Friday, June 22, 2018

New UrtheCast CEO Don Osborne Belongs to a "Secret Society"

          By Henry Stewart

Going into what is expected to be a "lively" annual general meeting currently scheduled for Monday June 25th, Vancouver, BC based UrthCast has announced that Ex-MDA president Donald F. Osborne has been appointed as its new CEO.

He probably doesn't belong to the illuminati, although the one eyed portrait is certainly evocative. But new CEO Osborne is one of dozens of ex-Macdonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) employees who have left to join UrtheCast over the last several years. Photo c/o Rob Kruyt/ Business in Vancouver.

Osborne, who until November 2017 headed up the MDA information systems group subsidiary of Colorado based Maxar Technologies, isn't the only ex-MDA employee hired by UrtheCast over the last few years. A quick search through LinkedIn, the employment and business-oriented website, where many UrthCast employees store their online resumes, will uncover dozens of others.

They include EVP of operations Peter Duggan (an ex-MDA program director), CTO George Tyc (until 2012, the ex-technical director of small-sats at MDA), principal engineer Joe Steyn (who held the same title at MDA until 2016), director of software engineering Chris Rampersad (who worked at MDA until 2013) and many, many more.

Even UrtheCast co-founder Wade Larson worked at MDA as VP of business development until 2012.

As outlined in the  October 12th, 2017 post, "Osborne Steps Down at Canadian MDA as it Responds to Questions About its US Based "Maxar" Future," Osborne's resignation came as a bit of a surprise to his MDA colleagues.

No doubt, and as outlined in the June 1st, 2018 post, "UrtheCast Receives a Vote of Confidence from American Investors," Osborne's first days at his new job will include a few new surprises.

Osborne's appointment was made public earlier in the week, as per the June 19th 2018 UrtheCast press release, "UrtheCast Corp. Appoints Donald F. Osborne as Chief Executive Officer."

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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Special Senate Committee on the Arctic Holds a Hearing on Northern Infrastructure & That "Unlicenced" Inuvik Groundstation

         By Chuck Black

After well over two years, the new, private sector commercial ground station built by Inuvik, NWT based New North Networks for San Francisco, CA based Planet and Norwegian based Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and profiled multiple times in this blog, has still not received the second of two sets of Federal government approvals needed to operate under Canadian law.

Tom Zubco in Ottawa at the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic on Monday, June 18th, 2018. To see the complete presentation, please click on this link. Graphic c/o SenVu.

It's gotten so bad that the Canadian Senate has become involved. On Monday, the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic held hearings to consider the "significant and rapid changes to the arctic," and how those changes have impacted the original inhabitants.

Among the speakers was New North Networks CEO Tom Zubko.

Most of what Zubko discussed has been previously discussed in this blog, most notably in the May 31th, 2018 post, "Inuvik Mayor Calls Feds "Not Forthcoming" Regarding Private Sector Commercial Ground Station Application," the March 5th, 2018 post, "That Commercial Ground Station Built by New North Networks in Inuvik Still Can't be Used" and the June 15th, 2017 post, "Telesat Supports Defence Budget But Inuvik Left Out & Teledyne Dalsa Employee Convicted of Selling Satellite Data to China."

But a few items are worth repeating, most notably Zubko's statement that the real problem might be related to the capabilities of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Federal government department tasked with negotiating the second licence on behalf of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which is needed in order for the Inuvik ground station built by New North Networks to begin operation.

Zubko referenced two mandated reviews of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (the Federal legislation under which GAC issues licences for satellite ground stations), authored by the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in 2012 and 2017. Both reviews called the GAC "understaffed" and lacking in process, with no defined time frame to report and no defined check list of requirements needing to be fulfilled in order to insure that a licence is issued.

According to Zubko, "well over $50Mln" has so far been invested in building the infrastructure required to support the Inuvik ground station, plus another $100Mln CDN to support the infrastructure needed to transfer the data to clients sites, and those funds are in danger of being lost because of the delay in issuing the second licence required to operate the ground station.

There was also a troubling discussion focused around Planet and KSAT concerns over providing proprietory data to Colorado based Maxar Technologies through it's Canadian based MDA subsidiary, which currently (in conjunction with NRCan) has a contract to operate another Inuvik Satellite Station Facility, which the Federal government seemed to prefer to run contracts through.,


According to Zubko, "we have a lot of advantages which are being wasted because of licencing delays" and a legislative situation which is "not condusive" to investment in Canada.

Committee members in attendance included Senator Dennis Glen Patterson Chair (Conservative - Nunavut), Senator Patricia Bovey deputy chait (Independent Senators Group - Manitoba), Senator Mary Coyle (Independent Senators Group - Nova Scotia Antigonish) and Senator Paul McIntyre (Conservative - New Brunswick).

Kanata ON based First Air president and CEO Brock Friesen as also in attendance and gave a presentation.

The full video of the June 18th, 2018 Special Senate Committee on the Arctic committee meeeting is available online here.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New US Initiatives on Orbital Traffic Management, Cleaning up "Space Junk" and Creating a US Space Force

         By Chuck Black

US president Donald Trump continues to put his own stamp on American space activities, most recently at the June 18th, 2018 meeting of the National Space Council.


The first initiative, as outlined in the June 18th, 2018 Department of Commerce (DoC) press release, "Space Policy Directive 3 Brings Space Traffic Coordination to Commerce," was expected, and a logical follow-on from previous policy outlined in April 2018 by VP Mike Pence and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

As outlined in the DoC press release:
The policy acknowledges the rapidly increasing volume and diversity of commercial space activity and announces that the Department of Commerce should be the new civil agency interface for space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).
As outlined in the June 18th, 2018 NASAWatch post, "President To Sign Directive Dealing With Space Traffic Management," other US Federal government departments have also been assigned new roles:
...the Department of Defense will take the lead on developing an authoritative catalog of space objects; the Department of Commerce will be responsible for the releasable portions of the catalog for collision avoidance purposes; the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation will lead the development of standards and practices, and the State Department will lead US efforts to conduct these activities internationally with transparency.
One of the goals of new policies is to track and reduce the growing  threat of orbital debris by using a variety of mostly undefined (so far at least) private and public sector technologies.

An overview of Space Policy Directive – 3 (SPD-3) is available online, as part of the June 18, 2018 Whitehouse.gov post, "President Donald J. Trump is Achieving a Safe and Secure Future in Space."


The second part of the presentation, the part where Trump said he would direct the Pentagon to create a “space force” as a new branch of the US military to shore up American dominance in space, was also a logical progression of current US thought in this area.

As outlined most recently in the April 2nd, 2018 post, "What George Friedman's 2009 Book "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the Next Century" Said About Space," the ideas and concepts have been knocking around Washington since at least the 2nd George Bush administration.

And, according to the June 18th, 2018 Forbes Beltway Brief post, "Trump's 'Space Force' Motivated By Russian, Chinese Threats To Critical U.S. Orbital Systems," the current satellite infrastructure (which includes military communications, Earth imaging and global positioning satellites) has "become integral to how America conducts military operations on Earth, Russia and China are developing ways of degrading or destroying US satellites in wartime," and therefore the US must develop ways to defend itself:
Against that backdrop, the president's announcement today is arguably timely, because the military space program may be approaching a moment of crisis. 
Mr. Trump made it clear in his remarks that he wants America to regain its lead in space across all relevant areas -- military, civil and commercial -- but it is in the military realm where great-power rivalry is most apparent. 
If the Pentagon doesn't step up its game, the nation's security will be significantly degraded.
Now that these new, US space initiatives are being discussed seriously and publicly, expect national governments (such as Canada) and international organizations (such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space) to slowly begin to move their own ideas forward.

The full video of the June 18th, 2018 meeting of the National Space Council, including the president's speech, is available on YouTube for those who'd like to cut through the bias and spin of the traditional media.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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