Tuesday, March 19, 2019

We'll Release a "Special Report" on the 2019 Federal Budget on Wednesday, March 20th

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will formally release his fourth Federal Budget to the Canadian House of Commons just after 4pm EST today.

This blog is compiling a "Special Report" on what the new budget means for Canada's space industry. It will be e-mailed directly to Commercial Space blog subscribers on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019.

If you're not a subscriber who already receives our regular Tuesday and Friday coverage and wish to receive a free subscription, please check out the "Subscribe to this Blog" section on the Commercial Space blog website.

Finance Minister Morneau in the House of Commons. Photo c/o Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick.

As outlined in the March 17th, 2019 National Post article, "Morneau seen delivering a stimulus-filled budget ahead of the election," Canada’s ruling Liberals "are expected to table a goody-filled budget later this week in bid to get back on course with voters."

Several of those about to be announced goodies are expected to effect the space industry and the various innovation policies developed by the Federal government over the last four years to turn Canada into a global centre for innovation.

The budget will almost certainly also serve as an informal (and perhaps formal, depending on the validity of various political rumors currently making the rounds) kick-off to the 2019 Federal election.

For more, check out the Commercial Space blog "Special Report" on the 2019 Federal Budget on Wednesday.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Canadian Tech Developed For Asteroid Mining is Now Available for Terrestrial Mining Operations

          By Chuck Black

Two years ago, as outlined in the April 10th, 2016 post, "Deltion Innovations Receives Gov't Funding to Develop Multi-Tool for Space Mining; Will Anyone Buy It?," Capreol ON based Deltion Innovations received a $700,000 CDN contract from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to build a Percussive and Rotary Multi-Purpose Tool (PROMPT), a combination drill and rotary multi-use tool designed to facilitate future mining operations on the Moon, the asteroids and on Mars.

The first PROMPT on the left with the commercial "MicroCorer" version on the right in the Deltion booth at PDAC 2019. Photo's c/o Chuck Black

At the time, the real question was whether anyone would ever commercially support the tool by buying one. While that question doesn't yet have a definitive answer, it's worth noting that Deltion, after delivering the original PROMPT in 2017, has just rolled out a smaller, less costly, commercially available version of the tool for terrestrial mining operations.

This is how the space industry is supposed to work.

The commercial version is called a "MicroCorer Sampling Tool" and according to the Deltion specification sheet, it's designed to "extract a small core sample in difficult to access areas, such as a drill face between advancement rounds."

According to Deltion CEO Dale Boucher:
...when mining companies are looking for minerals and drilling holes, core samples of the rock being drilled needs to be removed in order to gauge the appropriate next steps in the operation. 
Normally you'd need to send in a person to take a sample and that's normally dangerous and often expensive, since you need to shore up the rock to insure against cave-ins plus make the hole big enough for the person to function.
The MicroCorer is able to form and capture a small sample from any "competent" rock face. The system is fully automatic and once turned on, will drill and extract a 10 mm core sample up to 100 mm in length without further operator input.

According to Boucher, PROMPT required twenty years of "significant time and fiscal investments" before the CSA provided enough money to build the demonstration unit. The final cost for the commercial MicroCorer is expected to be under $50K CDN per unit, a substantial cost savings over current methods of accessing core samples during drilling operations.

MicroCorer spec sheet from Deltion Innovations. To view the full document, please click on this link. Graphic c/o Deltion

The new tool was rolled-out for review during the recently concluded 2019 annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), which was held in Toronto, ON from March 3rd - 6th.

As outlined in the March 4th, 2019 post, "The New Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan Stakes its Claim on the Space Industry," the recently released Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP), also unveiled at PDAC 2019, discussed the need for the adaption of "new and emerging technologies" from a variety of other industries, including Canada's space industry.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Bridenstine Reassures SLS/Orion Workforce That They're Still Needed

          By Henry Stewart

Jim Bridenstine. Photo c/o NASA/ Bill Ingalls.
It's worth noting that, only a day after questioning whether the US Space Launch System (SLS) will be ready in time to be used for the scheduled 2020 first orbital flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and its European built service module, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sent an e-mail to NASA employees and SLS contractors praising the SLS workforce and stating that using alternative commercial carriers for Orion missions "is not optimum or sustainable."

As outlined in the March 14th, 2019 NASA blog post, "A Message to the Workforce on SLS and Orion," Bridenstine sent this message to NASA employees and contractors:
Yesterday, I was asked by Congress about the schedule slip of the Space Launch System and plans to get NASA back on track. I mentioned that we are exploring the possibility of launching Orion and the European Service Module to low-Earth orbit on an existing heavy-lift rocket, then using a boost from another existing vehicle for Trans Lunar Injection. Our goal would be to test Orion in lunar orbit in 2020 and free up the first SLS for the launch of habitation or other hardware in 2021. This would get us back on schedule for a crewed lunar orbital mission in 2022 with the added bonus of a lunar destination for our astronauts. 
We are studying this approach to accelerate our lunar efforts. The review will take no longer than two weeks and the results will be made available. Please know that NASA is committed to building and flying the SLS for the following reasons: 
  • Launching two heavy-lift rockets to get Orion to the Moon is not optimum or sustainable. 
  • Docking crewed vehicles in Earth orbit to get to the Moon adds complexity and risk that is undesirable. 
  • SLS mitigates these challenges and allows crew and payloads to get to the Moon, and eventually to Mars, safer and more efficiently than any temporary solution used to get back on track.
I believe in the strength of our workforce and our ability to utilize every tool available to achieve our objectives. Our goal is to get to the Moon sustainably and on to Mars. With your focused efforts, and unmatched talent, the possibility of achieving this objective is real. 
Ad astra, 
Jim Bridenstine
Only the day before, as outlined in the March 14th, 2019 post, "NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is Officially in Trouble," Bridenstine had questioned the capabilities of SLS contractors to meet the tight deadlines required to be included as part of the first orbital Orion mission and stated that NASA was investigating alternatives to using SLS.

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

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