Thursday, October 29, 2015

A New Advertorial and Sponsored Post Policy

          By Chuck Black

Some of what we can do. Graphic c/o blogkonversation
It's worth noting that most Commercial Space blog authors and contributors are professionals who write for money.

As such, we are often approached by organizations and/or individuals looking to create a sponsored post or advertorial to post on the blog or publish through another outlet.

It's just that, with one or two exceptions (such as the posts referencing the Space Library, the most recent of which was the October 4th, 2015 post "Rocket Spaceflight Accurately Described by Scottish-Canadian Scientist in 1861," where the blog receives a small commission on new Space Library subscribers), we don't normally accept advertorials or sponsored articles as blog posts.

And any exceptions are always noted and referenced in the post, just to be fair to our readers.

But we're OK with using our expertise in other areas where we can help promote your organization or services and are happy enough to take your money, given the correct opportunity. 

Below is a current listing of our offerings and standard rates.

For more information, to sign up, or to design a custom package suitable to your needs, please contact Chuck Black at mr.chuck.black@gmail.com

Generate Thought Leadership

Type of Work
Starting Rate
Description of Work
Standard Press Releases
$360 for 250 word press release
An approximately 250 word press release in a standard format on company letterhead suitable for distribution to press and wire services.
Bylined Articles
$500 for 500 word article.

$1 per additional word
An approximately 500 word bylined article by a Commercial Space blog author in electronic format suitable for publication. Includes appropriate phone interviews and appropriate research.
Case Studies
$1500 for 1000 word case study

 $1.50 per additional word
An approximately 1000 word case study suitable for publication. Includes phone interviews and appropriate research.
White Papers
$6000 for 3000 word white paper

$2 per additional word
An approximately 3000 word white paper suitable for publication. Includes phone interviews and appropriate research.
Consulting
$120 per hour standard fee
Strategy, recommendations and the development of specific campaigns around defined needs.
Public Speaking
Starting at $500 per event
Commercial Space blog authors are available to make presentations. Connect to confirm availability.
Copy Editing
$75 per 500 words
Copy editing, spelling and grammar correction.
Other
Let’s Talk
Brochures, corporate documents, web-site content or development and/or lead generation services are also available. Call for more information.


Create Your Own Electronic Newsletter

Type of Work
Starting Rate
Description of Work
Initial Set-up Fees
$3000
Includes developing the primary electronic layout and using client records to develop the initial e-mail list
Monthly Ongoing Costs
$1440 monthly
Ongoing monthly layout and e-mail list maintenance plus basic content development and curation / re-purposing from existing sources. Based on a list of up to 5,000 names.
Custom Content Development
$1 per word
Standard rate. For additional pricing, check out our Generate Thought Leadership chart or give us a call.


Increase Your Visibility with our Targeted E-mails

Type of Work
Starting Rate
Description of Work
A dedicated e-mail sent out to Commercial Space blog readers
$1000 per e-mail
We'll send out mutually agreed upon content in a dedicated e-mail to our Commercial Space blog list of over 2000 validated e-mail addresses belonging to science, engineering, mathematics and business professionals in industry, government and academia working to create and commercialize the next generation of Canadian based manufacturing, aerospace and space technology.
A 2nd e-mail sent out to 5000 newsrooms throughout North America
$5000 per e-mail
We'll send out content to all 5000 contact names on our dedicated media outlet list, most of whom aren’t included on the standard weekly e-mail list. Many of these contacts are generated though the Sources List of Media Names and Numbers but the list also includes a substantial number of US and European based news outlets.
Ongoing follow-up for e-mail distribution
Starting at $10,000
A targeted campaign consisting of multiple follow-up e-mails and phone calls to the newsroom list to enhance your outreach by encouraging media to run the articles, and to extend your coverage via follow-up interviews.

Chuck Black.
___________________________________________________________

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What About all those Cheap Rockets and Spacecraft?

          By Brian Orlotti

As the dust settles from the recent federal election and the public awaits the Trudeau government's unveiling of its space policy, it is timely to examine a key question facing Canada's space sector: that of Canada acquiring its own space launch capability.

It not as if Canada doesn't build its own rockets. Seen above is the September 19th, 2009 launch of the NASA Black Brant XII / CARE rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. The Black Brant is a family of Canadian-designed sounding rockets built by Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over 800 Black Brants of various versions have been launched since they were first produced in 1961, and the type remains one of the most popular sounding rockets ever built. Screenshot c/o NASA.

On October 16, the National Research Council published a contract tender, under the title "Advance Contract Award Notice – 15-22108 – International Spacecraft Consultant (15-22108)," for an "international spacecraft consultant." The tender, open only for a very short two week period and scheduled to close on Friday, October 30th, contains key wording which includes:
The consultant will be responsible for the provision of technical support including advice and review of spacecraft related activity for the Aerospace Portfolio of the National Research Council Canada...
This expertise will primarily be applied to mechanical systems of spacecraft programs including spacecraft design and development, interfaces to launch vehicles and launch vehicle environment on the spacecraft design.
For decades, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has claimed Canada doesn't want or need its own space launch capability, yet other elements of the federal government appear receptive to the idea.

As recently as June of this year, at the 2015 International Space Development Conference (ISDC2015), which was held from May 20th - 24th in Toronto, Ontario, former astronaut, CSA president and current member of parliament for Westmount—Ville-Marie, Marc Garneau publicly spoke out against a Canadian microsat launch vehicle. With rumours circulating of the creation of a new federal Science/Technology ministry with a mandate and budget that could dwarf the CSA's and with Garneau speculated to be anointed its leader, would his stance change? Screenshot c/o CSCA.

For decades, the CSA's main justification for not pursuing a home-grown Canadian space launch capability has been cost. The CSA has repeatedly claimed that the cost of a Canadian space launch vehicle would be far beyond its resources, costing in the hundreds of millions. This attitude is both politically and technologically tone-deaf, utterly ignoring the rise of the NewSpace industry and the advent of more cost-effective space technologies both in the US and around the world.

Even NASA is jumping on the bandwagon.

As outlined in the October 16th, 2015 SpaceFlight Now article, "NASA to fly CubeSats on three new commercial launchers," the US space agency has announced its awarding of $17.1Mln USD ($22.67Mln CDN) in contracts (as part of its venture class launch services program) to three firms developing new low-cost (less than $10Mln USD apiece) rockets designed to lift lightweight cube-sats into orbit.


One of these firms, New Zealand-based Rocket Lab Inc., has pioneered the use of 3D-printing and use of carbon composites in both the structure and engine of its 'Electron' rocket to reduce its price to a very competitive $5Mln USD ($6.63Mln CDN).

Rocket Lab also recently signed a contract with Moon Express, a California-based firm competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize, to launch its robotic lunar landers on Electron rockets, with the first launch scheduled for 2017.

"Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?" Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune.

It is a well-worn cliche that post-election periods are times of hope and great expectations. Despite this, the opportunity for genuine change is real. Canada now has the chance to uproot its timid, out-of-touch space bureaucracy and walk a bolder path.

The new government could lead the charge or it could step out of the way and let the private sector do what we now know is possible. Perhaps, if the CSA or some other government agency wanted to launch something, they'd even consider a potential Canadian supplier.

Brian Orlotti.
Either path would let Canadians honour a rightly proud past and build a future that remains so.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A New Government and Renewed Hope for the Canadian Space Industry

          By Glen Strom

The Canadian federal election is over. A Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau will make the decisions about what direction the Canadian space industry will take. 

The new government must answer two questions: What do they want the space industry to be, and what role will the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) play?

The new Prime Minister designate has a short window of opportunity to prove to skeptics that he has the substance to match his charisma. Photo c/o Susana Mas/CBC.

The Liberals have promised a greater focus on science and technology, including space. More than a few people and organizations have expressed their views on what that focus should be, the most significant effort to date being the 2012 Aerospace Report led by David Emerson.

As noted in the October 13th, 2015 article "Part 2: Abandoning the Emerson Aerospace Review?," the Emerson Report recommended that the commercial players should take a larger role and the CSA should more or less step aside.

Derek Burney and Fen Hampson. Photo's c/o iPolitics.
This approach is getting plenty of support. An October 19th, 2015 Globe and Mail article, "Canada's space role hangs on political, industrial commitment," agrees, at least with the part about industry taking a bigger role.

The authors of the article, Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, and Fen Osler Hampson, the director of global security at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and chancellor's professor at Carleton University, believe that the Emerson framework is the right one.

The 2014 Annual Report from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (the details are on page 7-8, of the direct PDFdownload) backs Emerson and says a number of the recommendations are already being implemented.

Even Liberal MP Marc Garneau said in a February 14th, 2015 CBC News article, “Canada's space agency to take back seat to private sector,” that the Emerson Report is a good framework, but only if the Conservative government of the day properly funds and implements it.

Liberal MP (and likely cabinet minister) Marc Garneau. Photo c/o ICI Radio Canada.
The unanswered question is, will the new Liberal government support this approach or take a different tack?

Mr. Garneau said in an October 11th, 2015 CBC News article, “Canada's space policy enters orbit of election campaign,” that a Liberal government would boost spending on space. He didn’t say if they would continue with the Emerson recommendations. 

Also, keep in mind that Mr. Garneau isn’t the prime minister, so his comments can’t be taken as official policy. We simply don’t know yet what the Liberals will do. They might go ahead with the Emerson recommendations.

They might want something else, like the recent proposal from an organization that bills itself as the largest high-tech association in Canada.

In an October 21st, 2015 Globe and Mail article, “Tech alliance pushes for federal innovation ministry.” the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) said the government should replace Industry Canada with a ministry that puts science, technology and business innovation under a senior cabinet minister. The minister would have the resources to improve Canada’s private-sector research and development efforts.


This ministry might be a logical place to put space. But what about the CSA? What does the government want it to do? How will it fit in?

Between budget cuts and changing priorities based on political whims, the CSA has suffered from a case of dissociative identity disorder. They’ve been relegated to the sidelines for the most part, an example being the funding announcements for space projects made by then Industry Minister James Moore before the election was called. The current CSA president, Sylvain Laporte, was nowhere to be seen, even though the money for the most part was coming from the CSA.

The outgoing minister Moore. Who will replace him? Photo c/o Sean Kilpatrick/CP.
Having answers to these questions isn’t enough. One huge piece of the puzzle remains. The government has choices, but the choices are a collection of parts. It’s like having all of the supplies to build a house but no building plan. How does the government make it all work?

Where’s the plan, specifically the five and ten year space plan as outlined by Emerson and others?

The Conservative government promised a space plan by 2014 but didn't deliver. The Liberals promised a long-term space plan as part of their election platform. None of the ideas under consideration will go anywhere without that plan.

The government needs to accomplish four goals:
  • Develop a five and ten year space plan.
  • Pick a model for the space industry that fits the plan. It might be Emerson, it might be something else, but it must fit the plan.
  • Decide what the CSA’s role will be. A reduced role, a greater role, part of a new combined science and technology strategy, a stand-alone role?
  • Decide how much money it will take to make the plan work and provide it.
Glen Strom.
If the Liberals can get this right, Canada may finally be on its way back as a significant player in space.
_____________________________________________________

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What Bass Fishing Has in Common with Election Promises about Space

          By Glen Strom

The winner, for today. Photo c/o Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press.
By the time you read this, the 2015 Canadian federal election will be over. We’ll know who is forming the next government (probably).

Which brings us to why bass fishing is like election promises about space.

I remember the time we went fishing when I was a kid. I was excited about catching a good-sized bass. My excitement evaporated when my father told me I had to throw it back. It was out of season.

The fish were protected because at that time of year, they’d bite on anything. It’s the same for promises made by political parties during an election.

The end of his road. Photo c/o Adrian Wyld / CP.
As outlined in the October 12th, 2015 SpaceNews article, “Editorial—Space on the Canadian Campaign Trail,” both the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party have promised more money for space, better programs, another long-term space plan...the usual. 

Yes, we really do need another space plan to build on the highly successful ones that came before, as the October 13th, 2015 article “Part 2: Abandoning the Emerson Aerospace Review?” recounts. (Sarcasm? What sarcasm?)

But those promises don’t mean much because the parties are in a feeding frenzy of their own. They’ll bite on anything to get votes. More money for space would be wonderful, and if the election winner comes through with the money, we’ll have reason to be happy. 

Collapsed. Photo c/o Graham Hughes/Canadian Press
Just don’t count on it. In the overall scheme of things, promises made to a fringe industry like space won’t be high on the list of things to do first.

Or second. Or...well, you get it.

As outlined in the June 14th, 2015 article, “Jobu Won't Save Your Space Start-up: Do it Yourself,” your best bet is still build it yourself without waiting for government money that may never come. 

The same advice holds for established companies, as the May 31, 2015 article, “Mother’s Milk is Drying Up for Space Companies,” outlines.

They don’t let you fish for bass out of season because they’ll bite on anything. That’s often how it is with political parties during an election. The only difference is the politicians will smile at you as they take the hook.

Glen Strom.
But keep this caveat in mind: Unlike fish, politicians have far more success at getting off the hook unscathed, leaving you with nothing more than another story about how the big one got away.
_____________________________________________________

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Complex Flavours of Space

          By Brian Orlotti

Recently, two Scottish distilleries and a US. brewery announced partially space-developed alcohol-related products. The announcements highlight the NewSpace industry's knack for exploring products and industries untapped by traditional space programs.

A white paper on the Ardbeg experiment, under the title, "The Impact of Mirco-Gravity on The Release of Oak Extractives into Spirit," is currently available on the Ardbeg website. Graphic c/o Ardbeg.

As outlined in the September 7th 2015 BBC News post "Ardbeg reveals results of 'space whisky' experiment," in October of 2011 Ardbeg Distillery, based in the Inner Hebrides islands of Scotland (and a part of the LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE conglomerate), sent a vial of unmatured malt whiskey via Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) to study the effects of micro-gravity on its flavour.

Texas-based ISS cargo-provider NanoRacks provided rack space aboard the ISS as well as logistical support.

Specifically, the experiment investigated the behaviour of terpenes, a class of plant-derived organic compounds used to flavour many foods and alcoholic beverages. Another vial of the same whiskey was kept at the distillery for comparison. The ISS sample was brought back to Earth in 2014.


According to Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg's director of distilling and whisky creation for Ardbeg, the space whiskey sample was "noticeably different" from the Earth-based one in terms of aroma and taste. The space sample was described as having an intense aroma with hints of "antiseptic smoke," rubber and smoked fish. Its taste was deemed to be “very focused, with smoked fruits such as prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries, earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham.”

Lumsden described the Earth sample as having a woody aroma with “hints of cedar, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar, as well as raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges." Its taste was described as:
...woody, balsamic flavours...along with a distant fruitiness, some charcoal and antiseptic notes, leading to a long, lingering aftertaste, with flavours of gentle smoke, tar and creamy fudge.
But good whisky also needs the proper whisky glasses to be fully appreciated.


As outlined in the September 9th, 2015 Trend Hunters post, "Space-Bound Whiskey Glasses," Dumbarton, Scotland-based whiskey distiller Ballantine's (a part of the Pernod Ricard conglomerate), in cooperation with the Open Space Agency (a London, UK-based group of citizen space explorers) has created a zero-gravity tumbler glass that allows astronauts to consume whiskey and other spirits in space. The 'space glass' through its organically elegant design, both secures liquids and maintains the flavour of drinks.

Each 'space glass' has a spiral channel embedded in the wall of the glass that acts as a straw, allowing someone to sip a drink in micro-gravity. A dome-shaped enclosure enables the whiskey to gently aerate as it moves around the glass without risk of the drink floating away. In addition, each glass is made with a magnetic bottom (sheathed in rose gold and stainless steel), ensuring that a user can set it down securely between sips. Finally, the bottom of the glass incorporates a one-way valve so it can be filled without spillage.

Ground Control for Major Tom. Photo c/o Nikasi
Of course, the march of alcohol into space is not limited to distilled beverages. 

As outlined in the October 12th, 2105 Tampa Bay Times post "Drink of the Week: Ninkasi Ground Control beer," the Eugene, Oregon-based Ninkasi Brewing Company is now selling what it calls 'Ground Control,' an imperial stout-type beer brewed with Oregon hazelnuts, star anise, cacao nibs and yeast carried into space and back. 

Ninkasi tapped UP Aerospace, a Denver, Colorado-based maker of sounding rockets, to carry its beer yeast on a suborbital trajectory 124 kilometres above Earth and back. The yeast's brief time in space produced no real difference in Ground Control's flavour, but does make for a unique marketing tool.

Though traditionalists may scoff at these efforts as frivolous, they increase space's mass appeal and help strengthen the space sector by drawing in new players who become vested interests.

Brian Orlotti.
It is this broadening of space's support base that will drive us forward to greater achievements.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Part 2: Abandoning the Emerson Aerospace Review?

Growing or Shrinking the CSA: How and Why the Emerson Space Working Group Report Differs from Volume Two of the Final Emerson Aerospace Review.


          By Chuck Black

While it's a good thing that the space industry has climbed far enough up the news cycle to receive coverage during the current federal election, it might be premature to expect any reasoned or in-depth coverage, especially in the "mass" media, without some additional context.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau at a campaign rally in Toronto on August 7th. As outlined in the October 12th, 2015 Space News editorial, "Space on the Canadian Campaign Trail," former CSA head and current Liberal party candidate Marc Garneau has said that his party would boost funding for space technology development. The Liberals have also promised, much like the NDP, to make another attempt at creating a "long-term space plan." Photo c/o Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press.

The first part of this series, under the title "While All Can Contribute, Not Everyone Will Get into the Final Report," discussed the 2012 David Emerson led aerospace review, the most recent federal government review of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the industry originally set up to support and service it.

It was the largest review ever conducted, and was designed to allow "all the stakeholders in Canada" to have a voice in the future direction of the industry. It was surprisingly successful, although not every stakeholder had their recommendations included within the final report.

This was mostly because, by 2012 those stakeholders had become a large, powerful and disparate group, at least when compared to the CSA, a single moderately sized government agency set up to manage and fund the projects those stakeholders were supposedly bidding on.

According to the Space Economy at a Glance 2014, which covered the 2012 period:
Canada has a well-developed space industry, including about 200 private companies, in addition to research institutions and universities, some of which have some commercial activities. 
The ten biggest companies accounted for almost 88% of revenues and 64% of employment (Canadian Space Agency, 2013). Space manufacturing is mainly located in Ontario (more than half of the workforce) and in Quebec (19% of workforce). Some 7,993 people were employed in the space sector in 2012, an increase compared to 2011, with more than half defined as “highly” qualified’ (engineers, scientists and technicians). 
Total Canadian space sector revenues amounted in 2012 to $3.3Bln CDN...
In essence, by 2012, Canadian space revenues were almost ten times larger than the $363.2Mln CDN CSA estimated budget for the same year. This made it very difficult for the CSA to dictate industry policy or manage and fund enough programs to maintain the CSA as a key partner to the industry.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair (shown above, in an NDP publicity still) has said that if his party wins the right to form the next Canadian federal government, it would commit 40Mln CDN over four years to bolster the CSA Space Technology Development Program (STDP), a program generally perceived of as being an "effective and efficient means" to provide initial funds for innovative, breakthrough technologies. As outlined in the October 4th, 2015 post, "NDP Candidate Peggy Nash Talks About Aerospace and Space Policy," at least part of the CSA's ongoing problem is perceived by the NDP as being a "lack of leadership" at the political level under previous conservative and liberal governments. Photo c/o NDP.

And most were no longer interested in surviving solely on Canadian government contracts. They were instead concerned about expanding into new markets, which is the typical concern of fast growing, private sector firms. As outlined in the 2012 CSA "State of the Canadian Space Sector," report, "the majority (80%) of space sector revenues in 2012 were derived from private (non-governmental) sources."

At least one industry player, Richmond BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), the prime contractor for both the renowned Canadarm program and the various RADARSAT satellites, was beginning to think it could no longer rely on CSA and Canadian government contracts to grow the company.

This wasn't always the case. As outlined in the April 17th, 2015 post on "100 Years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield; The REAL Story Behind RADARSAT, COM DEV and MDA," as recently as 2008, MDA was "being allocated almost half of the CSA budget, with contracts worth $430Mln CDN."

However, by 2012, a shrinking CSA list of funded projects, as compared to the greatly expanded MDA list of clients, acquired in part through the $875Mln CDN purchase of Palo Alto, California, based Space Systems Loral (SSL) in June 2012, had built MDA into a $2Bln CDN per annum powerhouse which couldn't be supported (or even much influenced) by the relatively tiny contracts the CSA could reasonably provide.

The CSA either needed to find more funding (a lot more) or else step out of the way and officially cede its role as policy maker, manager and funding agent. 

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop at a steel manufacturer in Burlington, Ont., on Tuesday, September 1, 2015. The incumbent conservative party has mostly refused to make any comments related to space policy and have preferred to run on their record, which seems inopportune since, as outlined in the October 12th, 2015 Globe and Mail article, "Conservatives, NDP focus on reeling in front-runner Trudeau," the party seems to have slipped into second place behind the front running liberals. The election will be held on October 19th. Photo c/o Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press.

The Emerson report on the space industry, "Volume 2: Reaching Higher Canada's Interests and Future in Space," argued for the CSA to cede its role.

As outlined in the December 5th, 2012 post, "What the Space Volume of the Aerospace Review Actually Says," the final Emerson recommendations included:

  • An understanding of the long term high level of growth in the space industry (just under 10% a year), which was accompanied by an equivalent contraction in national space agency budgets. The report called this a global "re-balancing" as the traditional players (the CSA, NASA and other space agencies) began to step aside in favor of newer players like MDA, Hawthorne, CA. based Space Exploration Technologies and others who weren't locked into the "cost plus" contracts traditionally favored by space industry subcontractors.
  • An ongoing acknowledgement of procurement problems and a lack of direction within government in general and the CSA in particular with regard to "Canada's space program and its role in advancing national priorities." This acknowledgement came with a recommendation to establish another level of government, a "Space Program Advisory Council" reporting to the Minister of Industry and tasked with CSA oversight, along with the development of a series of one, five and ten year space plans and milestones.
  • A second recommendation to narrow the CSA mandate to the point where it would no longer be a "policy-making body" or "directly involved in designing and manufacturing space assets purchased by the government." It would instead advise and support the Minister of Industry, act "as a technical supervisor" to project specific committees and to the Minister of Public Works in order to help negotiate "co-operative agreements with other countries' space agencies," plus co-manage (along with the National Research Council) new space technology development.

There was one exception to the overall thrust of the final report.

In conjunction with the reduced role and new oversight, the report recommended the stabilization of "overall CSA funding" and the expansion of funding for programs which supported the development of space technologies "for the enhancement of industrial capabilities," such as the CSA Space Technology Development Program (STDP), by an additional $10Mln CDN per year over each of the next three years.

In essence, Emerson assumed that the CSA's best role would be the judicious cultivation of small companies attempting to commercialize CSA derived innovations. The big companies like MDA, who traditionally partnered with the space agency, were reaching the critical mass necessary to take care of themselves.

The "core" CSA operational budget from 2001 - 2013. Not only is the Canadian space industry growing, the CSA core budget has been shrinking under the last three Canadian prime ministers (two liberal and one conservative). Emerson didn't think this state of affairs would ever be reversed and argued for a decrease in CSA responsibilities to match the decreased funding. Not included in the totals are one-time funding packages provided through the Economic Action Plan (EAP) for ongoing rover development in 2010 or for major multi-year capital projects such as RADARSAT-2 and RADARSAT Constellation. The totals are calculated in constant 2001 Canadian dollars using the consumer price index and assume an annual inflation rate of 2%. Graphic c/o Emerson Aerospace Review.

But the Emerson Space Working Group Report, one of six subsidiary working groups set up by Emerson to "provide information and advice on key issues," didn't want to shrink the CSA. Under the leadership of MDA senior executive David M. Caddy (who evidently remembered the "happy times" when much of the CSA budget funded his employer), the Space Working Group advocated the opposite.

They called it "capacity building," the development of a large scale domestic infrastructure funded by government and funneled into traditional space agency partners (like MDA), in order to fund future "space opportunities" of "strategic importance." Their recommendations included:

  • The urgent development of a long term space policy framework, an operationally focused space plan with defined goals and milestones much like the 1967 Chapman Report, which would be precise enough to define future requirements such as the Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) project, which was expected to cost $600Mln CDN or more and have a long lead time.
  • A renewed emphasis on space technology development in industry, flight demonstration of new technologies and applications, and space science programs, which would require the "intelligent use of government procurement as an instrument of industrial development."
  • A review of the planning and management of the Canadian space program to reflect a "whole-of-government national approach" to national priorities leading to a "revitalized partnership" between government, industry and academia to guide Canada’s space program. Several commentators, notably Marc Boucher in his November 29th, 2012 SpaceRef.ca post "Aerospace Review Report Cites Insufficient Policy Clarity and Calls for Greater Commitment to the Space Sector," considered this recommendation as a veiled request to elevate the CSA to a national level "on par with other departments or (as) a separate Crown type organization," and with an equivalent increase in budget and status.
These points are the key to understanding where the Space Working Group differs from Volume Two of the 2012 Emerson Aerospace Review. Given the high growth rate in the industry (just under 10% a year) an activist strategy focused on maintaining the traditional role of the CSA could only be achieved with a substantial increase in the CSA budget and a focus on large scale projects.

It's worth noting that Canada isn't the only country where space policy discussions have slipped into the political arena. Graphic c/o David Fitzsimmons/ Politicalcartoons.com.

Of course, the Space Working Group Report conclusions were picked over by Emerson and mostly subordinated into Volume 2 of the final Emerson report.

This was because, while all involved accepted the validity of planning for future projects like PCW, the incumbent Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper preferred to fund programs of this nature outside of the CSA "core" operational budget, which made it easier to track and postpone (if necessary), and which also bypassed any questions related to CSA procurement capabilities, which both the final Emerson Report and the Space Working Group Report had noted were in need of improvement.

Capacity building also added a premium to costs, since infrastructure would be built over time and funded even when it wasn't needed.

But Harper did at least attempt to implement the overall Emerson recommendations, putting into place the requested additional layers of committees as outlined in the February 2nd, 2014 post "Conservatives Form Committees; NDP Says 'Incompetence Crippling Space Sector!'" As outlined in the follow-up February 3rd, 2014 post, "Will Canada Support the Growth of Small "NewSpace" Companies?" the Harper government even provided additional funding for the STDP, although not to the level recommended by Emerson.

Chuck Black.
But that wasn't enough for the NDP and the Liberals, who've been sniping at Emerson, each other and the Conservatives ever since.

The Canadian federal election occurs on October 19th. Just don't expect it to answer many of the questions related to Canada's future in space.
___________________________________________________________

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

COM DEV For Sale: Is the Failed exactEarth Public Offering to Blame?

          By Chuck Black

Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) attempted to sell its space assets to US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in 2008; Ottawa based Telesat Canada has been trying to sell itself off for years; and, in July 2015, Lethbridge, AB. based BlackBridge Corp, owners of the RapidEye earth-imaging constellation of five satellites, was purchased by San Francisco, CA. based Planet Labs Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

Now, another Canadian space company, Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International (COM DEV) has publicly confirmed what many had been suggesting for some time. The firm, which has made equipment for "more than 80 percent of all commercial communications satellites ever launched" according to its website, is now up for sale.

Chart showing COM DEV price and range on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) from June 12th, 2015 until the close of business on Friday, October 9th. It's worth noting that privately held COM DEV subsidiary exactEarth LLP announced that it was spinning off into a separate, publicly traded company on June 30th, 2015, just as COM DEV pricing was about to reach its highest point for the period. The follow-on, July 31, 2015 exactEarth announcement that it would be postponing its public offering marked the beginning of a two month drop in COM DEV pricing, which was only arrested on October 7th when a COM DEV  press release, confirming rumors that the company was up for sale, touched off a flurry of stock purchases. Chart c/o TradingView

As outlined in the October 7th, 2015 COM DEV press release "COM DEV Responds to Market Speculation," the company has acknowledged that, as part of a review of its "strategic alternatives," it has been, "involved in confidential discussions with third parties with respect to potential strategic transactions involving the Company (COM DEV), with the assistance of its financial advisor Canaccord Genuity." 

The press release goes on to say that, "while such discussions are ongoing, no assurance can be given that any transaction will be announced or completed. COM DEV does not intend to make further comment unless or until there is a transaction to announce."

Canaccord Genuity Group is the largest independent investment dealer in Canada. The company has been involved with deals for Amaya Gaming Group in its $4.9Bln USD (6.18Bln CDN) acquisition of PokerStars, Yamana Gold's $3.9Bln USD (4.92Bln CDN) joint acquisition (along with Agnico Eagle) of Osisko Mining and dozens of other deals over the last decade in the aerospace & defense, agriculture, cleantech, private equity and other industry verticals.

As per the March 9th, 2015 COM DEV press release, "COM DEV provides strategic update on exactEarth."Canaccord was brought aboard to advise COM DEV subsidiary exactEarth on the "implementation of private and public funding options as well as potential merger and acquisition opportunities" and initially focused on the July, 2015 attempted exactEarth spin-off, but seems to have expanded its focus since then.

October 9th, 2015 screen shot of the COM DEV website. The company has a staff of more than 1,250, annual revenues of over $200Mln CDN, and facilities in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, India and China where it designs, manufactures and integrates advanced products, subsystems and microsatellites that are sold to major satellite prime contractors, government agencies and satellite operators, for use in communications, space science, remote sensing and defense applications. Over the last 40 years, COM DEV has won contracts to provide its equipment on over 950 satellites and spacecraft. Graphic c/o COM DEV

According to the October 7th, 2015 Reuters article, "Satellite equipment maker COM DEV in advanced sale talks: sources," several people familiar with the matter have indicated that Comtech Telecommunications, Honeywell International, L-3 Communications Holdings and Thales SA are among the companies that were approached by COM DEV about a potential deal.

Perhaps the real secret of COM DEV's future actions was contained in the March 14th, 2013 Globe and Mail article, "Stock to watch: Activist investor sends Com Dev into a new orbit," which discussed COM DEV shareholder Crescendo Partners LP and its intention to nominate three directors to the COM DEV board at the upcoming annual general meeting, which was held on April 24th, 2013.

As outlined in the article, Crescendo has "a reputation of tangling with Canadian technology companies (including 20-20 Technologies, Emergis, Geac Computer, DALSA, Bridgewater Systems, and Matrikon), and pushing for their sale to unlock shareholder value."

The article quoted David Barr, a portfolio manager and chief investment officer with Vancouver-based PenderFund Capital Management Ltd., as suggesting that Crescendo would likely first attempt to spin out the exactEarth subsidiary into a separate company and then position COM DEV for a sale.

Chuck Black.
According to the 2013 article, these events were expected to happen over the next two or three years, which would be about now.

For more on exactEarth and COM DEV, check out the July 5th, 2015 post, "The REAL Story Behind the Upcoming (Maybe) exactEarth IPO."

For more on the developing situation at COM DEV, stay tuned.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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