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.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Swarm Technologies Applies for Another FCC Satellite Launch Licence

          By Henry Stewart

Mountain View CA based Swarm Technologies, the stealthy start-up co-founded by four silicon valley expatriates including Canadian born CEO Sara Spangelo, which launched four "unauthorized" and "dangerous" pico-sats back in January 2018 after failing to receive US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permission for the launch, has made a second application to the FCC for permission to launch three more.

As outlined in the March 12th, 2018 post, "Silicon Valley Company Co-owned and Run by a Canadian has Launched Four "Unauthorized" & "Dangerous" Pico-sats" the Swarm pico-sats are "built to a 0.25U cubesat form factor design) are considered extremely small and very difficult to track." Graphic Swarm Technologies via IEEE Spectrum.

As outlined in the June 13th, 2018 IEEE Spectrum post, "Swarm Seeks Fresh FCC Satellite Launch Clearance While Still in Penalty Box," the FCC has not yet "decided on a punishment for its first offence."

As outlined in the article:
Its new application says that Swarm “urgently needs to demonstrate the viability of its proposed satellite-based communications network to technical and business partners, potential investors, and potential customers.” It is proposing to launch three Cubesats on a SpaceX rocket due to take off from Vandenberg Air Force in California later this year. 
The application comes as the FCC continues to mull whether or how to punish Swarm for the unauthorized launch of four tiny SpaceBee satellites on an Indian rocket in January. The FCC denied Swarm’s original application for the SpaceBees last year, citing concerns about their trackability from the surface and thus the possibility of collisions on orbit.
According to the article:
...while one of the satellites appears to be identical to the ones covered in the set-aside application, two others are significantly heavier. This could indicate that Swarm has taken advantage of the delay to modify them. Swarm did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The new satellites, called SpaceBee-9, -10, and -11, will test communications with ground stations in Silicon Valley and the state of Georgia.
The company has less than two months to come to an agreement with the FCC. The scheduled SpaceX rocket could go up as early as September 1st, 2018 and SpaceX requires the satellites to be delivered to the launch facility, ready to go with the appropriately completed paperwork, one month prior to launch. 

Swarm seems to have required suprisingly little funding to have caused so much trouble.

The company seems to have received only one phase one US small business innovation research (SBIR) grant/ small business technology transfer (SBTT) grant for $220K US ($290K CDN) as per https://www.sbir.gov/node/1155335 and a second, $741K US ($978K CDN) phase two SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (Award Abstract #1758752 SBIR Phase II: An Innovative and Open Satellite-Based Internet of Things (IoT) Network).

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Using a Revised 21st Century Tax Code to Drive Research and Development

          By Henry Stewart

While most of the domestic space industry remains reticent about discussing updates and changes to the Canadian tax system in order to drive research and development, Russ Roberts, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance) Sr. VP of tax, finance & advocacy is at least willing to acknowledge and discuss the issue.

As outlined in the June 12th, 2018 CATAlliance post "Making the Case for Canada’s 21st Century Tax Commission: Russ Roberts, Sr. VP, CATAAlliance," Roberts has issued a "Call to Action" for viewers to send CATA a "supportive quote" on the steps needed to make the tax system "fairer, simpler and more competitive."

CATAAlliance considers their initiative to revise the tax system "imperative for Canada’s future prosperity" and says that further discussion of the issue "will bridge a 55 year gap since Prime Minister John Diefenbaker took the same step" when he appointed the 1962 Kenneth Carter led Royal Commission on Taxation.

According to CATAAlliance spokesperson Terry Matthews:
We continue to face massive transformational changes to Canada’s economy, in part driven by new technologies, such as blockchain, AI (artificial intelligence) and digital commerce. 
We must get ahead of the curve and have an open debate on how to create a tax regime for the 21st century.
CATAlliance CEO, John Reid echo's those sentiments:
Aside from changing technologies and the impact of how other countries have updated their tax systems, some recent reasons for a new Commission include the Paradise Papers, which demonstrated the misuse of offshore tax havens, last summer’s federal Finance Minister’s small business tax reform debacle, and the shared view that one needs a degree in tax law to understand the complicated rules and compliance procedures of ours.
For more information on this initiative or to contribute, contact CATAAlliance CEO John Reid at jreid@cata.ca and check out the June 13th, 2018 CATAAlliance post, "Quotes & Videos to Support a 21st Century Tax Commission: CATAAlliance request to Community members."

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

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