Monday, February 29, 2016

Telesat makes Agreements, MDA likes the USA, COM DEV not Forgotten & NSERC has Needs

          By Henry Stewart

It's been a busy week, with the top two publicly traded Canadian space companies both reporting their quarterly earnings and a variety of other public, private and corporate advocates lining up their wish lists and concerns just in time for the upcoming Federal budget, expected over the next couple of weeks.

With all that in mind, here is a short listing of stories currently being tracked by the Commercial Space blog:

    Telesat CEO Daniel Goldberg. Photo c/o Space News.
  • Canada's largest space company, Ottawa based Telesat, had a quiet month but did announce that it had awarded two launch contracts to Hawthorne, California based SpaceX
As outlined in the February 26th, 2016 SpaceFlight Now post, "Telesat launch agreements awarded to SpaceX," the two satellites, Telstar 18V and Telestar 19V, are expected to launch as payloads on board separate SpaceX built Falcon 9 rockets sometime in 2018. 
And, at least according to the February 25th, 2016 Space News article, "Telesat to order two small Ka-band satellites to test constellation," Telesat was also about to order two small Ka-band telecommunications satellites to be launched into low Earth orbit in 2017. These satellites would be designed to validate technologies the company would apply to a global constellation of broadband spacecraft, which the article indicated could potentially be from Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA).
For more on the most recent Telesat quarterly earnings conference call, check out the February 25th, 2016 Telesat press release, "Telesat Reports Results for the Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2015."
For more on what some Canadians think about domestic space companies outsourcing to US launch providers, check out the February 29th, 2016 SpaceRef Canada post, "Op-Ed - A Need for Canadian Space Access."
The article quoted Friedmann, who until recently only really seemed to go on the record to complain about the Canadian government, as stating that the "US government dwarfs all other commercial and government markets for satellites" and he wants a piece of it. 
"SSL’s lack of access to U.S. military work is a handicap MDA can no longer accept," he said during the most recent quarterly MDA conference call, on February 24th. 
It's worth noting that MDA/SSL already has substantial access into the US civilian space sector, as illustrated most recently in the February 25th, 2016 MDA press release, "SSL selected to provide design work for NASA JPL asteroid mission" and the February 29th, 2016 MDA press release, "SSL developing robotic sample handling assembly for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars 2020 project." 
For a full account of the call, it's worth checking out the February 24th, 2016 MDA press release "MDA reports fourth quarter and full year 2015 results." 
An interesting overview of the tax consequences of the COM DEV sale to Honeywell and the spin off of its exactEarth subsidiary, based upon the December 23rd, 2015 SEDAR filing. "Circular of COM DEV International Ltd. (the “Company” for its spin-off of exactEarth Ltd. (“exactEarth”) and its acquisition by Honeywell Limited (the “Purchaser”)" from the website.
But it has not been forgotten. As outlined in the February 29th, 2016 Space News post, "Why didn’t Canada put up a fight for Com Dev?," there are many in Canada who are questioning the Federal government's decision not to interfere with the sale.
According to the article, the sale "came as the Conservatives were occupied trying to be re-elected. Parliament was not in session... (and, because of the election) federal government bureaucrats, who should have raised warning signs about the COM DEV sale, didn’t act."
The article also quoted Steven Staples, the vice president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, which was instrumental in 2008 in leading opposition to an earlier proposed sale of MDA to US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK). According to Staples, the sale "flew completely under the radar for the public and politicians. This purchase is just as significant as Alliant’s attempt to buy MDA but the timing on this acquisition couldn’t have been better for the companies (COM DEV and Honeywell).”
NSERC president Mario Pinto. Photo c/o University Affairs.
  • And finally, the president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), which isn't a private corporation, but is instead a Federal government bureaucracy bolstered by the recent election (especially the Liberal campaign promises to allow government scientists to comment publicly on their work), has released an interesting shopping list of department priorities under the title "NSERC 2020: A Strategic Plan." 
As outlined in the January 19th, 2016 University Affairs article, "NSERC’s big plans for the next five years – funds pending," many of the NSERC 2020 recommendations are dependent on the upcoming Federal budget, expected sometime over the next few weeks. 
As one of Canada’s three major funding councils (along with the National Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), NSERC has a budget of $1.1Bln CDN, which goes to support the research of some 11,000 professors and 30,000 students in natural sciences and engineering. 
This mandate also provides for a lot of overlap with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) which once had a similar mandate to support space focused research, but a far smaller budget (only a portion of its $350Mln CDN annual allocation).
As a result of the 2012 Emerson Aerospace Review most of the CSA R&D work has reverted to the funding councils. For a partial list of the ones which remain, check out the CSA Announcement of Opportunity webpage.
How will these stories develop? Only time will tell.

But time will also benefit from context. To develop the appropriate context, check out future posts from the Commercial Space blog.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym for a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

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