Monday, September 22, 2014

Space Agency Heads Congregating in Toronto on September 29th

          by Chuck Black

Berndt Feuerbacher.
It wouldn't be an International Astronautical Congress without public pronouncements from the heads of the largest government space agencies and the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014), which will be held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, will certainly be following in this tradition.

Expected to join moderator and past International Astronautical Federation (IAF) president Berndt Feuerbacher on Monday, September 29th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) for the traditional IAC Heads of Agencies plenary are the following government space agency representatives:

Charles Bolden.
Charles Bolden, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Given that each representative will be expected to provide an introductory presentation on the latest developments from their respective agency and then take at least a few questions from the audience, it is assumed that Bolden will talk about why Boeing received so much more money than SpaceX ($4.2Bln USD for Boeing, as compared to $2.6Bln for SpaceX), for a contract to do pretty much the same thing last week, as part of the latest round of the NASA commercial crew program.

Xu Dazhe.
Xu Dazhe, the administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Coming off the successful International Planetary Congress, another major space conference, which was held Sept 10th to 15th in Beijing, China for the first time, the Chinese leader is likely to be focused on questions of international co-operation and recognition for China's new role as a major space power. 
Jean-Jacques Dordain.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director general of the European Space Agency (ESA). He's held the position since 2003, which makes him perhaps a little more experienced than his colleagues at the other space agencies. Dordain will likely face questions over the ESA next generation Ariane 6 launcher and the competition it faces from the US based SpaceX.

Denis Lyskov.
Denis Lyskov, the government secretary and deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS). With ROSCOSMOS head Oleg Ostapenko unable to attend (no doubt for political reasons), the far duller Lyskov, who is considered unlikely to discuss "trampolines" or "space gecko's," is expected to focus on the future expansion plans the agency has been dutifully running up the flagpole over the last year to see if anyone salutes.

Walt Natynczyk.
Walter Natynczyk, the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Natynczyk, seemingly one of the shyest and most reticent CSA presidents in a long time, will likely keep his comments focused on longstanding Canadian government concerns over "international co-operation" and "collaboration" with the other space agency heads. 

Naoki Okumura.
Naoki Okumura, the president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Well into the second year of the five-year implementation phase of Japan’s updated basic plan on space policy, the JAXA head will likely want to talk the JAXA "application-focused approach" to space system development and the new JAXA small satellite platform, which Japan hopes to sell to other countries.

K. Radhakrishnan.
K. Radhakrishnan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Expect Radhakrishnan to focus his comments on the ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which should to enter orbit around Mars this week.

The plenary will be held on Monday, September 29th from 1:30pm - 3:00pm at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) in Hall F on level 800.

It looks like a good show, well worth attending.

MacDonald Dettwiler Now a Commercial Satellite Powerhouse

          by Brian Orlotti

Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettweiler and Associates' (MDA) flag has been flying high over the past month with the winning of three large contracts. Those wins testify to the strength of the commercial space industry.

The beginning of the most recent string of successes was covered in the September 8th, 2014 Cantech Letter post, "Macdonald Dettwiler has become a “global commercial satellite powerhouse,” says Global Maxfin," which discussed the announcement that US subsidiary Space Systems Loral (SSL) had been selected to provide a communications satellite for BulgariaSat, an affiliate of leading Bulgarian telecommunications company Bulsatcom.

On the same day, the company stated that Export Development Canada (a Federal Crown corporation which provides financing and risk management services to Canadian exporters) had completed a $250Mln CDN financing package enabling Spanish satellite operator Hispasat SA to purchase a new communications satellite from MDA.

As discussed in the September 19th, 2014 Canadian Manufacturing article, "MDA building $19.8M data system for European Space Agency," the two initial September successes were followed up by the September 19th, 2014 announcement that the MDA UK subsidiary had been granted a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) valued at $19.8Mln CDN for the development and construction of a Ka-band data relay terminal for the ESA's Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS).

.Most communication satellites operate in the lower frequency C- and Ku-bands and one way to increase the amount of information or data per unit of time transmitted is to use a higher radio frequency. The Ka-band has a greater bandwidth (in other words, it has a higher capacity for data transfer) and allows smaller spacecraft and ground stations. Graphic c/o The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) webpage. 

The data relay terminal will complement the ISS' existing communication systems and, by using the Ka-band, will provide greater bandwidth and enable faster delivery of scientific data and HD video and images between the space station and ground stations. 

MDA’s continued growth can be viewed as a result of its 2012 acquisition of California-based SSL. MDA's $875Mln USD ($963Mln CDN) purchase of SSL in 2012 enabled access to an extensive list of clients in both the US and European markets including AsiaSat, DirecTV, EchoStar, Eutelsat, Globalstar, Hispasat, Hughes Network Systems, ICO Global Communications, Intelsat, Japan, MTSAT, JSC Gascom, Loral Skynet, NASA/NOAA(GOES), NBN Co, Optus, PanAmSat, QuetzSat, Satmex, , SES World Skies, SES S.A., Sirius Satellite Radio, SpainSat, Star One, Telenor, ViaSat, WildBlue, and XM Satellite Radio.

In essence, the SSL acquisition has transformed MDA into a commercial satellite powerhouse and telecommunications industry leader. Other contributing factors to MDA's success include its aggressive bidding approach and continuing expansion of its RADARSAT program, wrapped around the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), set for launch in 2018.

Brian Orlotti.
MDA's continued success in difficult economic times is a testament to the company's farsighted and pragmatic decision-making. Time will tell whether this success will continue through the coming decades.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fred Ordway Tribute, International Meetups and Space Art During IAC 2014

          by Chuck Black

Fred Ordway in 2013. Photo c/o Apogee Books.
We all contribute as best we can to build the world we live in and the members of the Canadian Space Society (CSS) are certainly no exception to this rule. 

One of their major contributions to the fast approaching 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014), which is being held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, will be a small tribute to the man who never missed an IAC congress ever, at least until his untimely death earlier this year.

As outlined on his biography on the CG Publishing website, Frederick Ira Ordway, III (April 4th, 1927 – July 1st, 2014) was a prolific scientist and author of visionary works on spaceflight who often wrote in collaboration with the giants of the first great age of spaceflight.

They included Werner von Braun (his boss at NASA in 1965 when Ordway asked for a leave of absence to work with film director Stanley Kubrick on "2001: A Space Odyssey"), Ernst Stuhlinger (a German colleague of von Braun, also brought to America as part of the post World War II "Operation Paperclip") and Arthur C. Clarke, whom Ordway met in 1950 at the very first IAC congress in Paris, France.

The tribute will be held in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) room 103, north tower on October 2nd, and will begin at 7 pm.

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye. Photo c/o WireImage.
Of course, that's not the only activity during IAC2014 to which the CSS will contribute. 

According to CSS president Wayne Ellis, the CSS has also organized a meet and greet mixer on September 30th, 2014, for Canadians and members of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Space Societies Committee (SSC), which represents space societies, museums and professional associations throughout the world.

Current members of the SSC committee include Ellis, past CSS president Kevin Shortt and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the science guy, who will also be part of a panel discussion on "The Canadian Space Program Today and Tomorrow," on October 1st, 2014 at the University of Toronto Hart House) plus quite a few others.

As well, the CSS will be hosting a space art exhibition from September 30th - October 3rd, 2014 to explore how space and its related technologies are being used to transform art and culture and inspire a new generation of innovators.

A rendition of the NASA Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) in low Earth orbit by Aldo Spadoni. It's from the "Revolutions: The Inexorable Evolution of Art" exhibit being displayed at the MTCC from September 30th - October 3rd, 2014 as part of the CSS contribution to IAC 2014.

Titled "Revolutions: The Inexorable Evolution of Art" and representing the work of over fifty acclaimed artists, the presentation will feature a variety of art derived from space technologies, designed for micro-gravity environments or inspired by space developments. The exhibition has already been presented in Calgary and Ottawa to positive reviews and is expected to tour other Canadian cities in 2015.

The exhibition will be held in conjunction with "Canada's 50 Years in Space," a display developed in 2012 by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC and composed of images and memorabilia detailing Canada's exploits in space since 1962. 

Part of the presentation on "Canada's 50 years in Space," which will be shown as part of the CSS contribution to IAC 2014.  Image c/o DFATD.

According to Ellis, there are also CSS members scheduled to present papers on a variety of topics at IAC 2014 along with a CSS booth, highlighting local space activities in the IAC Canadian pavilion for the duration of the event.

Just don't ask Ellis to slow down to explain everything about what's going on and where the events are located. It looks like he's already contributing the best he can.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hadfield in China for International Planetary Congress; PM to Follow in November

          by Brian Orlotti

Chris Hadfield. Photo c/o Paul Chiasson/ Canadian Press.
Several events over the past few weeks have highlighted China's growing influence both in space affairs and the world at large.

For example, the International Planetary Congress, a major space conference, is being held Sept 10th to 15th in Beijing, China for the first time. The event is organized by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) in co-operation with the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), a group which represents some 400 astronauts/cosmonauts from 35 nations.

The Congress' theme is "Cooperation: To Realize Humanity's Space Dream Together." Chinese astronauts (called Taikonauts) will present reports from their previous spaceflights and China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei, will present an invitation to the international community to join China in building its upcoming space station.

Last summer, Chinese officials stated that China's 60-ton multi-module manned station is being fast tracked, with the first module to be launched in 2018 (two years earlier than previously announced). Additional modules are to be launched in 2020 and 2022.

As stated in the September 10th, 2014 Canadian Press article "Chris Hadfield to attend international space conference in China," retired astronaut Chris Hadfield will be attending as Canada's sole representative and will participate in a discussion panel with Chinese taikonauts on common space mission experiences.

According to the article, Hadfield, a former ASA president, said that he hopes that the Congress will spur a new round of international cooperation in space and, while China's long term goals would include a manned Lunar base, the best model for that might be the existing international partnerships which helped to build the International Space Station (ISS).

Although Hadfield tiptoed around the International Planetary Congress' political significance, the desire to work with the Chinese at either the governmental or private level was apparent when he stated:
Even if they (the Chinese) don't make a direct overture, it is still 100 people who are quite influential in the space business having a chance — without a specific political agenda — to get together and talk about opportunities and build further relationships.
Hadfield's remarks come on the heels of his July 2014 visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as outlined in the August 11th, 2014 post "Hadfield in Emirates, Russia in Lather & UrtheCast in Orbit," when he publicly stating his interest in  helping the UAE to set up its own space agency and launch a Mars probe in 2021.

Also attending the conference are some 30 space travelers from the US, including active NASA astronauts. The Americans  are attending as private citizens and ASE members, however, and not as official NASA representatives. NASA is prohibited  by US law from space cooperation with China.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the 5th Canada China Business Forum, which was held in Beijing, China in February 2012. As outlined  in the September 12th, 2014 Canadian Press article "Canada-China investment treaty to come into force Oct. 1," the Canadian PM will revisit China in November 2014. Photo c/o Canadian Press

Stronger ties with China in space could very well flow from Canada's now-stronger economic links with China. As outlined in the September 12th, 2014 National Post article "Ottawa ratifies foreign investment deal with China despite tensions," the Canadian government last week recently ratified the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), a controversial 31-year foreign investment agreement with China.

Critics of FIPA say that the agreement will grant China control of Canada's national resources while blocking Canadian businesses access to protected Chinese industries. FIPA advocates claim that the agreement will allow Chinese capital to flow into Canadian industry, spurring job creation and growth in a time of economic difficulty.

Brian Orlotti.
History has shown again and again that leadership vacuums are inevitably filled. Should the space programs of the US, Europe and Russia continue to remain in stasis, others are ready to step in and fill the void.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.