the title "Logan Durant, et al. v. Maxar Technologies Inc., et al," the lawsuit claimed that Maxar executives, including ex-CEO Howard Lance, VP and CFO Biggs Porter and executive VP Michael B. (Anil) Wirasekara Jr., provided:
...materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operational and compliance policies (during the period from March 29th, 2018 through January 7th, 2019). Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: 
  • Maxar improperly inflated the value of its intangible assets, among other accounting improprieties"
  • Maxar’s highly-valued WorldView-4 was equipped with CMGs that were faulty and/or ill-suited for their designed and intended purpose; and 
  • as a result, Maxar’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times...
The suit was filed by the New York NY and Chicago IL law offices of Pomerantz LLP on behalf of investor Logan Durant, who owns 250 shares of Maxar stock and was "willing to serve as a representative party of the class of investors who purchased or acquired Maxar stock" during the period covered by the suit.

Much of the case is expected to rest on the August 7th, 2018 Spruce Point Capital press release, "Spruce Point Capital Management Releases a Strong Sell Forensic Research Opinion on Maxar Technologies Ltd. (NYSE / TSX: MAXR)" which, along with accompanying research report, claimed that Maxar's "levered acquisitions" of Palo Alto, CA based Space Systems Loral in 2012 (when Maxar was known as the Richmond BC based MacDonald Dettwiler) and DigitalGlobe in 2017 were "poorly timed and executed with no free cash flow."

The Spruce Point report also claimed substantial "earnings overstatement," which caused investors to overvalue the stock and buy, when they should have been selling.

As outlined in the January 1st, 2019 post, "2018: The Year in Space for Canada," the Maxar stock meltdown was one of the big space stories of 2018. As outlined in the January 7th, 2019 post, "Maxar Stock Drops to New Lows After DigitalGlobe Subsidiary Reports Loss of WorldView-4 Satellite," the public acknowledgement of the loss of the WorldView-4 satellite caused Maxar stock to drop further.


Other law firms publicly exploring the possibility of either joining the existing action or perhaps beginning a separate one against Maxar include:
All things considered, the above list looks like a lot of high powered lawyers with a pretty good idea about where there next big meal is going to be coming from.

Don't expect any good news out of Maxar for the next little while.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Where Uber's Going We Don't Need Roads

          By Brian Orlotti

Fort Worth TX based Bell Helicopter has unveiled a mock-up of the Nexus, a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) vehicle the company intends to build for Uber’s proposed air taxi service.

The Nexus offers an appealing vision for the future of air travel---as interpreted by Uber.


A hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft, the Bell Nexus will use six tilting ducted fans to vertically take off and land from a rooftop or helipad. It will seat five passengers and have a gross weight capacity of 272 kilograms.

As outlined in the January 7th, 2019 the Verge post, "Bell’s hybrid-electric flying car will be available via Uber by the ‘mid-2020s,’" the aircraft’s fans are hidden inside ducts rather than exposed to ease passengers’ safety concerns about being close to fast-spinning blades.

Bell chose hybrid-electric propulsion over a purely electric system so that the aircraft could fly further and carry more weight. Bell wants the Nexus to be versatile enough to serve other markets (i.e. military, cargo transport) should the anticipated market for urban air taxis not pan out.

Uber first announced introduced its plan for a ride-sharing service in urban airspace in 2016. The company laid out a vision of a network of small, electric, autonomous aircraft (dubbed the sexier name of ‘flying cars’ by some) shuttling passengers from rooftop to rooftop (or ground-based helipad) to alleviate gridlock.

Since then, at least 19 other firms are developing air taxis/flying cars. These include legacy manufacturers like Chicago IL based Boeing and Leiden, Netherlands based Airbus as well as small startups like Mountain View CA based Kitty Hawk (owned by Google founder Larry Page) and Webling Germany based Lilium Jet.

Anticipating regulatory and technical obstacles to its plans, Uber itself has made a point of partnering with aircraft makers, real estate firms, and government regulators to rally support.


For its part, Bell Helicopter is hoping to capture a futuristic market after decades as one of the top manufacturers of commercial and military VTOL aircraft (such as the V-22 Osprey and the upcoming V-280 Valor). Bell’s aim of having the Nexus flying in major cities by the mid-2020s may serve as a sign to investors that the company has its eye on the future.

Flying cars, long a staple of science fiction, now have the tantalizing potential to become science fact. Should the considerable obstacles to them be overcome, our cities may one day boast Blade Runner-like vistas of sleek vehicles zooming through the skies.

Here’s hoping those skies are still sunny with no murderous replicants on the prowl.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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