Monday, May 29, 2017

Satellite Data for Disaster Management, Super Telescopes & $950Mln for Canadian "Superclusters"

          By Henry Stewart

For the week of May 29th, 2017, here are a few of the stories we're currently tracking for the Commercial Space blog:

  • Canadian satellite data is being used to assist emergency response efforts in Russia.
As outlined in the May 29th, 2017 update to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Natural Disasters page, "as part of its participation in the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters," the CSA is providing RADARSAT-2 satellite imagery to support relief efforts and help mitigate the effects of this natural disaster." 
The webpage also noted recent torrential rains in Russia which have "caused flooding in Stavropol Krai, Russia." A state of emergency has been declared in the region and "at least six villages and towns are affected." According to the website, "more than 1000 homes have been flooded and over 3000 people evacuated."
Other recent efforts to assist with disaster recovery efforts include Sri Lanka (May 2017), Chile (May 2017), Canada (May 2017), Haiti (April 2017), Colombia (April 2017) and Peru (Spring 2017).
The Canadian efforts are part of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, which is an international effort to put space technology at the service of rescue and emergency responders in the event of a major disaster. 
According to their website, the "International Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Each agency member has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property."
  • The next "super telescope" has begun construction in Chile. 
As outlined in the May 29th 2017 Mail Online post, "Construction begins on the world's first 'super telescope' that could help astronomers find alien life," the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), currently being built in Chile, is designed to help astronomers peer back to the first galaxies 14 billion years ago. 
As outlined in the article, "when completed, it will be the world's largest optical telescope, some five times larger than the top observing instruments in use today." 
The current design comprises a reflecting telescope with a 39.3-metre-diameter (126 foot) segmented primary mirror and a 4.2-metre-diameter secondary mirror, and will be supported by adaptive optics, six laser guide star units and multiple large science instruments, according to the Jun. 14th, 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) post, "Europe Downscales Monster Telescope to Save Money."
Comparison of nominal sizes of primary mirrors of the above extremely large telescopes and some notable optical telescopes. Graphic c/o Wikipedia.
There are at least four other telescopes which qualify as "super telescopes," either completed, planned or under construction. They are:
  • The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a ground-based extremely large telescope, consisting of seven 8.4 m (27.6 ft) diameter primary segments, currently under construction, and planned for completion in 2025.
  • The Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), also known as the Great Canary Telescope, a 10.4 m (410 in) reflecting telescope located at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canaries, Spain.
According to the September 2000 post, "A Skeleton Science Case For Extremely Large (20m - 100m) Ground Based Telescopes (ELTs)," an extremely large telescope (ELT) is an astronomical observatory featuring an optical telescope with an aperture for its primary mirror from 20 metres up to 100 metres across.
ELT's are considered especially useful for a variety of scientific applications including:
  • Detecting habitable planets. 
  • Seeing the surfaces of other stars.
  • Seeing near black hole event horizons in the galaxy center
They are also considered useful for monitoring man made activities like Moon colonization, since they would be able to detect objects and details on the lunar surface as small as 2 metres, and for detecting small, man-made objects in space.
Innovation minister Bains announcing the supercluster initiative at the offices of BlackBerry Ltd. in Kanata, Ontario on Wednesday, May 24th. Photo c/o CBC News.
  • The Federal government has offered up $950Mln CDN in order to fund the creation of 'superclusters' of expertise, which it says will "create more middle-class jobs and more opportunities for Canadian businesses to grow into globally successful brands."
As outlined in the  May 24th, 2017 CBC News post, "Ottawa offers $950 million for 'superclusters' to create jobs," the new funding is intended to create "up to five" superclusters in specific industries such as advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean resources, clean technology, digital technology, health/biosciences, infrastructure and transportation.
As outlined in the article, "each supercluster will be a non-profit consortium created by large and small companies, along with post-secondary educational institutions or non-profit organizations. Applications will be accepted from both Canadian companies and international companies with Canadian operations."
Of course, much still remains to be learned about the initiative and not everyone is even on board with the plan as it stands. As outlined in the May 26th, 2017 Toronto Sun post, "Navdeep Bains proposes the wrong kind of supercluster," the government is not very good at predicting the next big economic trend, and will likely only end up providing short term funding to supporters and those capable of filling out the expected paperwork. 
For more, check out our upcoming stories in the Commercial Space blog.

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

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