Saturday, June 21, 2014

Two More Canadian Satellites Launched on Russian Rocket: Another Scheduled

          by Chuck Black

Quietly and without much fanfare, two small Canadian satellites, part of the BRITE Constellation of micro-satellites designed and built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTAIS) Space Flight Laboratories (SFL), were launched into orbit on June 19th, 2014 on top of a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

An overview of the Brite Constellation,  a group of  six nano-satellites built to study the variability of bright stars. The technology was designed and built through the Canadian Advanced Nanospace eXperiment (CANX) program at the UTIAS-SFL in Toronto. The science case and concept was developed by Emeritus Professor Slavek Rucinski of the University of Toronto, using technology originally developed for the Microvariability and Oscillations of STars (MOST) space telescope. Graphic c/o

A third Canadian built satellite is currently scheduled for launch from the same facility on board another Russian rocket on July 8th.

As outlined in the June 19th, 2014 Globe and Mail article "Canada-Russia relations cast pall over space launch," the lack of public comment from either public or private sources regarding these launches underscores the challenge faced by domestic satellite providers looking for launch opportunities while the federal government pursues sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. 

AISSAT-2. Photo c/o eoPortal.
In April 2014, the Harper government decided "not to proceed" with the planned June 2014 launch of the Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Micro-Satellite (M3MSat) technology demonstrator from Baikonur amid Russian allegations of M3MSat's possible "military" uses. 

But as described in the April 28th, 2014 post "M3Msat and the Politics of Dancing in the Crimea," the Federal government also decided not to make a public statement in this case. Instead M3Msat contractor COM DEV International issued a press release which quoted the "Government of Canada" as deciding "to not proceed with the planned Russian Soyuz launch of M3M, which was scheduled for June this year."

Oddly enough, at least one other Canadian satellite with a military connection, the Norwegian owned but Canadian built and operated AISSAT-2, is still scheduled to be launched on board a Russian rocket over the next little while. According to the UTIAS-SFL AISSAT-2 website, the satellite is funded by the Norwegian Space Centre with support from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, the chief advisory organization on defence-related science and technology to the Ministry of Defence and the Norwegian Armed Forces. 

The June 20th, 2014 update to the Spaceflight Now listing of Worldwide Launch Schedules, the Soyuz-2 rocket carrying the Meteor M2 Russian meteorological satellite, along with a variety of other secondary payloads including AISSAT-2, is currently scheduled for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on July 8th. 

Even better, it's the same launcher originally scheduled to launch M3MSat. Evidently the Russians like the Norwegians better than they like the Canadians. 

Go figure...

A political cartoon making fun of US sanctions imposed as a result of the crisis in the Ukraine. As announced on April 28th, 2014 by the US Commerce Department, the sanctions imposed restrictions on Russian purchases of US built satellites and satellites with US components. The sanctions also restrict firms using US satellites or US components from also using Russian Proton rockets launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome by International Launch Services, a commercial subsidiary of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. Canadian based organizations such as the UTIAS-SFL or COM DEV would be subject to these restrictions when utilizing US designed or manufactured components in their satellites. Graphic c/o Forex.

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