Sunday, April 02, 2017

Part 3: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

The 1970's, A Canadian Space Industry, Telesat, ANIK and a "Canadian Content Premium"

Anik A. Photo c/o Telesat Canada
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 1970's, Part 1

The Act of Parliament that created Telesat Canada stipulated that Telesat “shall utilize, to the extent practicable and consistent with its commercial nature, Canadian research, design and industrial personnel, technology and facilities in research and development connected with its satellite telecommunication systems and in the design and construction of the systems.” 
Before Telesat could purchase any satellite or ground system, the Act required Telesat to obtain the approval of the Minister of Communications that he or she was satisfied that the procurement would result in “a reasonable utilization of Canadian design and engineering skills and the incorporation of an appropriate proportion of Canadian components and materials.” 
A reminder that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This short CBC radio segment from December 1st, 1971 under the title, "The Anik satellite and northern Canada," discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the new communications technologies being rolled out with the three Anik satellites is well worth comparing to the July 18th, 2016 post, "Arctic Satellites Should Serve Northerners According to Nunatsiaq Online." Graphic c/o CBC.

It is clear that the government saw Telesat as an instrument of industrial policy wherein Telesat procurement's would be used as much as possible to assist the development of the Canadian space industry. 
In the debates in Parliament that led to the creation of Telesat, the then Minister of Communications made it clear that Canadian industry would play a major role in building Telesat’s satellites.  
In the period leading up to the creation of Telesat, the government run Satellite Project Office in 1969 had let major competitive study contracts to two Canadian companies, RCA Limited in Montreal (the prime contractor for the ISIS spacecraft) and the Northern Electric Company in Ottawa. Upon completion of these studies, Telesat proceeded to enter into negotiations with RCA to build two satellites. 
However, in the middle of these negotiations, Hughes Aircraft in the United States (builder of the first satellites for Intelsat) submitted to Telesat an unsolicited proposal for the construction of three satellites, based on a flight proven design, at a price considerably lower than the RCA price and with a shorter construction schedule. The Hughes offer included a much smaller Canadian content (from Northern Electric and SPAR) than the RCA bid. 
An image of the Anik A, "a forerunner of the Boeing 376 satellite,"" from Boeing Images, the external licencing arm of the Boeing Corporation. The Anik's were a part of the Hughes HS-333 generation of spin stabilized communication satellites, which later evolved into the popular Boeing 376 satellite line now in use around the world. Hughes was purchased by Boeing in 2000 and became Boeing Satellite Systems. Graphic c/o Boeing Images.

Thus the ink was hardly dry on the Telesat Canada Act when one of its key provisions (Canadian content) faced a significant challenge. Except for Canadian content, the Hughes bid was substantially better than the RCA bid in all respects (cost, risk, and schedule). In essence, the Hughes bid established a benchmark to measure the extra cost of including significant Canadian content in Telesat’s first series of satellites. 
The issue of this so-called “Canadian Content Premium” became the subject of considerable debate in the House of Commons. In the end, in 1970 the Minister of Communications authorized Telesat to proceed with Hughes Aircraft for the construction of three Anik A satellites. 
The Anik A1 satellite was launched by NASA on November 9, 1972 and Canada became the first country to have a domestic satellite system in geosynchronous orbit. Anik A2 followed shortly afterwards in April 1973 and Anik A3 was launched in May 1975. 
The satellites operated in the 6/4 GHz bands and each provided 12 channels capable of carrying either one television program or 960 one- way telephone conversations. Telesat’s Anik system revolutionized communications in Canada and for the first time ever, reliable telephone services and television programming were available to most of the rural and remote areas of Canada. 

The failure of Canadian companies to win the contract for the Anik satellites had a profound impact on the government’s space program. 
The setback of the Anik procurement decision clearly showed that the Canadian space industry was not yet internationally competitive. In the wake of the Telesat procurement decision, and with the wind down of the ISIS program, it was clear that another major space program would be needed if Canada’s fledgling space industry was to survive. 
Fortunately, as a result of the government’s decision in 1969 to transform planning for the ISIS III spacecraft into planning for a communications technology satellite, the government was in a position to act swiftly.

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 MacDonald "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: "The 1960's, Alouette, ISIS, Chapman & Telesat," in part two of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets."

Next Week: "More on the 1970's,"Equal Access" to Communications, "Improved Industrial Capability" and the Hermes Communication Satellite," as part five of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," continues.

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