Monday, January 12, 2015

Meet Canadian Space Agency Interim President Luc Brûlé

          by Brian Orlotti

Luc Brûlé. Photo c/o CSA.
Interim Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Luc Brûlé has kept a low profile thus far in his tenure, much like he has for most of his career, which has made it difficult to get any sense of either his interests or the CSA's future direction.

Of course, this might be for the best, given that Brûlé is essentially a "place holder" until Industry Minister James Moore announces the next, official CSA president, an action not currently expected to occur anytime soon.

But a presentation given by Brûlé at the 2011 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS 2011), which was organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and held in Vancouver, BC, does shed some light on both his area of expertise and potential CSA future plans related to Earth observation (EO).

As part of the presentation, Brûlé laid out three key roles for the CSA in future EO development:
  • Supporting the development of new concepts for Canadian and international EO instruments and missions.
  • Fostering participation of Canadian scientists and companies in Canadian and international EO missions.
All of which sound not a lot different from what CSA is currently involved with. As outlined most recently in the August 9th, 2014 post, "Industry Minister Allocates $6.7Mln to Develop Space Apps," the CSA continues to encourage the development of domestic expertise in this area.

A fuzzy screen shot from IGARSS 2011, showing Luc Brûlé, the then CSA Director General of Space Utilization presenting on the topic of "The Evolution of Space Observation in Canada: A Perspective." A video recording of the presentation is available online at Screen capture c/o ustream TV.

Brûlé then outlined the CSA's three main EO projects:
  • A collaboration between Canada's RCM and the ESA's Sentinel-1 Earth imaging satellite, which uses a C band SAR satellite constellation similar to RCM. Sentinel-1's first satellite was launched in April 2014 and a the second is scheduled for 2016. 
  • The Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) mission, a 2016 Canadian government mission to place a constellation of satellites in high orbit above the Canadian arctic for communications, space weather monitoring and maintaining arctic sovereignty.  
  • SCISAT-1, an atmospheric-monitoring satellite developed by the CSA in cooperation with several Canadian universities, which was launched in 2003 
Oddly enough, this also seems a reasonably accurate assessment of current CSA activities.

And finally, Brûlé discussed three Canadian government programs for sharing EO data:
Of course, the presentation didn't discuss the CSA astronaut program, likely because this area isn't part of Brûlé's publicly acknowledged expertise. But it's worth noting that CSA currently has no Canadian astronaut scheduled to visit the International Space Station (ISS) and likely won't have one before 2018. 

Brian Orlotti.
It's also worth noting that the presentation power-points are available online and in video form. Check them out for the useful insights they provide into the mind of our current CSA head.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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