Friday, July 13, 2018

Canadian Science Policy Centre and Chief Science Advisor Connecting Science With Politics

        By Henry Stewart

The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC), in an effort to build on its successful campaign to increase Federal government science funding and in partnership with the Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada, has rolled out a pilot program offering scientists and engineers from various disciplines a chance to "develop an understanding of the parliamentary process."

CSPC is looking for sponsors for its "Science Meets Parliment" program, primarily from academic institutions. To learn more, please check out the Partnership Prospectus. Graphic c/o CSPC.

It's a useful activity which members of Canada's space community, stung by the recent failure of the Federally mandated Space Advisory Board (SAB) to increase Federal funding for private and public sector space activities, would do well to emulate.

As outlined in the July 9th, 2018 CSPC press release, "CSPC in Partnership with Chief Science Advisor Present: Science Meets Parliament," the program offers scientists and engineers a chance to spend a day on Ottawa's Parliment Hill, and shadow a member of parliment (MP) or senator.

The plan was first developed as part of the CSPC Five-Year Strategic Plan (2018-2023), mainly as a mechanism to connect the two communities of scientists and politicians, foster dialogue and enhance mutual understanding.

As outlined in the press release:
This is a unique opportunity that invites scientists and engineers of various disciplines to spend one day on the Hill, shadow an MP or senator, explore their role in modern political decision making, and develop an understanding of the parliamentary process. 
As outlined on the CSPC "Science Meets Parliament" website, the program: modeled on the acclaimed program run by Science and Technology Australia, now in its 19th year. You can find more information about the Science and Technology Australia’s Science Meets Parliament event by clicking here
As outlined in the March 8th, 2018 post, "Space Advisory Board Chair Admits Disappointment over Budget but Promises to Continue to Support Space Sector," Canada's space sector was mostly left out of the 2018 budget which included "historic increases" in funding for applied and basic science programs.

Much of the credit for this increased funding was due to the April 10th 2017 release of the of the David Naylor led final report on "Canada's Fundamental Science Review," which advocated for structural changes and increased funding for basic research.

The report was popularized and promoted over the next year through organizations like the CSPC and contributed substantially to the increased basic science funding attached to Budget 2018.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

More VASIMR Around the Corner, Just Maybe Not For Canada

         By Chuck Black

Readers of this blog have noted Halifax, NS based Aethera Technologies, which was recently awarded $1.5Mln CDN under the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) Space Technology Development Program (STDP) to develop advanced high-power radio frequency power processing units (RF-PPUs) for Webster, TX based Ad Astra Rocket Company’s variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) plasma engine.

But Aethera shows indications of being a spin-off of another NS based company.

Hackets Cove NS based Nautel Ltd., has worked with Ad Astra on similar projects in the past and both Aethera senior engineer Brian Walker and Aethera senior electronic technologist Matthew Skinner were long-term Nautel employees before leaving to join Athera.

Creating a spin-off to commercialize new technology would certainly make sense, given that Nautel is a forty year old firm with an existing global business to focus on.

But some have mentioned that Aethera also shows indications of being mostly a US owned company, albeit with lots of Canadian employees and a NS based primary location.

If the CSA has indeed funded a US run firm to provide a component for a US space breakthrough, that act would seem laden with irony during this period of heighted trade war concerns between Canada and the US.

Anyway, based on information provided by readers and some new research, here's the background:
Both firms were incorporated provincially in NS. 
  • As outlined in the December 11th, 2017 update to the Opencorporates database ("The Open Database Of The Corporate World"), Water Spider Technologies Canada has been around since December 2014 and lists Walker on the board.
Other directors include Kirk Zwicker (another long-term Nautel employee), Tim Hardy  (until 2016, the head of engineering at Nautel), Robert Cowan (a partner at the Halifax NS based McInnes Cooper law firm, who practices corporate/ business law and specializes in technology and intellectual property issues) and Charles Andrew Schue III, the founder, president and CEO of North Billerica, MA based UrsaNAV, a specialist technology company focused around pointing, navigation, and timing (PNT) technologies and the eLoran low-frequency radionavigation system, which serves as a ground based network for PNT. 
Coincidence? Maybe not.

July 11th, 2018 screenshot from the UrsaNav website showing Charles Shue III bio. To access the full page, simply click on this link. Screen shot c/o UrsaNav

  • The Virginia based Water Spider Technologies had moved locations within Virginia in Febuary 2014. As outlined in the June 5th, 2018 Opencorporates post on the Virginia based Water Spider Technologies, the company had been created only in January 2014 and was dissolved on December 31st, 2017.
The only corporate director listed was lawyer/agent Joseph F. Jackson, a founding partner of the Richmond, VA based Roth Jackson law firm. As outlined on a Virginia SCC website entity search result for Water Spider Technologies LLC, Roth Jackson acted as the registry agent for the company formation. 
But the company seems to have been run by the same Schue, who was listed as a director at Water Spider Technologies Canada Ltd.
In addition to the above change of address letter from him, on October 21st, 2016 Schue also registered the website with Scottsdale AZ based GoDaddy, a publicly traded Internet domain registrar and web hosting company. He also  listed himself as the primary contact person.
  • Schue and UrsaNav also have other public connections to Nautel. An example, as outlined in the March 26th, 2012 Nautel press release, "UrsaNav Tests eLoran, LF Timing Potential," is the 2012 partnership between Schue's UrsaNAV and Nautel to test PNT technologies for eLoran.

Two July 11th, 2018 screenshots from Charles Schue's LinkedIn profile, where he lists himself as "Owner, Director, Investor" of Aethera and states that, "I served as the "start-up" president and today, I remain a majority owner, director and shareholder." Screenshot c/o LinkedIn.

Here's the timeline of activities, based on the based on a variety of sourced documents listed above and below:
  • In 2012 Nautel and UrsaNAV (Schue's company) began working together.
  • In January 2014, Schue created Water Spider Technologies LLC in Virginia. In December 2014, Schue and some Nautel employees started Water Spider Technologies Canada in Nova Scotia.
  • On December 31st, 2017, Water Spider Technologies LLC was dissolved, and one month later on January 29th, 2018, Water Spider Technologies Canada changed its name to Aethera Technologies.
Of course, the Canadian based ex-Nautel employees have done well under Schue.

Tim Hardy left Nautel in November 2016 and is now Aethera's CTO. In March 2017, Kirk Zwicker left Nautel to become either Aethera's president and or chief operating officer (depending on which source you use).

In April 2017 Brian Walker left Nautel and started a new position as senior engineer at Aethera. In Jan 2018, Matthew Skinner left Nautel and joined Aethera as senior electronic technologist.

The Washington DC based Schue also seems to be doing well.

His LinkedIn profile lists him as being "Owner, Director, Investor" of Aethera, UrsaNAV and Leesburg, VA based Tagence, a data management company which partners "with a diverse set of federal, state and local agencies to create efficient, compliant solutions that work in the government space."

Schue's LinkedIn profile also states that he "served as the "start-up" president (of Aethera) and today, I remain a majority owner, director and shareholder."

As for the CSA, the Canadian government organization which provided Aethera with the $1.5Mln CDN grant to perform subcontract work for an US based Ad Astra, here's hoping that they didn't just give the money away to another bunch of opportunistic Americans.

If the CSA or another Canadian public or private granting agency or angel investor had provided funding a little earlier in the process, perhaps there would be a Canadian in the leadership position now.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Russian Space Program is Entering a Dark Age

        By Henry Stewart

ArsTechnica has posted an interesting piece on the decline of the Russian space capabilities, using references from, a Moscow-based Russian language online newspaper.

As outlined in the July 9th, 2018 ArsTechnica post, "Russian editor: Our space program is entering the 'Dark Ages'" author/editor Andrei Borisov has captured:
...the fading zeitgeist of the Russian space program in a lengthy article on the new leader of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and the changes he has proposed. 
Dmitry Rogozin. Photo c/o Wikipedia.
"(What) Rogozin is trying to create reminds one of the Dark Ages in Europe," Borisov writes on Lenta.Ru, where he serves as editor of science and technology. 
"In it, there is no place for modernization, there is only the mission of survival."
The article catalogs current Russian efforts to develop newer, competitive rockets and modern spacecraft.

But according to Borisov, those efforts are behind schedule, outdated or already non-competitive.

Failed plans include numerous rocket redesigns, multiple political revisions of the various departments comprising the current Russian space program, the failed creation of a "super-heavy" rocket and even a planned, although cancelled, manned mission to the Moon in 2015.

As well, funding for ongoing operations will likely take a hit in the near future. As outlined in the article:
As soon as next year, the United States plans to stop paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Russia for Soyuz seats, because it is developing its own transport to the space station. 
And the European Space Agency has signaled that it will stop launching Russian Soyuz rockets from its French Guiana-based spaceport in the early 2020s.
All in all, the article is interesting reading and well worth checking out for its compilation of recent history and insights into the future of the Russian space program.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Support our Patreon Page