Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Part 1: Abandoning the Emerson Aerospace Review?

While All Can Contribute, Not Everyone Will Get into the Final Report!

          By Chuck Black

No doubt, it's a good thing that the space industry has climbed far enough up the news cycle to get noticed on page three of the Sunday Toronto Star, especially during a federal election. But it might be a bit premature to expect reasoned discussion on this topic, especially in the "mass" media, without some additional context.

A scanned copy of the lower section of page three of the September 13th, 2015 Toronto Star. As outlined in the article, both the federal NDP and the federal Liberal party have committed to developing a long-term space plan (LTSP) before 2016. But as reported in the January 19th, 2013 post, "Praising Steve MacLean," the last LTSP, developed in secrecy by then Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Steve MacLean in 2009, was rejected by the federal government because of its high cost, and finally superseded by the David Emerson led aerospace review in 2012. Scan c/o the Toronto Star

After all, the September 12th, 2015 Canadian Press article, "Liberals and NDP promise Long-Term Space Plan, if elected," failed entirely to even mention the 2012 David Emerson led aerospace review, the most current of the various federal government political exercises designed to allow "all the stakeholders in Canada" to have a voice in future aerospace activities.

As described in the December 5th, 2012 post, "What the Space Volume of the Aerospace Review Actually Says," the 2012 aerospace review, organized in conjunction with the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) was originally released to generally positive comments from those involved.

All submissions to the 2012 review along with the final reports were released to the public on the Aerospace review website, unlike the 2009 Steve MacLean long-term space plan, which was referenced in the Canadian Press article, but created in secret and never publicly released.

Organizations which contributed to the 2012 report included:
PDF document c/o Aerospace Review website.
PDF document c/o Aerospace Review website.
  • The Canadian Satellite Design Challenge Management Society (CSDMS) - The organizers of this Canada-wide competition for teams of university students to design and build a small science research satellite recommended the "institution of a series of Canadian design competitions in order to promote investment into, expertise in, and development of, innovative new technologies, processes, products and applications for the aerospace and space sectors."
The review also included private submissions from two of the "three kings," or largest Canadian space focused companies, Cambridge, ON based COM DEV International and Ottawa and ON based Telesat Canada.

The third king, Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) was also represented in the review. MDA senior executive Dave Caddey acted as the chair of the Emerson Space Working Group, which contributed a document under the rather pedestrian title of "Space Working Group Report, 2012."

And this leads to the real problem with the 2012 Emerson report.

The Honourable David Emerson, the head of the 2012 Aerospace Review, during  the public release of the report in Ottawa at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum on November 29th, 2012. Most reacted positively to the its release, as outlined in articles like the November 29th, 2012 press release "Ryerson University Welcomes Emerson Aerospace Review Report." Photo c/o Aerospace Review website

Some of the individual recommendation will contradict others and not all recommendations will make it to the final report. While contributions to the Emerson report were welcomed in 2012, not every specific contribution to the report was included in the final list of recommendations.

This wasn't the fault of Emerson. All government commissions are eventually expected, after sifting through the various submissions, to publish a series of coherent conclusions which will either be embraced or ignored by the government of the day. 

But chief among the ignored recommendations were those incorporated into the Emerson Space Working Group, chaired by Caddey and generally conceived to have been representative of the views of the senior executives working at MDA.

Chuck Black
The specifics of how the final report differed from the Working Group report and the logical consequences to Canada's largest space company of having its recommendations largely ignored by the federal government, will be the subject of our next post  on "Growing or Shrinking the CSA: How and Why the Emerson Space Working Group Report Differs from Volume Two of the Final Emerson Aerospace Review."

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.


  1. It seems that neither the NDP nor Liberals have actually read the Emerson Report Vol 2. And where are the conservatives? Sadly, the focus STILL seems to be on Earth Observation and ISS. Emerson clearly identifies space mining as a niche market for Canada and an area that should be developed. Well we already missed two "critical first flights" by ignoring ESA's Luna 27 opportunity and actually disengaging from NASA's Resource prospector mission.

    I fear for the Canadian space sector. Canada has effectively dis-engaged from ESA and has managed to significantly erode its one time good relationship with NASA. CSA is operating on a diminishing shoe string budget and is effectively prevented from mission style spending by treasury board procedures. Not the signs of a good space partner, and without our own launch capabilities, we need to be partnered.

  2. I don't fear, as i understand how our domestic politics works. If you want to blame anyone, blame the industry for not engaging the public-either practically or its imagination as Hatfield did; blame the education sector for largely ignoring science and industry in favour of social engineering; blame Canadians in general for not giving a damn about anything but their own narrow individual interests......then blame the politicians for pandering to them in support of their own fortunes.
    Canada still has the opportunity to build a vibrant, economically viable space industry but that won't happen without dealing with the above first.

    1. How specifically should we deal with those points you bring up?

      After all, you say you understand how politics works. Why not illuminate the rest of us.

  3. Chuck, I think the writer above did illuminate. You are merely nitpicking because it doesn't fit your narrative.

    1. The writer seemed only to blame, David. Not illuminate.

      The commentator specifically blamed "industry," the "education sector," Canadians in general and then the politicians for a variety of reasons.

      I asked specifically for "ways of dealing with those points."

      This seems like a reasonable, follow-on question to me. Certainly the solutions aren't in a simple listing of those deserving blame. We need some context to learn why the blameworthy did what they did and how we can correct their mistakes.

      As for the narrative, I've certainly ceded it by asking my earlier question. We're each here to compare notes and learn from each other.


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