Sunday, March 26, 2017

Part 2: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

The 1960's, Alouette, ISIS, Chapman & Telesat



Alouette & subsystems. Graphic c/o DRTE/CSA.
By Graham Gibbs & W. M. ("Mac") Evans

This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief history of the Canadian space program, written by two of the major participants.










The 1960's

Alouette I was not only a bold political step, but a substantial technical challenge. Many innovations were required including the use of transistors, new battery management systems, low-noise receivers, thermal and mechanical designs and perhaps most famously, the development of the Storable Tubular Extendible Member, or STEM.
It was the latter that allowed the satellite to be launched in a compact configuration, but once on orbit to extend antennas up to forty-five metres in length. 
The Canadian built STEM antenna used in the Alouette-1 satellite. The compact, flat, but flexible metallic bar unrolls and bends inward to become a rigid cylinder able to be used as a satellite antenna.  Photo c/o Canadian Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) collection #1992.0357.00.

The STEM was the first product of SPAR Aerospace Ltd. (originally the Special Products and Advanced Research Division of the de Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada). STEM products found their way onto most of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, and many communications satellites. The expertise in space flight gained by SPAR through its STEM work formed the basis for the company’s development of the now famous CANADARMs on the shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS). 
The first Canadian hardware to fly in space was a prototype of a component of Alouette I (a galactic noise receiver) which flew in June 1960 on the US Navigation Satellite Transit II-A. This receiver provided the first measurements of cosmic noise from above the ionosphere. 
On September 29th, 1962, just two weeks after US President John Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice University where he said “we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard…,” Alouette I was launched on a Thor-Agena-B rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California into a 1,000 km circular orbit with an inclination of 80 degrees, officially launching Canada into the space age as the third country (after the Soviet Union and the United States) to have its own satellite in orbit.  
The technical and scientific successes of Alouette I are legendary. In an era when satellite lifetimes were measured in months, Alouette I continued to work until it was turned off ten years later. More than 1,200 papers and scientific reports have been published. In 1987 the Engineering Centennial Board recognized Alouette I as one of the ten most outstanding achievements of Canadian engineering over the last one hundred years. 
In 1993 Alouette I received the prestigious IEEE Milestone in Engineering Award to honour the program’s significant achievement in the history of electrical and electronic engineering. Several of the keymembers of the Alouette I program have received the Order of Canada for their pioneering efforts. 
Within a short time after the successful launch of Alouette I, the Canadian Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE) initiated negotiations with NASA for additional cooperative scientific satellites.
For more on the ISIS satellite program, check out the 1997 Friends of the CRC post, "The ISIS Satellite Program." Screenshot c/o Friends of the CRC.
On May 23rd, 1963 those negotiations led to the creation of the International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) program, consisting of Alouette II, ISIS I, ISIS II and an undefined ISIS III. The intent was to provide topside ionospheric measurements over a complete eleven year solar cycle. Alouette II, launched November 29 1965, was a modified version of Alouette I and included a probe experiment and an expanded sounder frequency range. ISIS I and II were launched on January 30th, 1969 and March 31st, 1971 respectively. As will be described later, the ISIS III program was abandoned in favour of the Communications Technology Satellite that was launched in 1976. These satellites maintained the heritage of Alouette I for extraordinary reliability and gave Canada a well-earned international reputation and credibility in space. 
In approving the ISIS program the government requested that DRTE transfer its technology and expertise to Canadian industry in order to ensure that maximum economic benefits could accrue from the program. Thus, immediately after the success of Alouette I, which was designed, managed and built primarily by DRTE, a government laboratory, the government issued a significant industrial policy statement that would become one of the fundamental policies guiding our space program ever since. 
While today this policy may appear to be obvious, at the time it was a revolutionary policy that set the Canadian space program apart from most others. It is this policy that has encouraged the Canadian space industry to become the most export oriented industry in the world. 
While the Alouette and ISIS satellites were aimed at understanding the ionosphere in order to provide better communications capabilities here on Earth, rapid advances in rocket and satellite technology in the early 1960’s permitted the development and test of communications satellites capable of providing long distance communications independent of the ionosphere. 
Canadian scientists were naturally interested in these new technologies and concepts and participated in many of the early American experimental systems. Initially these systems used passive reflectors in space (e.g. Echo I in 1960) and required very large,powerful ground segments. These were followed by low Earth orbit systems (e.g. Telstar I in 1962 which provided the first transatlantic TV communications) and required large steerable antennas on the ground to track the satellite as it passed overhead. By 1963, the concept of geosynchronous satellites was proven with the launch of Sycom II. It was the advent of the geosynchronous communications satellite and its relatively simple and cheap ground systems that really opened the commercial satellite business. 
In 1964 the INTELSAT organization was formed with the express purpose of building and operating a global, commercial communications satellite system for the Western world. INTELSAT’s first satellite (Intelsat 1, also known as "Early Bird") was launched in 1965. Canada was a founding member of INTELSAT and leased twenty- four telephone channels on "Early Bird" to provide communications links between Canada and Europe.
It was clear to the government of Canada that these rapid technological advances in satellite communications would have major significance for Canada. In 1966 the government commissioned a study of Canada’s space program. The findings of this study were published in 1967 under the title of “Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs for Canada.” The chairman of the study group was John Chapman of Alouette fame and the report became known as the "Chapman Report." 
Among other things, the report recommended that the emphasis on space in Canada be shifted from science to communications and natural resource surveying. The report forecast (correctly it turns out) that “in the second century of Confederation the fabric of Canadian society will be held together by strands in space just as strongly as the railway and telegraph held together the scattered provinces in the last century.” 
The Chapman Report and an independent Science Council report (entitled "A Space Program for Canada) issued the same year made the case for a Canadian space program that concentrated on satellite communications, Canadian industrial development, cooperation with other countries, and recommended the establishment of a central coordinating and contracting agency for space research and development to oversee and manage the Canadian space effort. 
The Chapman Report, for the first time, codified the two primary tenets that guide Canada’s space program to this day: Canada should focus on using space to meet national needs and it should do so in a way that develops an internationally competitive space industry. 
The front cover of "Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada" by J.H. Chapman, P.A. Forsyth, P.A. Lapp and G.N. Patterson next to a photo of Chapman in the 1960's. Over time, the report became “Canada’s Original Blueprint” for space activities and still contains lessons for policymakers today. Graphic & Photo Phil Lapp & CSA
These successful demonstrations of the capabilities of satellite communications to provide long distance communications services also prompted considerable commercial interest in Canada. In 1966 Niagara Television Limited proposed a domestic satellite communications system to distribute television programs across the nation. This was followed in 1967 with a proposal for a domestic satellite communications system by a consortium of the Trans-Canada Telephone System and Canadian National/Canadian Pacific Telecommunications. 
In response to this mounting interest in a domestic satellite communications system, Prime Minister Lester Pearson announced in July 1967 the creation of a Task Force in the Science Secretariat under the leadership of Dr. Chapman to advise the government on satellite policy in general, and, in particular, on the use of satellite technology for domestic communications. Late in 1967 the Task Force reported its conclusions to the government and in 1968 the government issued a White Paper on “A Domestic Satellite Communication System for Canada.” The paper recommended the creation of a corporation by special statute of Parliament to develop, own and operate a domestic communications satellite system. The government also indicated its intention to seek private sector participation in the Corporation. 
To commence implementation of the White Paper recommendations, a Satellite Project Office was established by the Science Secretariat reporting to the Department of Industry. After detailed hearings before the Standing Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts, The Telesat Canada Act was introduced in the House of Commons. It was assented to on June 26th, 1969, and on September 1st, 1969, the date of Proclamation, the Telesat Canada Corporation came into existence under the joint ownership of the Government of Canada and the major telephone companies. The objective of the Company was to establish satellite telecommunication systems providing, on a commercial basis, telecommunication services between locations in Canada. 
In 1969, as part of a major reorganization of the Government of Canada, the Department of Communications (DOC) was created. DRTE (including its facilities and people) were transferred from the Defence Research Board to this new civilian department and re-named the Communications Research Centre (CRC). 
DOC was given responsibility for the Alouette and ISIS programs as well as responsibility for managing the government’s interests in Telesat Canada. This organizational change signaled the intent of the government to place responsibility for Canada’s fledgling space program under civilian control (as the US had done with the creation of NASA eleven years earlier). It was at this time that planning for the final ISIS satellite (ISIS III) was abandoned in favour of the development of an experimental communications satellite, later to be called the Communications Technology Satellite, or Hermes.
The shift in emphasis from science to applications recommended in the Chapman Report did not mean the end of space science in Canada. It did, however, mean that Canada would wait until 2003 before it launched another science satellite after the launch of ISIS II in 1972. 
In the intervening thirty years, the Canadian space science community, assisted at first by the Canada Centre for Space Science at the NRC and later by the Space Science Directorate at the Canadian Space Agency, focused on flying Canadian instruments on the science satellites of other nations and on the US Space Shuttle. 
This approach has allowed a broader range of science activities to be undertaken and Canadian space scientists have established world-class reputations in areas as diverse as solar-terrestrial physics, astronomy, atmospheric pollution, space life science, and microgravity science. 
In response to the Chapman Report recommendation for a “central coordinating and contracting agency,” the government created in 1969 the Interdepartmental Committee on Space (ICS). The ICS had membership from all departments with space interests and was responsible to the Minister of Communications for formulating space policies, recommending cooperation with foreign space agencies, recommending actions for optimum uses of resources, and coordinating space activities to maintain a viable space industry. The ICS was the major forum in the Government of Canada for the development of Canadian space policies and programs until the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) was created in 1989. The committee was chaired by Dr. Chapman until his death in 1979. 
From the above, it is easy to see why Dr. Chapman is considered the father of the Canadian space program and why CSA headquarters in St. Hubert Quebec is officially named the John H. Chapman Space Centre in his honour. 
It is interesting to compare the thrust of the Canadian space program during the 1960’s with that of the United States. At the beginning of the decade, in 1962, Canada’s first satellite, Alouette I, was launched and President Kennedy announced the US was going to the moon. At the end of the decade, within weeks of Neil Armstrong’s historic landing on the moon in July 1969, Telesat Canada came into being. During this period, Canada had come to grips with its primary objectives in space and had put in place the mechanisms to accomplish them. 
While the US was pursuing lunar and interplanetary exploration driven by the space race with the Soviet Union, Canada was putting in place the policies and organizations that would ensure that the benefits of space technology could be applied to meet our own specific national needs.
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Graham Gibbs & Mac Evans. Photos c/o MyCanada & CSA.
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first counselor for (US) space affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of "Five Ages of Canada - A HISTORY from Our First Peoples to Confederation."

William McDonald "Mac" Evans served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from November 1991 to November 2001, where he led the development of the Canadian astronaut and RADARSAT programs, negotiated Canada’s role in the International Space Station (ISS) and contributed to various international agreements that serve as the foundation of Canada’s current international space partnerships.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast.

Last Week: "Abstract, Introduction & The 1950's," as part one of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets" begins.

Next Week: "The 1970's, A Canadian Space Industry, Telesat, ANIK and a "Canadian Content Premium"" as part three of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets" continues.

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