Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Chinese and US Space Rapprochement

          By Brian Orlotti

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that it is collaborating with China’s national space agency on lunar landing research. The announcement, coming at a time of increased tension between the superpowers (and increased tensions between Canada and China), is a hopeful sign of rapprochement and a break from past policy.


As outlined in the January 18th, 2019 CTV News post, "NASA and China collaborate on Moon exploration," NASA has held discussions with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on the possibility of having its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft observe the landing plume of China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander on January 31st, 2019.

Also discussed was a proposal for NASA access to Chang’e’4’s orbiter imagery and the placing of a radio beacon on Chang’e 4 to aid future US lunar surface missions by public and private entities. The discussions followed on an exchange earlier this month that saw NASA share location data on the LRO and CNSA sharing the landing time and location of Chang’e’4.

The collaboration requires NASA to observe a strict US legal framework intended to prevent the transfer of US technology to China.

China’s Chang’e 4 mission made an historic landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3rd; the first nation to do so. Chang’e 4 has three components; a communication relay satellite named Queqiao, the Chang’e 4 lander and a rover named Yutu 2. Its mission is to explore the impact crater known as the Aitken Basin, analyzing lunar rocks and soils, measuring surface temperature, performing radio-astronomy, studying cosmic rays and observing the Sun’s corona.

In another lunar first, Chang’e 4 also performed biological experiments; these resulted in the successful sprouting of cottonseed, rapeseed and potato seeds. Chang’e 4’s science payloads were partly supplied by various international partners, including Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia.


As China continues its ascension and US government and industry make their own preparations for a return to the Moon, these cooperative efforts represent a new pragmatism. After years of being excluded from international space projects, China can no longer be ignored.

As the deterioration of the Russian space program continues, a pooling of US and Chinese resources becomes more logical. In the long run, an extended multinational push into space will require cooperation and coordination between all parties to maximize the chances of survival and success.

Despite current superpower jousting, such gestures show a willingness to work toward greater goals. In our current troubled times, this is welcome news indeed.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions

Part 1: The Axworthy Doctrine

          By Chuck Black
The US plan to create an expanded United States Space Force independent of the other five branches of the US military has slowly been taking form under the current Donald Trump administration, but the genesis of the concept goes back to the 1980's and Ronald Reagan's Star Wars Strategic Defence Initiative. 
Since the new plan will essentially absorb major components of existing North American defence, including the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), there is no question that Canada's current defence policy, as outlined in the January 17th, 2019 Federal government overview, "Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada's Defence Policy," will need to reconcile existing policies and partnerships with future US intentions. 
As noted in the September 14th, 2017 Canadian Press post, "Policy says US won’t defend Canada from missile attack: Norad general," Canada might even appreciate an opportunity to revisit decisions on whether or not to accept (and assist with the implementation) or reject the new US defence policies. 
For example, the Department of National Defence (DND) Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program is currently funding the development of over two dozen new applications relating to space situational awareness and other activities which could be either adapted by the US in exchange for access to US space defence capabilities or deployed independently.
Will Canada take advantage of this opportunity to re-assess its integration into the US defensive screen. Below is the first part of a short history of Canadian space defence planning which would suggest that there are certain defence components which Canada might want to carry out independently of the US. 
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Lloyd Axworthy in the 1990's. Graphic c/o Graeme Mackay.
To learn about the origins of Canada's military space policy, we need to start with something called the "1994 Canadian White Paper on Defence."

It's a difficult to find the document these days although it was once a well respected and widely disseminated policy paper generated by incoming Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien's Liberal government which outlined their plans for the Canadian military.

Called the "Axworthy Doctrine" after incoming Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy (who helped originate and champion many of the ideas in the document), its intent was to provide a justification to scale back military expenditures allocated by the outgoing Conservative government and take advantage of the so called "peace dividend" expected to accrue to western democracies after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980's.

Included among the cuts was Canada's traditional commitment to the "level and tempo of Canada-U.S. defense relations, particularly in NORAD, (the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationwhich) has been decreasing since the late 1980s" according to the document "Canada, Getting it Right This Time: The 1994 Defence White Paper" published by the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the United States Army War College.

Canadian financial contributions to the NATO allied infrastructure program and force levels for the them new CF-18 Hornet fighter jets were also cut back.

But while military cutbacks to Canada's NATO and NORAD contributions might seem like a sane and sensible policy for some, those cutbacks also undermined two of the four traditional pillars of Canadian military policy (the other two are protection of Canadian sovereignty and international peacekeeping missions).

The current NORAD HQ in Building 2 at Peterson Air Force Base. The Cheyenne Mountain Military Complex, the traditional centre of NORAD activities is "no longer used on a daily basis" according to Wikipedia. Photo c/o Wikipedia.

Even worse, the Axworthy Doctrine suggested that direct threats to North American security were unlikely in the foreseeable future. With three of the four traditional justifications for a Canadian military seemingly under fire from an incoming government mandated to slash spending, a new rationale was needed.

This is where the Axworthy Doctrine got creative. It essentially doubled down on the final tier of Canada's military space policy, the international peace missions.

It championed a concept called "human security" which challenged traditional notions of international security by arguing that it should be focused around the individual instead of the state. It also argued that the United Nations (UN) had a "responsibility to protect" people anywhere in the world against genocide and ethnic cleansing attempts, even to the extent of invading or interfering in the internal politics of otherwise sovereign nations.

The 1994 UN mission. Graphic c/o Amazon.
Axworthy (who eventually became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Jean Chr├ętien government) felt this new Canadian military role could be undertaken by the existing Canadian Forces without the need for any additional military expenditures. In essence, the ruling liberal government could legitimately task the Canadian Forces with the Axworthy Doctrine and still cut military funding.

Was this a great country or what?

To be fair, the doctrine was widely considered to be a reasonable response to help prevent a repeat of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide where the Canadian commander of a UN peace keeping mission (Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire) was prevented from taking steps he felt would diffuse the situation and save lives.

But even in this area, the "Axworthy Doctrine" was a two edge sword. According to the June 9th, 2006 Canadian Encyclopedia post, "Canada's 'responsibility to protect' Doctrine Gaining Ground at the UN," it might:
... sound warm and fuzzy on the surface, but underlying that vision is the cold hard recognition that military intervention may be necessary to achieve this end. Rejecting the sanctity of national borders that has been central to the UN since its founding in 1945, the proposal would create a sort of official licence to invade.
The concept of a "license to invade" rogue regimes for the greater good found an obvious following in the United States (especially after 9/11) which initially provided much of the support infrastructure needed to send Canadian soldiers around the world.

This 2010 political cartoon about "rogue regimes" comes from a simpler age. Graphic c/o Boston Herald.

Unfortunately, the Americans soon started making noise about how Canada should build their own infrastructure, and not simply "piggyback" on existing US capabilities. Axworthy ended up being wrong about his doctrine not needing new expenditures to support combat capable troops on lengthy international missions.

In essence, its not so much different from current US policy requests for allies to pay their "fair share" of military expenditures for communal defence. Some things never change.

Oddly enough, the easiest way to support the Axworthy Doctrine was to develop an indigenous military space communications and surveillance capability to support Canadian missions abroad.

Kinda like what the US is currently looking to leverage as the core components of their proposed US Space Force and quite similar to those two dozen proposals currently being funded by the DND IDEaS program.

The early requirements for this communications and surveillance capability, which led directly to the formulation of Canada's 1998 military space policy, along with a bit of background on why there was no Canadian military space policy prior to 1998, will be the subject of our next post on this topic.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Portions of  this  multipart overview were originally published in the December 27th, 2010 post, "Canada's Military Space Policy: Part 1, The Axworthy Doctrine."

Friday, January 18, 2019

US Government Releases 2019 Missile Defence Review

          By Henry Stewart

The US government has released it's latest military review covering the threat posed by Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Iranian missiles and the ways to counter such threats. And this time, at least according to US President Donald Trump, US allies like Canada will have to pay their "fair share" when the new system is deployed.

Cover page of the unclassified version of the "2019 Missile Defence Review." Graphic c/o Office of the Secretary of Defence

As outlined in the January 17th 2019 CTV News post, "Canadian officials look for answers as Trump unveils missile-defence plan" the new report puts a heavy emphasis on "space-based sensors and defences to detect, track and ultimately stop missile attacks against the US and its allies from anywhere in the world."

According to the post:
The final report had been highly anticipated in Ottawa as Canada and the US prepare to launch discussions about upgrading North America's aging early-warning system to protect against attacks that use more advanced technology. 
The North American Aerospace Defence Command, or Norad, is currently configured to detect incoming ballistic missiles and foreign aircraft such as bombers, but not threats such as cruise and hypersonic missiles.
The report also "underscored the importance of being able to defend against attacks with interceptors like those employed by the US ballistic-missile defence shield, which Canada famously opted not to join in 2005."

A partial, unclassified, version of the review is available online, under the title, "2019 Missile Defence Review."

As outlined in the January 17th, 2019 The Drive post, "Here's All You Need To Know About The New Missile Defense Review That Was Just Released," expanding and improving "the US missile defense shield will require significant time and resources, as well. At present, it's unclear whether or not the next defense budget will be smaller or larger than the last."

It will also require much discussion and cooperation between traditional US allies like Canada in order to effectively deploy and fund. A lot of Canadian based think-tanks including the Calgary AB based Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Vancouver BC based Fraser Institute have recently been recently arguing for Canadian participation in the program, although the Federal government has offered up no concrete movement in this area.

Here's wishing them luck with that.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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