With all the current fuss and bother going on south of the border and the large amounts of money being spent by Canadian space systems companies to open up US and international markets, it's easy to forget that space related activities sometimes do occur even at our government funded space agency.
With that in mind, here are some of the events and activities currently listed as happening on the website of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA):
|Next generation Canadarm. Photo c/o CSA.|
- According to the CSA post "The Next-Generation Canadarm: Building on an Icon," work is progressing on the next-generation Canadarm (NGC), which the website describes as "the futuristic centrepiece of Canada’s next step in advanced space robotics." The $36 million CDN funding for the program was part of the 2010 Canadian Economic Action Plan, which is expected to wind-down this year, but which has also contributed a total of $110 million CDN to recent CSA programs. The new Canadarm includes a proximity operation system testbed and a a semi-autonomous docking system (SADS) designed to automate the docking procedure plus a smaller Canadarm (with a 3.4-metre reach) designed specifically to refuel or repair satellites in space. Most of the work on this new arm is being done out of the Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) Brampton, Ontario robotics facility (which has worked on previous Canadarms) although testing is also occurring at CSA facilities in St. Hubert, PQ.
- Since veteran astronaut Julie Payette isn't likely to get another ride into orbit anytime soon (Chris Hadfield is the next and so far also the last Canadian scheduled for a trip to orbit, during Expedition 34/35 in 2012-2013), it's good that she has other adventurous and useful places to visit. According to the August 4th, 2011 CSA post "Julie Payette in the Arctic" one of those adventurous and useful places is aboard the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, surveying the Arctic ice cap using RADARSAT derived satellite imagery to track global ice flows and the speed at which the ice flows will melt. According to the post, the collected data will be used to validate and improve weather forecasting and global warming models.
- Assuming that the over budget and behind schedule James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) really is being cancelled (as outlined in my July 12th, 2011 post "Tracking Costs for the James Webb Telescope"), it's good to know that Canada has other options available for astronomical research that doesn't require spending $150 million CDN (or more) over the life of the project. One of those options, as announced in the August 3rd, CSA press release "Canada Partners on Upcoming Japanese X-ray Space Observatory" is the ASTRO-H next-generation X-ray space telescope currently under development by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The Canadian contribution to the mission is the Canadian Astro-H Metrology System (CAMS), which is designed to measure the displacement of the hard X-ray imager relative to the rest of the satellite. The device, build by the Neptec Design Group of Ottawa under contract to the CSA is expected to be operational when the satellite launches in 2014.
- It's also worth noting that Neptec (generally known for space shuttle rendezvous and docking sensors) received it's first post shuttle contract last month with Orbital Sciences Corporation to provide Neptec designed and built TriDAR rendezvous and docking sensors for the Orbital Cygnus unmanned spacecraft. Canadian space systems firms will likely move into the post shuttle era without a lot of fuss and bother and this Neptec sale is a good example of the growing opportunities now becoming available.
- And finally, an August 2nd CSA post is keen to remind us about "The Night Sky on Show" at least as it relates to the The Perseid meteor showers which are expected from July 17th to August 24th. However, the CSA seems to have forgotten to mention the August 3rd M-6 class solar flare which resulted in auroras and northern lights as far south in Northern Europe as Germany and Denmark. In North America, the August 5th, 2011 Space.com article "Dazzling Northern Lights Possible for Northern US This Weekend" and the August 8th, 2011 Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald article "" predict current light shows well south of the traditional range and an upswing in the aurora borealis over the next few years. Maybe the CSA will make a follow-up post on this topic later in the week.
I'm sure there are lots of other fun and fascinating things going on at our space agency and we should be encouraging the CSA to talk more about them.