Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Part 9: 150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History

Lapp, Stehling, Chapman. His Report, Mankind's Giant Leaps and a Domestic Focus on Sensors

Phil Lapp. Photo c/o CASM.
          By Robert Godwin
Canada's aerospace raison d'être has always derived from its immense size, its location in the far north as a vast, barely-tracked wilderness of incalculable resources and the logical requirements relating to defence, communications, utilization and exploration which naturally follow from its size and location.

As early as 1948 many young Canadian scientists and engineers, such as Phil Lapp, had been flying under extreme conditions in the belly of an assortment of old prop planes mapping the Canadian wilderness. The latest equipment for undertaking this kind of project was a peculiar combination of instruments designed to find everything from oil to minerals.

During the war a very sensitive magnetometer had been developed for finding enemy submarines, but after the war it was used in combination with a sophisticated camera, a radar altimeter and an ink-pen recorder to find hidden treasure. This heavy and delicate array of gear would sometimes have to be lowered out of the bottom of the aircraft after take-off or trailed behind the plane to avoid interference. Lapp and his associates spent summers flying across vast untracked areas taking readings to uncover Canada's hidden secrets.

It was a dirty, tiring and expensive job. While engineers like Lapp were working the resource side of the problem, Air Force crews flew similar missions for military reasons. The entire process was unwieldy and almost impossible to maintain with any degree of accuracy. There had to be a better way.

Project members Alton Jones, Al Nagy, Kurt Stehling, Mike Harloff and Dr. John P. Hagen at Cape Canaveral, watching the Vanguard 2 rocket launch on February 17th, 1959. Photo c/o US Naval Research Laboratory.

In August of 1968, as keynote speaker in front of the gathered minds of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, Kurt Stehling once again outlined his vision of a better way. He described an orbiting satellite which could be used to monitor the world's oceans. He also selected the instruments that would make such a satellite effective — a microwave radiometer; a radar scatterometer; a radar altimeter; a laser-radar (if the power could be found); and most importantly synthetic aperture radar "for greater resolution."

It is unknown whether Stehling was aware at this time of the top secret Project Quill which had flown SAR into space a few years earlier. Stehling was extremely well acquainted with Joseph Charyk the US Air Force official who was head of the secret National Reconnaissance Office in charge of that program and he also had a top-line security clearance.

Canada's Science Secretariat sponsored its own analysis of space and upper atmosphere research and a committee was appointed that consisted of John Chapman, Phil Lapp, Gordon Patterson and Professor P.A. Forsyth of the University of Western Ontario. This group met for the first time at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies in May 1966. Their goal was to review existing Canadian-financed research and development related to space and the upper atmosphere, and to try and bring some sort of cohesive policy that would bring government, industry and academia into alignment. In less than a year they submitted their findings in a document which became known as The Chapman Report.

The weathered front page of "Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada," more commonly known as "The Chapman Report," by J.H. Chapman, P.A. Forsyth, P.A. Lapp and G.N. Patterson. Graphic c/o Apogee Books.

It represented the first time in Canada that anyone had made government sponsored recommendations with a plan for moving forward in space research. The main proposals were:
  • To establish a national space agency.
  • To open up frequencies for direct television broadcasts.
  • To claim locations in geosynchronous orbit.
  • And to provide more money to Gerald Bull's HARP and to the Black Brant, with an eye to making them capable of orbital launches.
Only the first three of these things would ultimately be implemented (although it would take years for that to happen). Both HARP and Black Brant were to evolve, but in different directions. HARP would be cancelled, which would lead to Bull leaving Canada. Black Brant would be continuously upgraded but never to the point that it could go orbital.

1969 was the year when space exploration came into its own and humans set foot on another world.

James Chamberlin had fixed a significant problem with von Braun's Saturn V moon rocket and Grumman had built a lunar lander that incorporated many of the original ideas which Owen Maynard had first proposed in 1962, including legs which were manufactured in Quebec. The Deep Space tracking network which had allowed the world to watch Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon was being supervised by ex-Avro alumni Len Packham, and the doctor who received them when they returned to earth was Bill Carpentier, also of Avro.

Apollo had been a magnificent accomplishment which involved, Americans, Germans, Brits, Canadians and many other people from all over the world. For a brief moment the world was unified, but the Cold War was still in full swing and most of the action had moved into space or was now in the skies over Viet Nam. While Voodoos still patrolled Canada's skies the move to control the "high ground" was energizing the aerospace industry around the globe.

For Canadians it was still all about better communications.

At the end of that momentous year Phil Lapp and Dr. Laurence Morley got together to try and organise the future of Canada's role in remote sensing from both aircraft and satellites. Over the next two years their group sent out requests to institutions across Canada asking for proposals for new instruments that could be used for remote sensing. They were inundated with suggestions and had to whittle the list down to devices which they thought might actually perform the suggested tasks, and could realistically be delivered by their proponents.

There were three main categories. "Spectrometers and Multispectral Imaging Systems which are general sensors not necessarily directed at any specific application, Remote Probing with Lasers covering systems usually associated with air and water quality measurements and Special Purpose Sensors developed with very specific applications in mind." Morley had managed to apply a clever method of paying for these devices by using a sort-of slush fund made up of the money left over from all the other programs at the end of each fiscal year.

As a result of this effort Canada became a world leader in sensors capable of tracking everything from greenhouse gases to oil slicks.

The year of the moon landing also brought with it the Telesat Canada Act which was the first move by the Canadian government to control space-based communications in Canada. Out in Vancouver a young man named John Macdonald and his Swiss immigrant friend Werner Dettwiler were some of the first to dive into this burgeoning industry and create a company which they called Macdonald-Dettwiler Associates or MDA.

When MDA were invited to install their first system it was to coincide with the data coming down from the first ERTS (Landsat) satellite. Prince Albert had evolved from an experimental ABM facility to a satellite down-link, and was now to become an integral part of Canada's resource monitoring.
Robert Godwin.

Robert Godwin is the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books, the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum and an American Astronautical Society History Committee Member.
He has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series "The NASA Mission Reports" and appeared on dozens of radio and television programs in Canada, the USA and England as an expert not only on space exploration but also on music.  
His books have been discussed on CNN, the CBC, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes. He produced the first ever virtual reality panoramas of the Apollo lunar surface photography and the first multi-camera angle movie of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. His latest book was written with the late Frederick I Ordway III and is called "2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey" about the history of spaceflight at the movies.
Last Week, "Stehling, Maynard, the Lunar Excursion Module, Gerald Bull, James Chamberlin & Phil Lapp,'" in part eight of "150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History."

Next Week, "The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Synthetic Aperture Radar, 
SEASAT, John Macdonald and MDA," as part ten of "150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History" continues.

On sale now, at Apogee Books.

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