Friday, October 19, 2018

MDA Also Presented to the the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance this Month

          By Chuck Black

Brampton ON based MDA Space Missions (a subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies) group president Mike Greenley made an in-person presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the 2019 Budget.

Mike Greenley with Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in May 2018. As outlined in the May 30th, 2018 Maxar Technologies press release, "Maxar's MDA Drives Innovation in Support of Canadian Government Space Activities," MDA already receives substantial funding from the Canadian government for its programs. Photo c/o MDA.

According to the meeting transcript, Greenley claimed to be representing "several hundred other Canadian companies today that are engaged in Canada's space industry," likely because of MDA's affiliation with the Don't Let Go Canada advocacy campaign, but spent most of his presentation lobbying for funding for a "third generation Canadarm" to contribute to the US led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (Lunar Gateway).

The full presentation  is transcribed online on the as part of the October 4th, 2018 FINA Committee Meeting (#173) web page.

Given that MDA stands to profit handsomely should their recommendation to fund a "third generation Canadarm" be accepted by the Federal Liberal government, this blog will be going into that presentation in more detail for our Tuesday edition.

Stay tuned.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Maritime Launch Services and the Wider Launch Market

          By Henry Stewart

It's good that Halifax NS based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) made an in-person presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the 2019 Budget.

MLS CEO Matier (left) with and Maksym Degtiarov, the chief designer of the Cyclone 4-M launch vehicle at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, talks with reporters in Dartmouth NS on December 11th, 2017. As outlined in the December 11th, 2017 CBC News post, "Proposed Canso rocket site hopes to eventually reach 12 launches per year," MLS has been working closely with designers from the Ukrainian based Yuzhnoye State Design Office. Photo c/o Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press

But if MLS CEO and president Stephen Matier really want to compete on the open launch market and interest the Federal government in supporting Canadian based initiatives, he should take a look at the most recent Space Investment Quarterly, from the New York NY based Space Angels, which covers the third quarter of 2018.

As outlined on the Space Angels website:
In our last issue, we saw growing evidence that 2018 would be the year of small launch and indeed that trend has continued in Q3 2018, with investment in launch now exceeding $1Bln US ($1.3Bln CDN) year-to-date. 
This quarter was also significant for Satellites, with over $370Mln US ($484Mln CDN) flowing into the industry driven by growth in Series B rounds led by venture capital firms, demonstrating their conviction in the tremendous value in scaling this technology.
This suggests strongly that the international launch market, along with the development of the infrastructure needed to move it forward, is growing strongly because of increasing investments from the private sector.

However, at least according to Matier:
Our collective request of the government of Canada is to actively focus their support on the budding industry so that Canada can capture the market share that is obviously ours for the taking. 
Spaceport development and launch vehicle development initiatives in other countries including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and others, are just now gearing up and those governments are finding ways to support the infrastructure development and the launch vehicle development. 
All the assets are here and in place except for active and streamlined government support for this global opportunity. 
As with the other countries and programs mentioned, there are significant numbers of investors ready to participate in the development of the opportunity, now that their governments have openly supported and seeded the initiatives with investment dollars. 
For Maritime Launch Services, and as the language in Connect to Innovate states, we see ourselves as a part of new backbone infrastructure in rural and remote communities across Canada for our launch site development and for our mission to support global broadband priorities. 
Building this infrastructure is the modern equivalent of building roads or railway spurs into rural and remote areas, connecting them to the global economy. This backbone infrastructure is the basis for the launch vehicles and satellites that are needed in today's connected world. 
According to Matier, governments around the world are "gearing up" to prepare for the next space race and the Canadian government should also be preparing to support investment in this area.

According to the Space Angels, a privately held financial services company focused on investments in the aerospace industry, its the private sector which is "gearing up." to invest and grow the market in whichever jurisdiction happens to provide the best conditions for private sector investments.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. One of the legitimate roles of the Federal government is to lower barriers for the creation of new investment opportunities and attract international business.

While this blog has long been critical of MLS and its reliance on "legacy" Russian/ Ukrainian rocket technology for its business model, this is one area where we are both in complete agreement.

Screenshot of the Federal government ParlVu website. To hear the complete audio recording of meeting 171, simply click on this link. Graphic c/o Government of Canada

As outlined on the FINA website, Matier presented to FINA on October 2nd 2018. His presentation is available online as part of the October 2nd, 2018 FINA meeting number 171 on the ParlVu website and takes place from approximately 10.06.15 until approximately 10.17.00. 

A transcript of the presentation is available as part of the October 17th, 2018 SpaceQ post, "Maritime Launch Services Takes it Vision to the Finance Committee in Person."

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Many of the Most Senior of the Usual Suspects Were in Ottawa Discussing Space, But Not the Innovation Minister

          By Chuck Black

Many of the most senior of the "usual suspects" involved in Canada's space industry were in Ottawa on October 16th, attending the "Ready for Launch: Preparing Canada for a Future in Space," conference organized by the Calgary AB based Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI).

Panel discussion with (from left to right) CGAI moderator Mike Day, former CSA president "Mac" Evans, SAB chair Lucie Stojak, former CSA astronaut Robert Thirsk and current CSA president Sylvain Laporte. Photo c/o @LeslieSwartman.

As outlined first in the September 18th, 2018 post, "Colorado Based Maxar/MDA Asking for $1-2Bln to Build Another Canadarm for the US LOP-G," it was also a keynote event for the Brampton ON based MDA Space Missions (a subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies) and its Don't Let Go Canada advocacy campaign to lobby the Federal Liberal government to fund a new, "third generation" Canadarm for the US Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (Lunar Gateway).

Tweet c/o #CGAIspace.
Participants included: 
  • Federal Transport Minister (and former astronaut) Marc Garneau.
  • Former CSA astronaut Robert Thirsk.
  • Current CSA president Sylvain Laporte.
  • MDA group president Mike Greenley.
  • Magellan Aerospace division manager of defence and space products David O’Connor plus quite a number of others.
Even CBC science journalist Bob MacDonald dropped in for a bit to have a "fireside chat" on the new space age with Kenneth Hodgkins, the director for the Office of Space and Advanced Technology at the US Department of State.

Hodgkins is also listed as speaker at the Washington DC based Wilson Institute and many of the speakers at the October 16th event in Canada were previously highlighted at a September 7th, 2018 event in Washington DC titled "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-U.S. Space Cooperation?" which covered much the same territory and was held through the Wilson Centre.

According to its website, the Wilson Centre:
...chartered by Congress as the living memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, is the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum. In tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue, the Center informs actionable ideas for Congress, the administration, and the broader policy community.
Kenneth Hodgkins in conversation with Bob McDonald in Ottawa on October 16th, 2018. Photo c/o @CAGlobalAffairs.

Unfortunately, Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains wasn't in attendance. Bains is one of the most powerful Liberal ministers in the current government and the one directly responsible for the portfolio which includes both the CSA and science spending. He's also the one person in the Federal government most able to generate funding for the various programs which were discussed at the event.

In his place was Denis Bourque the Director of Policy for Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada, who can be expected to report back to Minister Bains on the day's activities.

Prashant Shukle, the Director General of Resources for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) was also in attendance. As outlined in the June 8th, 2018 post, "NRCan Explores Space Mining," there have been some mid-level space focused initiatives coming out of that department recently.

For those looking to learn more, videos of some of the discussions and a few of the more interesting conversations from the event are on twitter under the #CGAIspace hashtag
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Federal Space Advisory Board (SAB) Insists that It's Working Hard

          By Henry Stewart

Lucy Stojack, the chair of the Federally mandated Space Advisory Board (SAB), has sent out an e-mail outlining the half dozen events SAB members have attended recently plus listed several additional upcoming events which members expect to participate in this fall.

SAB chair Stojak. Photo c/o HEC.
According to the e-mail:
As the Chair of the Space Advisory Board, I hope this newsletter finds you well rested after the summer and poised for the fall. 
This summer was indeed a busy one! 
The Board provided updated advice to the Minister on Canadian space opportunities and risks in relation to global space trends as a follow on to our (August 2017) report Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard. 
We have also been in regular contact with the Minister’s office (Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains) to provide advice and input as the Government moves forward on the development of a long-term vision for space; we continue to reinforce insights gained from Canadian stakeholders and to underscore the urgent need for Government action. 
Furthermore, we have been busy participating in multiple events across Canada and the US to highlight the benefits of space to Canadians and the importance of the Canadian space sector at home and abroad. 
Since our last update, Members of the Board have participated in the following events:
  • WILSON CENTER EVENT – On September 7, 2018, the Woodrow Wilson Center, based in Washington D.C., hosted a one-day conference on Canada-U.S. space cooperation. The Wilson Center convened a high-level strategic policy dialogue, as U.S. and Canadian officials (NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and CSA President Sylvain Laporte) and representatives from communications, robotics, and aerospace companies addressed civilian and military space, emerging threats, and new technologies. 
Experts also examined how government and industry can work together on principles, norms, and institutions that will ensure responsible human activity in a changing space domain. Space Advisory Board members Mac Evans, Lucy Stojak and Mike Pley participated on panel discussions throughout the conference to provide expertise on Canada’s space history, international space regulations and Canada’s civilian space program.  
  • SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEETING IN OTTAWA WITH US GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS – On September 17, 2018 several members of the Board met with William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations at NASA along with representatives from the State Department, Department of Commerce and the U.S. Embassy to Canada. The discussion was focused around NASA’s future space exploration plans and how to better leverage commercial space. Canada’s opportunities in future space projects/programs were also discussed. 
  • DIGITAL ROUNDTABLES – Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada had digital innovation leaders host roundtable discussions in cities across Canada with business, academia, civil society and others. The Space Advisory Board participated in a number of these roundtables. 
  • LET GO CANADA: SECURING CANADA’S PLACE IN SPACE – On September 17, 2018 a coalition of Canadian space stakeholders representing industry, academia and the space enthusiast community had an event at iPolitics to raise awareness of Canada’s accomplishments in space. The event was focused around the findings of the public opinion research by Ipsos with an expert panel representing different views on the sector. The panel participants included two Board members, Kate Howells and Mike Pley.
  • U.S. EMBASSY OTTAWA AND ACTUA PRESENT A VIDEO CHAT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION – On Friday, September 21, 2018 the United States Embassy in Ottawa, in partnership with Actua, Canada’s largest science, technology, engineering and math outreach organization, hosted a video chat between local Ottawa elementary school students, stakeholders, and American-Canadian astronaut Drew Feustel at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Drew is currently aboard the International Space Station and is Commander of its 56th mission. 
Kate Howells participated in a panel discussion on STEM with Drew’s wife, Indira Feustel; the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; and the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and Canada’s first astronaut in space. 
  • FIRESIDE CHAT WITH CANADIAN ASTRONAUTS – On Friday, September 21, 2018, at the University of Ottawa, Space Advisory Board Member Mac Evans attended an event of nine Canadian Astronauts participating in a panel discussion on Canada’s role in space exploration. 
Points of discussion included ‘New Space,’ next steps for Canadian space exploration, the changing roles of astronauts, the importance of space, STEM programs, and international collaboration.
The Board will be participating in additional upcoming fall events to continue to engage with the public and to build momentum. These events include the Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s Space Conference (October 16th in Ottawa), the Canadian Science Policy Conference (November 7th - 9th in Ottawa), the AIAC Canadian Aerospace Summit (November 13th - 14th in Ottawa), and the Canadian Space Summit (November 27th - 29th in Ottawa).
In the coming weeks, the Board will also meet with (Navdeep Bains) the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. This meeting will provide an opportunity for the Board members to update the Minister on our continued engagement with the space sector in Canada and abroad, and provide feedback on what we heard. 
This meeting will also provide an opportunity to discuss how best the Space Advisory Board can continue to advise the Minister and inform the government’s work as it develops a long term vision for Canada’s space program. 
Finally, we will remain engaged with the public on Canada’s future in space through our participation in the above mentioned events and welcome input through contact with members of the Board at these events or e-mail to 
Please note that the Space Advisory Board website URL has changed, here is the updated link:
While the specifics of the contributions to each event listed in the e-mail is not always explained, the overall suggestion is that the SAB is at least working hard for the Canadian space industry.

If Stojak and the SAB only including a few discussions about the specific solutions they were advocating and the actual influence the SAB has with the Federal government, then we could start getting really excited.

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

AI is Hot and Even Gets Government Funding From the Canadian Space Agency

          By Chuck Black

Although the participants at several upcoming events over the next few weeks are expected to strongly lobby the Federal government to provide new funding for space focused projects, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has just gone out of its way to remind applicants that, while Federal funding for artificial intelligence (AI) is hot (even when the AI firms being funded are actually space companies), Federal funding for space activities is not.

As outlined in the October 15th, 2018 CSA press release, "Strengthening Canada's leadership in AI-driven robotics to support jobs," the CSA:
... is positioning Canada's space community to maintain its global leadership in space robotics. 
Accordingly, the CSA announced today that it is investing $1.6Mln CDN in two concepts for lunar rovers that would use artificial intelligence (AI) to make their own decisions. 
According to the press release, Brampton ON based MDA, a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies and Caledon ON based Canadensys Aerospace Corporation have each been awarded a contract worth $800 000 CDN to develop innovative rovers using AI concepts for the CSA. The contracts awarded will support sixty-one "well-paying jobs" and position Canada to play an important role in future missions to the Moon.

But for the rest of us, we'll need to find private sector partners. 

The CSA made their latest announcement at the start of a three-day CSA "Industry Days" event to promote Canadian space capabilities to major space companies, including Kent WA based Blue Origin, Ottobrunn, Germany based Airbus Defense and Space and  Cape Canaveral FL based Moon Express. More than forty-four organizations are expected to attend the event from October 15th - 17th and over 70 business-to-business meetings are expected to take place, according to the press release.

Hopefully, some of those meetings will generate deals.

This is not the first time the Federal government has favored funding AI development over space activities.

As outlined most recently in the October 9th, 2018 post, "Creative Destruction Lab Receives $25Mln CDN from Federal Government for AI, Start-up Infrastructure and Jobs," the Federal Liberal government is heavily promoting AI investments.

As for MDA and Canadensys, they've both received previous funding from the CSA for rovers and can be reasonably expected to go after any new funding. Expect both to apply for the September 20th, 2018 CSA Announcement of Opportunity (AO) "Lunar Exploration Analogue Deployment (LEAD) – Capability Demonstration." 

The program objectives, worth $250,000 CDN over a maximum period of 24 months, are:
  • To advance complementary community lunar science and/or technology that can benefit from test and capability demonstration at the Lunar Exploration Analogue Deployment (LEAD) analogue site and
  • To train project managers, engineers, scientists, post-doc fellows and technicians plus support the development of Canadian industrial capabilities in the area of space technologies for the purpose of increasing the commercial potential of Canadian space companies.
Expect either MDA or Canadensys to be awarded the latest AO, sometime after it closes on October 26th, 2018. After all, as outlined in the AO, "there will be financial support for only one project awarded to one recipient as a result of this AO."

Of course, several private sector players, including Cape Canaveral based Moon Express, might eventually end up taking up the slack. As outlined in the October 16th, 2018 Moon Express press release, "Moon Express Expands Into Canada With The Establishment Of Moon Express Canada And New Partnerships," the company has opened up a new Canadian office and signed up several local partners,

But as outlined in the April 30th, 2018 post, "NASA Resource Prospector Cancellation "Disappointing" Says Deltion Innovations CEO Boucher," the September 26th, 2016 post, "The REAL Reason Why Canada Won't Be Participating in the NASA Resolve Mission Anytime Soon, Probably!," and the October 20th, 2012 post, "Lots and Lots of Rovers Looking for Missions," the CSA has a long history of supporting lunar rover programs which never go anywhere.

So lets wait and see what happens this time.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Blue Origin Joins the US Military Rocket Building Club

          By Brian Orlotti

The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a total $2.3Bln US ($3.0Bln CDN) in contracts to three firms to develop launch systems for national security payloads. The announcement is a watershed moment, highlighting the entry of a new player as well as new technology into the US national security launch apparatus.

The military contracts were awarded to:
As outlined in the October 10th, 2018 Ars Technica post, "The military chooses which rockets it wants built for the next decade," the contracts are part of a US Department of Defense initiative to ensure stable military access to space and end US reliance on foreign-made rocket engines, such as the ULA Atlas V rocket, which uses Russian RD-180 engines.

Blue Origin’s and Northrop’s prototype vehicles are expected to be ready to fly by late 2024 while ULA’s Vulcan rocket is to be completed by March 2025.

Blue Origin’s award is of particular note, as it is the second NewSpace firm to win a US military contract after Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX. The USAF’s selection of Blue Origin is likely the hedging of bets to avoid dependence on SpaceX or any other single firm, a situation which happened previously with ULA. 

From its formation in 2006 as a joint venture between Sunnyvale CA based Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Berkley MI based Boeing Defense, Space & Security ULA dominated and served as the sole supplier for US military space launches until 2017, when SpaceX received accreditation.

It's worth noting that SpaceX received permission to launch military payloads only after it had an operational Falcon-9 program lofting commercial satellites into orbits. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher (which was funded through NASA commercial crew contracts) is already certified for all Air Force requirements and, as outlined in the June 21st, 2018 post, "Air Force certifies Falcon Heavy, orders satellite launch for 2020," SpaceX currently has outstanding military contracts for the launcher.

In essence, the new awards will each cover the substantial research and development costs needed to roll out operational versions of what are essentially design studies, something not needed in the case of SpaceX.

Besides, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher (which was funded through NASA commercial crew contracts) is already certified for all Air Force requirements. As outlined in the June 21st, 2018 post, "Air Force certifies Falcon Heavy, orders satellite launch for 2020," SpaceX currently has outstanding military contracts for this operational launcher.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn is a two-stage heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle, development of which began in 2012.

With a 7-meter (23 ft) diameter, the New Glenn with a reusable first stage as well as an optional third stage. Its first stage will be powered by seven in-house designed and built BE-4 liquid methane/oxygen engines producing 17,000 kN (3,800,000 lbf) of liftoff thrust.

New Glenn will be built at Blue Origin’s Florida factory and launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In addition to commercial and military satelite launches, New Glenn will also be available for space tourism flights.

New Glenn’s first stage boosters are reusable and will be recovered downrange on the Atlantic Ocean via a ship acting as a floating landing platform in much the same way as SpaceX’s Falcon rockets.

The awarding of the USAF contract appears to have enabled Blue Origin’s further expansion. Following the USAF’s announcement, Blue Origin revealed that it will build a second launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, enabling the company to launch from both the east and west coasts.

In addition, ULA announced in September that its upcoming Vulcan rocket will be powered by Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines.

Of course, providing US government funding to launch providers to develop new rocket launchers is a service not restricted to the military. NASA is also funding an entry for the next generation of rockets with the Space Launch System (SLS), a space shuttle derived super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, which has been having more than its fair share of cost overruns and funding shortfalls.

Blue Origin’s entry into the realm of national security space launch is a hopeful sign that the space sector can learn from past mistakes, which include being locked into single supplier monopolies (a la ULA), cost-plus procurement contracts (which reward cost overruns) and expensive, single use launchers.

With multiple launch providers pursuing multiple markets and goals, the coming decades of space exploration will be far livelier than previous ones.
Brian Orlotti.

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.

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