Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Space Scientists and Contractors Thumbing Rocket Rides
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), various contractors and suppliers (including Bristol/ Magellan, Burley Scientific, EMS, Magnametrics, MDA, Novatel and Routes AstroEngineering), multiple universities ( including the University of Calgary’s Institute for Space Research, the University of Alberta, the University of Athabasca, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Saskatchewan the University of Western Ontario and York University) plus even the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) are each waiting patiently for someone to provide extra, free space aboard an appropriately pointed rocket in order to launch their “CASade, Smallsat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer" (CASSIOPE) satellite.

This program is “vital to the future of the Canadian space program” according to the CASSIOPE website so it’s a shame that the project team is having such a difficult time finding a launcher.

Now it’s not as if Canada doesn’t have any rockets it can use. It might just be that no one recognizes them for the assets they are as evidenced by this recent article where a NASA launched Black Brant XII suborbital sounding rocket built by Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg, Manitoba was mistaken for a UFO.

Geoffrey V. Hughes has even written a book about a previous attempt to upgrade the suborbital Black Brant series of rockets to orbital capability under the title "The Orbital Express Project of Bristol Aerospace and MicroSat Launch Systems Inc." According to the book, this previous effort died because of a simple lack of funding and political infighting among the main participants. There were no large technical hurdles to overcome.

Perhaps, if Canadians don't want to generate their own orbital launch capability, they could try hitching a ride with Telesat. This former Bell Canada Enterprises subsidiary (now privately held and with most shares owned by either the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board or Loral Space and Communications Inc.) celebrated the launch of its Nimiq 5 television satellite from Kazakhstan on September 17th.

Telesat now operates twelve satellites in total which is quite a few more than is currently administered by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

For those of us who don't wish to buy Canadian (hitchhikers generally don't like to buy anything), here's the Wikipedia list of orbital launch systems.


  1. Chuck;

    Last I heard, CASSIOPE was still booked (as a paying customer) to launch as a dedicated payload on a Falcon 9, next year. Where had you heard that it was looking for some different (free) launch?

  2. One of my colleagues sent me an e-mail last week which said, "last I heard, CASSIOPE was still booked (as a paying customer) to launch as a dedicated payload on a Falcon 9, next year. Where had you heard that it was looking for some different (free) launch?"

    How did I learn this?

    I’ve got some high friends in low places out west who told me about this on condition that I preserve their confidence.

    Of course, I’ve been wrong before.

    But everything I can find on record relating to launching on the Falcon 9 (like this HobbySpace Article at http://hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?catid=21&itemid=1348 and a 2007 FAA report at http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/Forecast_2007_COMSTAC.pdf or http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=8184.10;wap2 or any one of a dozen others) indicate launch dates already passed.

    Updated sites (such as the CSA at http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/satellites/cassiope.asp and the Cassiope website at http://mertensiana.phys.ucalgary.ca/projectschedule.htm) mention possible launch dates but don’t mention launchers.

    If anyone can find me something current which acknowledged that the satellite is still committed to a Falcon 9 launcher, I’ll run the update and apologize profusely for the obvious error.


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