Monday, September 29, 2014

No Visas for Russian and Chinese Space Delegates to Attend IAC 2014

          by Chuck Black

Berndt Freuerbacker. Apologetic. Photo c/o IAF.
The Canadian Press is reporting on "an apparent refusal to grant visas to the most senior Russian and Chinese delegates at a prestigious international astronautical conference."

The 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014), which began today in Toronto, Ontario, traditionally includes the participation of the heads of the largest national space agencies, including International Space Station (ISS) partner Russia and growing space powerhouse China, which has space cooperation agreements with Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, India, Italy, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries.

But according to the September 29th, 2014 Canadian Press article, "No visas for heads of Russian, Chinese space agencies to attend major conference," senior members of both the Chinese and Russian delegation were refused entry into Canada to participate in the event.

James Moore. Left early. Photo c/o HuffPo.
IAC2014 was expected to include the participation of both Denis Lyskov, the government secretary and deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) and Xu Dazhe, the administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

But neither attended the sessions and neither seemed able to send replacements.

According to International Astronautical Federation (IAF) past president Berndt Feuerbacher, who was moderating a session featuring the heads of several other space agencies, "they were foreseen to be here with us, they have been with us in the past, and they will be with us in the future."

It is just unfortunate, due to problems especially in the visa area, that we couldn't have these delegations here. I apologize for this,” he said.

Walt Natynczyk. Perplexed. Photo c/o author. 
Attending the event were Charles Bolden, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), Francisco Javier Mendieta, the head of the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, Walter Natynczyk, the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Naoki Okumura, the president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and K. Radhakrishnan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Industry Minister James Moore, who gave a presentation earlier in the day at the IAC 2014 opening ceremonies, was unavailable for comment.

CSA president Natynczyk was also at a loss to explain what had happened and said he said he had only been alerted to the problem over the last forty eight hours. “Before I come to any conclusions, I would like to know exactly how it transpired,” he said.

Natynczyk did offer a "tip of the hat" to the organizers of the event, which included Geoffrey Languedoc, the executive director of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI), Ron Holdway, the chair of the IAC2014 organizing committee and Virendra Jha, the co-chair of the international program committee.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What the Canadian Space Agency Really, Really Wants

          by Chuck Black

Anyone looking to discover what the people at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) would like to be doing over the next few years might want to forgo some of the marketing and PR events scheduled during the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014), being held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, and head directly to the symposium presentations.

For those of us who'd prefer a little less hard to digest substance in our IAC experience, on September 30th, CSA astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques "will go head to head in a thrilling space race that will bring them to space organizations around Toronto," as part of the CSA contribution to IAC 2014. For more information, check out the September 6th, 2014 CSA press release "Tweetup Activity – The Amazing Canadian Space Race." The CSA will also be hosting a networking breakfast for 11 graduate and post-graduate students on the same day. Photo c/o CSA.

Two dozen are scheduled with a variety of past and present CSA employees on a wide range of topics. A few of the more interesting include:
  • Pierre Jean, who manages the CSA's involvement with the International Space Station (ISS), will be presenting a paper on the "Canada’s Human Presence in Space: Past, Present and Future," as part of the session on government human spaceflight programs. Tim Braithwaite, a CSA liaison office manager for NASA is listed as co-author of the paper, so the presentation will likely to be the best place around to get the real scoop on when CSA astronauts will go back to the ISS.
  • CSA scientist Dr. Wanping Zheng, will be presenting a paper on "KAPVIK – A Canadian Smart Multi-Mission Micro rover for Lunar Exploration," as part of a session on lunar exploration. Oddly enough, representatives from several Canadian rover manufacturers, including Peter Visscher from Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG) and Nick Cristello, from the Neptec Design Group are also scheduled to present at this session, which should provide much insight on the future of the Canadian rover program. 
  • Dr. Guy Seguin, who spent the 14 years as a director at the CSA before retiring in 2013, will be presenting a paper on "Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Disaster Management," as part of the session on international cooperation in Earth observation missions. The session will also include a presentation from CSA manager Thomas Piekutowski on the proposed Atmospheric Limb Sounding Satellite (ALiSS), and would seem to be a good place to get some insight into CSA future goals relating to both Earth imaging and the Radarsat program.
IAC presentations are generally made for peer review, academic credit and career building reasons although there are also many disguised pleas for funding and partnerships. 

It will be interesting to see which of the categories will best describe the underlying reasons for the upcoming CSA presentations.

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.