Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bombardier's Challenges

          By Brian Orlotti

Over the past few weeks, tottering plane and train maker Bombardier has faced a series of upheavals that have put its already shaky future on even even more unstable ground. Those upheavals, reminiscent of an earlier age of confusion and cancelled Canadian built planes, suggest lessons for both the Canadian aviation and space industries. 

A Bombardier C100 in Delta Airlines livery.  As outlined in the May 23rd, 2017 Leeham News and Comment post, "Delta shoots down Boeing’s CSeries dumping claim," not all US corporations are onside with the Boeing claim that Bombardier is "dumping" aircraft into international markets. Photo c/o Bombardier.

As outlined in the May 11th, 2017 CBC post, "Bombardier's Pierre Beaudoin to quit executive role," just hours before the company’s annual meeting in Dorval, QC, it was announced that Pierre Beaudoin, scion of the Bombardier family, was stepping down as Executive Chairman as of June 30th.

The news came amid a wave of public and shareholder outrage over board-proposed executive pay hikes of nearly 50%, despite massive employee layoffs, billions in debt still on its books and hefty bailouts from both the Quebec and Federal governments. Beaudoin later renounced the pay hikes and executives postponed their compensation plan to 2020. 

Prior to the annual meeting, five of Canada's largest pension fund managers along with several large American institutional investors had stated that they no longer supported Beaudoin’s re-election as Executive Chairman, opposed Bombardier's executive compensation plan and withdrew support for several director nominees. Beaudoin remains non-executive chairman of the company’s board of directors while Alain Bellemare, who replaced Beaudoin as CEO in 2015, remains in place as Chief Executive Officer.

Beaudin in the National Post. As outlined in the May 10th, 2017 Canadian Press article, "Canada’s largest pension fund manager and Alberta fund oppose Bombardier pay policy," the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Alberta Investment Management Corp. "joined several large institutional investors in withholding support for the re-election of Bombardier’s executive chairman and opposing the company’s executive compensation plan." Two days later, and as outlined in the May 11th, 2017 National Post article, "Bombardier chairman re-elected to the board amid public uproar over pay, steps back from executive role," Beaudin was re-elected as Bombardier chairman but promised to reduce his role in the company. Photo c/o National Post.

In an effort to bolster its dwindling cash reserves, and as outlined in the May 18th, 2017 Financial Post article, "Bombardier in talks with Chinese aircraft manufacturer for potential investment: report," Bombardier is allegedly in talks with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (Comac), a state-owned aircraft maker considering either an investment in Bombardier’s aerospace division or the taking a stake in the CSeries aircraft program itself.

Comac and Bombardier’s relationship goes back some years. In 2012, the two firms signed an agreement to find commonalities between the Comac C919 and Bombardier Cseries jets to reduce training and maintenance costs. Bombardier has also advised Comac on its ARJ-21 regional jet, which went into commercial operation in 2016 after years of delays. The two companies have also considered joining forces to compete against aerospace behemoths Boeing and Airbus.

Perhaps by no coincidence, on May 18th, Boeing petitioned the US Commerce Department and the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate subsidies (such as the $ 3Bln CDN bailout money from the Quebec and Federal governments) of Bombardier's CSeries aircraft that it says have allowed the company to export planes at well below cost.

As outlined in the May 18th, 2017 CBC News post, "Cross-border aircraft rivals Bombardier, Boeing clash in trade hearing," preliminary meetings on the issue are ongoing and a determination on the petition is expected by June 12th. 

Bombardier also builds trains, and as outlined in the May 13th, 2017 Toronto Star post, "How do Toronto's light rail vehicles compare? It's Bombardier versus Alstom," Bombardier is also having difficulties in this area as well. As outlined in the post, "after a protracted dispute with Bombardier about delays to its light rail vehicle order for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Metrolinx has taken the drastic step of placing an order for cars with another company." Photo c/o Randy Risling/ Toronto Star File Photo.

If the ITC determines there is a threat of injury to the US industry, preliminary countervailing duties could be announced in July, followed in October by preliminary anti-dumping duties, unless the deadlines are extended. Final determinations are scheduled for October and December. Boeing is calling for countervailing duties of 79.41% and anti-dumping charges of 79.82%.

Quebec Premier Couillard gesturing. Photo c/o Clement Allard / CP.
The US government’s investigation of Bombardier is the latest shot in the US’s escalating trade disputes with Canada and an ill portent for the NAFTA renegotiation triggered by US President Trump on May 18th and expected this summer.

In retaliation, and as discussed in the May 19th, 2017 St. Louis Post Dispatch post, "Boeing scrambles to save deal to sell St. Louis-made F/A-18s to Canada," the Canadian Government has announced that it will review its planned $2Bln CDN purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighters as a stop-gap measure before running a full competition to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s.

Amidst the frustration and anxiety over Bombardier’s present and future came a counterpoint from Quebec’s premier.

As outlined in the May 22nd, 2017 Presse Canadienne post, "Québec needs to take care of Bombardier, says Couillard," after visiting a Bombardier plant in Haifa, Israel, Premier Philippe Couillard stated that Quebec needs to take care of Bombardier because of its unique importance to the province.

But Boeing, as outlined in the May 23rd, 2017 post BNN post, "In Bombardier fight, Boeing sees ghost of Airbus ascent," remembers the growth of another direct competitor and is not likely to give up this time without a fight.

Will Bombardier suffer the same fate as Nortel and RIM or, like the auto industry, be deemed "to big to fail?" Stay tuned.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Part 10: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

More on the 1990's, the CSA, "On-Going Budgets," a 3rd "Long-Term Space Plan," 

New Astronauts, More Satellites but Never Enough Funding

The 1999 Federal Budget. C/o fin.gc.ca.
By Graham Gibbs & W. M. ("Mac") Evans

This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief history of the Canadian space program, written by two of the major participants.

When the government established the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in 1989 the only budget it provided was for specific programs. The second Long-Term Space Plan (LTSP II) did the same.

The CSA did not have an “on-going” budget like all other government departments and this created significant long term planning problems. This was rectified in Budget 1999 when the government provided an on-going budget of $300Mln CDN per year (approximately the level of funding for the Canadian space program in 1990).

Associated with this new method of funding was the injection of $430Mln CDN of new funding over three years to finance several new space initiatives. These initiatives were the result of the government’s approval of LTSP III which included a re-balancing of the Canadian space program.

For the first time, the earth observation activities of the CSA received the largest portion of the space budget (almost 30%) while the remaining major activity areas (human presence in space, science, satellite communications, and technology development) each received about 15%.

The 1990’s saw a flurry of activity in Canada’s space program.

The 1992 crop of Canadian astronauts included (clockwise from top left) Marc Garneau, Chris Hadfield, Bjarni Tryggvason, Steve MacLean, Mike McKay, Dave Williams, Julie Payette and Robert Thirsk. Only McKay never reached space. As outlined on his CSA bio, "he resigned as an astronaut in 1995, but remained active in the program until 1997 working on projects such as the space vision system and the robotic arms for the International Space Station. After leaving the military in 2001, McKay joined the private sector." Photo c/o CSA.

Three new astronauts were selected (Chris Hadfield, Dave Williams, and Julie Payette). There were more astronaut flights (eight) in the 1990’s than ever before or since, including Chris Hadfield’s flight to the Russian Mir space station in November 1995.

RADARSAT 1 was launched in 1995, propelling Canada into the select list of nations to have its own earth observation satellite and immediately capturing more than 15% of the world market for remote sensing data.

Mobile Satellite (MSAT) was launched providing mobile communications services across Canada and the US. Canadian scientific experiments flew on the shuttle and on the Russian space station Mir. Canada’s first instrument for interplanetary exploration was launched aboard a Japanese satellite (which unfortunately in 2003 missed Mars). Telesat (which in 1992 had become totally privatized when the government sold its shares in the company) launched two new satellites (Anik E1 and E2) and the nation’s first direct broadcast satellite (Nimiq).

To close the decade, in 1999, Canada’s Measurement of Pollution in The Troposphere (MOPPIT) science satellite was launched.

A new Space Policy Framework was adopted giving new policy direction to the Canadian space program. Canada’s participation in the International Space Station (ISS) program was re-confirmed after coming close to termination. And finally, the CSA was put on a stable, long-term (but insufficient, according to the space community) funding basis.

Graham Gibbs & Mac Evans. Photos c/o MyCanada & CSA.
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first counselor for (US) space affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of "Five Ages of Canada - A HISTORY from Our First Peoples to Confederation."

William MacDonald "Mac" Evans served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from November 1991 to November 2001, where he led the development of the Canadian astronaut and RADARSAT programs, negotiated Canada’s role in the International Space Station (ISS) and contributed to various international agreements that serve as the foundation of Canada’s current international space partnerships.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast and as a member of the Federal government Space Advisory Board.

Last Week: "The 1990's, The Second Long-Term Space Plan, SCISAT, RADARSAT-2 & 'Competitive Procurement'" in part nine of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets."

Next Week: "The 2000's and Beyond" as part eleven of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," continues.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Part 9: 150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History

The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Synthetic Aperture Radar, 

SEASAT & John Macdonald and MDA

John MacDonald in 2008. Photo AM Jackson/Globe and Mail.
          By Robert Godwin
Canada's aerospace raison d'être has always derived from its immense size, its location in the far north as a vast, barely-tracked wilderness of incalculable resources and the logical requirements relating to defence, communications, utilization and exploration which naturally follow from its size and location.

In 1966 the first really sophisticated earth observation satellite, called the Earth Resources Observation Satellite (EROS) had been announced by the US Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS sent a delegate to Ottawa where he was officially offered the use of the massive antenna in Prince Albert Saskatchewan which was no longer being used for ISIS or Alouette. In exchange for this valuable asset Canada would be allowed to read the downlink from EROS. However, EROS was cancelled due to some political machinations and replaced by NASA's ERTS (later renamed Landsat).

It subsequently took until 1969 before NASA agreed to let Canada "read" data from ERTS. John Macdonald and his team at MDA convinced Morley and other key actors in the government that they could set up a ground station for a tenth of what the US was paying for similar facilities. They didn't get the contract, but they did get to install what they called QuickLook; a system which generated an image from the ERTS data in minutes, while NASA's best efforts took four days to get the full data stream converted. On the strength of this amazing achievement MDA was hired to provide a ground station at Shoe Cove, Newfoundland in time for the next generation of advanced remote sensing.

Two photo's showing all that remains of Canada’s first satellite tracking station, in Shoe Cove, Newfoundland today, and how it looked in the late 1970's. As outlined in the December 16th, 2015 Hidden Newfoundland post, "Satellite Tracking Station in Shoe Cove," the station was one of twelve originally built under an international agreement created by the NASA in the early 1960's. As outlined in the article, "this network of stations were part of the newly formed Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STADAN). Based out of Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, STADAN was made up a number of sites that were located in places such as Alaska, Great Britain, Australia and Africa. Each site had the capabilities to track and acquire location data from a number of satellites that were orbiting the earth." In 1977 a second facility, was constructed at this location by the CCRS to collect recorded data from three specific satellites; Landsat II, Landsat III, and a National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) monitor satellite. Photo's c/o Hidden Newfoundland.

In February 1971 Morley had finally gained approval to establish a Federal remote sensing group which became known as the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS). This group issued a string of reports including a revolutionary one by Phil Lapp entitled "Observables and Parameters of Remote Sensing." In three dozen pages Lapp spelled out how remote sensing could be efficiently applied to daily life in Canada.

But remote sensing was still primarily a process carried out by aircraft. The Canadian Air Force had willingly offered up several aircraft, including CF-100 fighters and DC-3s, to be used for aerial remote sensing. It was important to test experimental sensors in aircraft before even contemplating the huge expense of sending them into space.

Around this time Kurt Stehling wrote an article in Space/Aeronautics magazine entitled "Spotting Pollution from Space." In his usually adept way Stehling spelled out the problem in plain language:
The answer lies in larger aircraft, capable of flying at higher altitudes, or...in spacecraft complemented by aircraft. For not only would aircraft supplement satellite observations and aid in photo interpretation—always a difficult problem—but they would be used whenever clouds obscured the earth's surface or whenever sudden, highly localized pollution required immediate observation. In addition, they would serve as flying test beds in the development of new and improved spacecraft sensors.
The payload capacity of the planes available to Morley through normal channels was insufficient and so through some hard bargaining CCRS purchased a Convair 580. This purchase then opened the door to some cross-border cooperation.

The technique which was about to change everything was synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and if deployed on-board a satellite it promised to completely revolutionize the art of map-making and resource prospecting. It would overcome all of the issues with simple microwave radar in space which Stehling had outlined years earlier. Most importantly it would allow the government to understand the true geophysical and geopolitical nature of the under-populated and vast country named Canada. A company in Michigan which had been involved in early development of the technology owned an SAR system but they didn't have an aircraft large enough to use it. They made a deal with the CCRS to share their resources.

By this time Stehling had moved over to the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He had now fully refined his original idea from 1953 and through his role advising Vice President Hubert Humphrey he had proposed putting SAR on a science satellite and using it to map the world's oceans and coastlines. If this could be accomplished the whole problem of using only aircraft to monitor Canada's remote coastlines would be solved. This would have repercussions across all aspects of Canadian aerospace including the huge problem of which aircraft the country needed for defence. The first SAR science satellite was to be called Seasat and it would carry all of the instruments Stehling had proposed in 1968.

Meanwhile, since the early moon landings had been so successful, it was time to do some science aboard more sophisticated versions of Apollo, and that meant not wasting a single opportunity. The same kind of data that Phil Lapp had been seeking 20 years earlier while flying over northern Ontario was now going to be gathered from lunar orbit.

 The Lunar Mapping and Panoramic Cameras were mounted in the forward portion of the Apollo Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) in bay 1 of the Service Module on Apollo 'J' missions on Apollo 15 to 17. Graphic c/o Apollo Flight Journal

The so-called "J" Missions would include an experiments payload bay in the Apollo Service Module.

At the very base of this bay two STEM were installed; one to carry a Gamma-Ray Spectrometer and the other for a Mass Spectrometer. Each would be extended more than 20 feet out into space and the data they would record would be synchronized with a panoramic camera, a mapping camera and a laser altimeter. The resulting data would forever alter our understanding of the moon.

In 1971, while the first J Mission was flying over the lunar surface, MDA was given its first contract to install electronics at the space ground station in Prince Albert Saskatchewan. The Prince Albert Facility had originally been set up in 1959 as a joint project of the United States and Canada. The 84 foot diameter radar dish had been installed because it was believed that the aurora could mask the approach of incoming warheads. It was also believed that the aurora could interfere with communications with any ABM system.

The location of the $10Mln CDN facility about 15km west of Prince Albert had been a boon for the district, which perhaps not entirely coincidentally happened to be the home riding of then Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

When MDA were invited to install their first system it was to coincide with the data coming down from the first ERTS (Landsat) satellite. Prince Albert had evolved from an experimental ABM facility to a satellite down-link, and was now to become an integral part of Canada's resource monitoring.
Robert Godwin.

Robert Godwin is the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books, the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum and an American Astronautical Society History Committee Member.
He has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series "The NASA Mission Reports" and appeared on dozens of radio and television programs in Canada, the USA and England as an expert not only on space exploration but also on music.  
His books have been discussed on CNN, the CBC, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes. He produced the first ever virtual reality panoramas of the Apollo lunar surface photography and the first multi-camera angle movie of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. His latest book was written with the late Frederick I Ordway III and is called "2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey" about the history of spaceflight at the movies.
Last Week, "Stehling, Maynard, the Lunar Excursion Module, Gerald Bull, James Chamberlin & Phil Lapp,'" in part eight of "150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History."

Next Week, "MDA Rises While Spar Falls," as part ten of "150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History" continues.

On sale now, at Apogee Books.

Support our Patreon Page