For those of you who don't have enough space stories to read over the holiday season, here are five items currently being tracked:
|Dr. Robert Richards.|
- The December 20th, 2010 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) press release titled "NASA Selects Companies for Future Lunar Demonstration Data" lists San Fransisco based Moon Express Inc. as one of three companies receiving delivery orders under the Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) project to develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate end-to-end robotic lunar landing missions. Canadian born entrepreneur and Moon Express founder/ team leader Dr. Robert D. Richards is also the founder and former CEO of Odyssey Moon, an Isle of Man based commercial lunar enterprise and the first official contender in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) competition. There is no word on why Dr. Richards left Odyssey Moon to form Moon Express, which is also in competition for the GLXP, but his new company seems to have jumped ahead of his old firm (and most of the rest of the GLXP pack) with this NASA announcement. The GLXP offers a total of $30 million in prizes to the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the Moon and successfully complete a series of tasks.
- According to the December 17th, 2010 NASA press release "Dextre's Final Exam Scheduled for December 22-23, 2010" the scrappy little Canadian contraption officially known as the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), a component of the Mobile Servicing System on the International Space Station (ISS) will finally roll out for duty aboard the ISS. As outlined in my October 3rd, 2010 Commercial Space post "DEXTRE Corner Cutting, Com Dev Deal Making and IAC Storytelling" the final checkout had been delayed because of a July 2010 failure when DEXTRE simply didn't have the capability to remove a failed power controller on the ISS, due to the use of "low fidelity" hardware in order to save money.
- Long-time employee and interim chief executive officer Mike Pley has been confirmed as permanent CEO of space hardware manufacturer Com Dev International according to the December 14th, 2010 CNW Group press release "COM DEV names Michael Pley as CEO." Fired CEO John Keating doesn't seem to have done anything wrong during his tenure, except perhaps for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to the December 14th, 2010 Ottawa Business Journal article "Com Dev makes CEO permanent in bid to boost profitability" which quotes Com Dev chair Terry Reidel as stating that "we determined that our performance targets can best be achieved through a course correction rather than through sweeping change." Elizabeth Howell, over on the PARS3C blog, in her November 11th, 2010 article "COM DEV adds another satellite win to roster" says the Cambridge, Ont.-based firm is relying on repeat business from existing customers to maintain revenue.
- Canadian space icon Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) continues its exceptional run of good luck, according to the December 13th, 2010 Canadian Press article "Quebec invests $9m to aid MacDonald, Dettwiler expand Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue plant." According to the article, the money comes on top of a no-interest loan of $9 million and "an additional $900,000" to help train employees. The funds will "allow MDA to make investments they would not have done otherwise," according to Quebec premier Jean Charest who is quoted in the article. According to an earlier December 3rd, 2010 Ottawa Citizen article "The $25-Billion Question Who gets what... and why" a total of $158.6 million had been spend up until that time in fiscal year 2010 by the various Canadian government departments for a series of MDA contracts relating to satellite and military surveillance technologies. This is up 71% from fiscal year 2009, when the government halted the sale of the BC firm to a US company for security reasons and the December 13th announcement will only add additional revenue to MDA bottom line.
- And finally, US astronaut Donald R. Pettit, known around NASA as an uncommonly gifted handyman capable of rebuilding a jet engine in his garage workshop (at least according to the November 14th, 2008 New York Times article "Handyman to Return to His Space Workshop") can also claim a patent for a zero-gravity coffee cup, which used the wetting angle to carry the coffee along a crease to permit drinking and avoid the necessity of a straw. A newer version of the cup (perhaps with a jaunty Canadian flag on the outside plus a couple of pounds of Tim Horton's coffee) seems like an appropriate present for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currenty training to become the second Canadian to take part in a long-duration spaceflight aboard the ISS beginning in 2012.
Anyway, happy holidays to all from the Commercial Space blog.