Friday, July 20, 2018

Minister Bains Goes to Farnborough

        By Henry Stewart

Federal innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, along with most of the rest of the international aerospace community, is spending the week at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow, currently being held in Farnborough, UK from July 16th - 22nd.

As outlined in the July 19th, 2018 Government of Canada press release, "Government of Canada promotes global investment in our country's world-class aerospace industry," Bains accompanied a Canadian delegation which included transport minister Marc Garneau, public services minister Carla Qualtrough, parliamentary secretary David Lametti and 420 representatives from more than 130 Canadian aerospace companies.

According to the press release, "a number of Canadian-based companies announced sales or investments at 2018 Farnborough International Airshow including Bell Helicopter, Bombardier, the Bombardier/Airbus strategic partnership, CAE, CMC Esterline, Héroux-Devtek, MDA, Pratt & Whitney Canada and, Safran Landing Systems."

The show is considered to be a major opportunity for national governments to promote their domestic aerospace industries and sell their products.


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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Requiem For the Canadian Space Commerce Association

         By Chuck Black

The failure of the Federal government Space Advisory Board (SAB) to contribute to real change in the Canadian space industry has claimed another victim, the Toronto ON based Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

CSCA website screenshot dated May 31st, 2018. Graphic c/o Wayback Machine.

On Tuesday, July 16th, 2018 the entire CSCA website was replaced with single press release from CSCA president Michelle Mendes titled "CSCA Ceases Operations."

As outlined in her post:
After significant consideration and exploring all options, it is with great sadness that the board of directors has decided to declare the CSCA insolvent and will be ceasing operations immediately. 
It is important to note that this is not indicative of Canadian commercial space in general. Due to historical issues, pre-2016, which the new board and management worked very hard to rectify, it was difficult to raise funds and therefore made the business unsustainable. 
Please note that the CSCA email addresses will no longer be monitored as we wind down. However, if there is anything you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me at my email address as I will periodically check in for the next several months. 
For more details about the insolvency, please click on the above Advisory link.
Many thanks to all for your work and support advancing the Canadian space sector.
With kindest regards,
Michelle Mendes
Mendes was also active in the failed SAB.

The current CSCA website on July 19th, 2018 includes a message from president Michelle Mendes. Screenshot c/o CSCA

As outlined in the March 8th, 2018 post, "Space Advisory Board Chair Admits Disappointment over Budget but Promises to Continue to Support Space Sector," she was one of the SAB members who strongly advocated the creation of an initial inventory of problems needing to be addressed before going back to the Federal government to see if it would fund a search for solutions.

This approach was taken up by SAB chair Lucy Stojak and served as the core of the August 2017 report by the SAB on "Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard."

As requested by the government, the report included no solutions. It was mostly a request for more money so that the SAB could consult further and perhaps come up with something in the future.

But political advocates know that the ability to develop and recommend solutions is always the first real step in the development of a successful advocacy, not the last. A defined and prepared solution allows advocates to obtain consensus independently from government, and allows them to apply pressure for change independent of any Federal mandate.

But the SAB didn't do this and so their report was mostly ignored. Smart governments look for solutions where they can act and then promote their actions. The lack of actionable items in the SAB report meant that the Federal government wasn't required to do anything and therefore wouldn't be blamed for inactivity.

In March 2018, after the 2018 Federal Budget made it clear that there were no plans to fund further SAB consultations, Mendes resigned from her position as CSCA executive director but retained her position as CSCA president and her role on the CSCA board.

CSCA then embarked on an ineffective campaign to hire a new CSCA executive director.

According to CSCA promotional material, the vacant executive director position would be "unpaid" although candidates which came with sponsors and the promise of funding could certainly negotiate a different package.

The implication was that anyone with a little extra cash would be given special consideration, which is a bad thing for any advocacy group to promise.

In the end, no one was willing to pay for special consideration or even willing to work for free and Mendes and the CSCA simply closed up shop.

It's possible that, over the last few years, the CSCA simply tried a little too hard to make friends with the ruling Federal Liberal party. After all, the Liberals provided many verbal indications of support, but never came through with funding or anything tangible.

The Liberals didn't need to. They knew instinctively that any advocacy group that couldn't support itself or develop solutions wasn't going to influence the next election and didn't deserve their support.

Even CSCA members knew this. Over time, the smart ones went back to work at their day jobs, moved abroad (where the political climate for space and newspace projects was certainly more favorable) or joined domestic organizations such as the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) or the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), which possessed lobbying expertise, access to the levers of power in Ottawa and independent sources of funding. 

And that's why the CSCA cited insolvency for it's closure. They had no money and no real members. 

Nor should they have had any. They had no solution; only a litany of problems needing to be addressed.

There were even indications that Mendes was self-funding the organization out of her own pocket near the end. While laudable, this lack of community support for the CSCA must have been troubling for those involved.

So rest in peace, CSCA. Maybe the next time, someone will come up with a real plan of action and a proper source of funding.

As for the SAB, they're subject to the same constraints as the CSCA. If SAB chair Stojak doesn't start changing her strategy soon and start coming up with a few solutions for the Federal government to ponder, the SAB will be the next advocacy group to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. From 2007 until 2014 he was on the board of directors of the Canadian Space Commerce Association.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The UK Gets a Spaceport, a New, Mostly Privately Funded Rocket and a New Partnership With Elecnor Deimos

         By Chuck Black

A remote area on the the northern coast of Scotland between the coastal villages of Tongue and Durnesson is on track to become the UK’s first operational spaceport. The new UK spaceport may also launch a new UK funded and built microsat launcher when it becomes operational in the early 2020's.

Unlike the controversial (and currently unfunded) proposal for a Canadian space port discussed most recently in the May 25th, 2018 post, "Maritime Launch Services Will Not Say When It Will Begin Building Proposed Canso NS Commercial Spaceport," the Scotish proposal is being championed by local government through the Scottish Government's economic and community development agency, known as Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which intends to build the launch site on Scotland's A’Mhoine peninsula.

As outlined in the July 16th, 2018 The Gaurdian post, "Rocket men: locals divided over plans for UK's first spaceport" initial funding for the spaceport will be provided through a £2.5Mln ($4.35Mln CDN) grant from the UK Space Agency.

The prime contractor for the project, which will receive an additional $31Mln US ($40.73Mln CDN) from the UK Space Agency, will be Bethesda, MD based Lockheed Martin, a US based global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company.

According to the article, a second “horizontal” spaceport will also be created at Cornwall airport near Newquay over the next few years in order to accomodate the requirements of Long Beach CA based Virgin Orbit, a company within the Virgin Group which plans to provide launch services for small satellites:
Virgin Orbit, part of the Virgin Group, is aiming to launch satellites into space by using a modified 747-400. 
The Boeing will carry a rocket under its wing to a launch range over the Atlantic and release it at around 11,000m (35,000ft) for onward flight into space, carrying a satellite into Earth’s orbit.
As outlined in the July 16th, 2018 Lockheed Martin press release, "Lockheed Martin To Help UK Space Agency Build First Commercial Spaceport; Launch First Orbital Rocket," the initiatives "will not only spark advancements in science and innovation, it will create new opportunities for current and future UK-based suppliers to become part of the next space age."

The spaceport announcements were made at the annual Farnborough International Air Show, which is being held in Farnborough UK from July 16th -22nd.

Also, and as outlined in the July 16th, 2018 Orbex press release, "Orbex Secures £30 Million Funding for UK Space Launch Vehicles,"  London UK based Orbex has secured £30Mln ($52Mln CDN) towards delivery of a fully "European orbital micro-launch system."

As outlined in the press release:
Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany. 
The company has received funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), two of Europe's largest venture capital funds, Sunstone Technology Ventures and the High-Tech Gründerfonds, as well as private investors, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme.
Orbex has "already secured commercial engagements with major aerospace organisations." which have "contracted Orbex to study the development of a European micro launcher solution." As outlined in the press release:
Jean-Jacques Dordain, the former Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) has joined Orbex as Chairman of the Advisory Board. He is joined by other notable figures from the space industry, including Jan Skolmli, Orbex’s recently-appointed Chief Commercial Officer, who was formerly Head of Launch at SSTL, the world’s leading small satellite manufacturer. 
Orbex staff members have professional backgrounds with NASA, ESA and several other commercial spaceflight organisations. Equipment developed by Orbex team members has flown on more than 50 deep space missions, and collectively they have developed more than 50 rocket engines and a wide range of orbital and suborbital launch vehicles.
The Orbex launcher, called "Prime" is expected to be used at the New Scotish spaceport.
Editors Note: And the announcements keep coming. 
As outlined in the July 17th, 2018 Orbex press release, "Orbex and Elecnor Deimos Form Strategic Partnership for Satellite Launches," Spanish based aerospace systems integrator Elecnor Deimos has acquired a stake in Orbex.
According to the press release, "both companies have (also) signed a strategic agreement, building on previous collaborations between the two companies when successfully bidding together in UK and international tenders."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Support our Patreon Page