Monday, November 21, 2016

The 4th Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, NASA, SLS, More Urthecast, the CSA & the 2016 Canadian Space Summit

          By Henry Stewart

It's conference season, when academics and business people run their ideas up the public flagpole in the hopes of obtaining funding. With that in mind, here are some of the topics currently being tracked in the Commercial Space blog:

CSDC website. Graphic c/o CSDCMS.

As outlined in the November 18th, 2016 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) press release, "Fourth Canadian Satellite Design Challenge Begins!," teams are off and running in the latest iteration of the long running competition designed for university students to launch a small micro-satellite into orbit to conduct science research missions.
According to the press release, "representatives from 12 of the 14 registered teams recently travelled to Winnipeg to attend the Canadian Space Society's annual Summit, as well as to participate in a workshop to meet each other and to review the CSDC requirements."
This year's teams hail from Carleton University, Concordia University, École Polytechnique de Montréal, McGill University, Queen’s University, Simon Fraser University, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba, the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria, the University of Waterloo, the University of Windsor and York University.
The CSDC is managed by a federally-incorporated not-for-profit volunteer organisation, which benefits from support from some heavy hitters in the space and aerospace worlds, including Boeing, MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), UrtheCast, and Magellan Aerospace as well as Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
An overview of the proposed SLS with its MPCV. As outlined in the September 14th, 2011 Space Policy Online post, "New NASA Crew Transportation System to Cost $18 Billion Through 2017," the US Congress directed NASA to build the SLS and MPCV as a compromise with the Obama administration, which had recently canceled the Constellation Human Spaceflight Program and was instead advocating the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, intended to stimulate development of privately operated crew vehicles to be launched into low Earth orbit. Infographic c/o Graphic News.

NASA seems to be slowly coming to the conclusion that its Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft (also known as the multi-purpose crew vehicle or MPCV) are too expensive to actually build and use.
As outlined in the November 17th, 2016 ArsTechnica post, "NASA realizes SLS and Orion are too expensive, opens door to competitors," NASA has issued a request for information (RFI) to industry and academia for ideas on "how best to cut the production and operations costs for its SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, which presently consume more than $3 billion annually in development costs." 
The article quoted Bill Hill, the engineer who currently oversees the development of SLS and Orion for NASA, as acknowledging that the vehicles were too costly now to be practical. 
We’re just way too expensive today,” he said. “It’s going to take some different thinking and maybe a little bit more risk taking than what we’re wanting to do today.” 
If we could think of something funny to say about that, we'd say it... 

Moving right along, have we mentioned that Vancouver, BC based Urthecast is having a good month?
As outlined in the November 16th, 2016 Satellite Finance post, "UrtheCast readies ECA deal for Earth observation system," the company "aims to secure as much as C$250m (US$186m) in export credit agency-backed funding in the next few months to deploy up to eight Earth observation satellites from 2019." 
As outlined in the June 22nd, 2015 post, "Is UrtheCast Becoming Canada's "Other" Space Program?," the eight new satellites will be the plucky startup’s first new spacecraft since it gained two in-orbit birds last summer after acquiring Deimos Imaging in Spain.
Even better, as outlined in the October 16th, 2016 Globe and Mail post, "Vancouver space imagery company tops this year's Deloitte Technology Fast 50," the company, which provides high-definition images and data from space, has also topped this year’s Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list of growing companies.
Is this a great country or what?
CSA president Sylvain Laporte at the 1st Canadian Space Policy Summit. Photo c/o

Of course, there are those who still argue that the space sector, especially our Canadian space sector, is languishing and "needs a champion."
As outlined in the November 15th, 2016 post, "The Canadian Space Agency Perspective from the 2016 Space Policy Symposium," at least one or two people disposed towards that perspective seem to have attended the the 1st Canadian Space Policy Summit organized by the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) on November 8th, as part of the larger 2016 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2016).
But the article also quoted CSA president Sylvain Laporte as not being one of those people. According to Laporte, "space is going to be very tightly aligned with the (Federal) Innovation Agenda going forward" and other Federal government departments also have an interest in this area.
Laporte mentioned climate change, developing the north, agriculture and management of resources, with space potentially able to contribute to every one of these areas. 
No doubt Laporte is familiar with the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review, which advocated using space based assets and capabilities to solve terrestrial problems. That report has been accepted as government policy by both the outgoing Conservatives and the incoming Justin Trudeau Liberal government and informs current policy in this area. 
Until space advocates begin to understand Emerson and start making alliances with other government departments looking for useful technologies to solve pressing problems, they will most likely continue to believe that they're unloved and need a "champion."
They might also want to get out more. Just a suggestion...
The larger CSPC 2016, which took place at the same time in the same building and was covered in the November 13th, 2016 post, "Generalists, Data Miners, Lotteries, Comedy, Open Access and the Future of Science in Canada," included almost no participation from those who had attended the 1st Canadian Space Policy Summit.
But quite a few of the rest of the Canadian science community was at CSPC 2016.
These are the very same scientists the space activist community (who mostly only attended the 1st Canadian Science Policy Summit) need to meet, make friends with and promote solutions for, at least if they want to continue working in the space industry.
"Nuff" said... 
Graphic c/o Canadian Space Society.

While the 2016 Canadian Aerospace Summit, which took place in Ottawa, Ontario from November 14th - 15th is generally considered to be the largest of the fall aerospace focused events, and was the subject of the November 21st, 2016 post on "The US Military, CSeries, Roland Berger, Bell, MDA, Airships & Minister Bains at the 2016 Canadian Aerospace Summit," the annual Canadian Space Summit, which took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba from November 13th - 14th, 2016, is also well worth noting.
As outlined in the November 13th, 2016 Global News post, "Space weekend launches in Winnipeg," the conference "celebrated Canadian achievements in space and opened the door to more conversation for people wanting to know more about Canada’s initiatives in space."
Speakers included Eric Choi, the senior business development manager at Magellan Aerospace; Witold Kinsner, the president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Canada; Mary Preville, the director general of policy at the CSA; Steven Freeland, a professor of international Law at Western Sydney University in Australia; John Spray, the director of the Planetary and Space Science Centre at the University of New Brunswick and Brigadier General Blaise Frawley, the director general for space at the Department of National Defence (DND).
For more, check out upcoming editions of the Commercial Space blog.

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

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