Friday, November 17, 2017

9th Canadian Science Policy Conference Video's, Audio Recordings and Photo's are Now Online

          By Henry Stewart

For those who missed it, selected video's from the 9th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC2017), which took place in Ottawa, ON between November 1st - 3rd, 2017, have been posted online.

Posted items include:
  • A conversation with Canada's chief science advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer.
More CSPC 2017 videos and interviews are available on the CSPC YouTube channel. Audio recordings and photos are also available.

This annual event is organized by the Canadian Science Policy Centre to serve "as an inclusive, non-partisan and national forum uniting stakeholders, strengthening dialogue, and enabling action with respect to current and emerging issues in national science, technology, and innovation policy."

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More Rocket Shenanigans, Parts Problems at KB Yuzhnoye & Skyrora's Plan for a Scottish/ Ukrainian Spaceport

          By Chuck Black

For those who don't believe the hype from the Ukrainian government and others that the Ukrainian space industry is capable of rebuilding facilities rendered inoperative after the 2014 Crimean Crisis or remaining competitive in the face of growing challenges from low cost NewSpace launch providers like SpaceX, you may be right.

Here are four news reports which support your view:

A Soyuz rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ukraine has no indigenous launch capabilities but instead depends on facilities provided through the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and others.  Photo c/o Ars Technica.

  • The tests on the RD-861K engine, the Ukrainian built rocket engine expected to be used as the 2nd stage of Maritime Launch Services (MLS) proposed Canadian launched, Cyclone 4M rocket, are expected to resume this month, after a short break to assess tests performed in October, 2017. 
But there remain questions over whether the final engine can be built in useful quantities using domestically sourced, Ukrainian technology.
As outlined in the November 14th, 2017 RussianSpaceWeb post, "Ukraine resumes testing of the RD-861K engine," the earlier test also acted as sales aids to validate the program to potential investors and foreign buyers.
According to the post: 
The resumption of the tests should also boost the morale inside the beleaguered Ukrainian rocket industry, which has faced many problems after the breakdown of its ties to Russia in the wake of the annexation of Crimea in 2014. 
In particular, the Ukrainian propulsion systems depended on supplies of Russian structural materials and hardware. 
Experts familiar with the matter say that the RD-861K engine is almost ready for operational use, but its development and serial manufacturing still faces serious challenges due to lack of resources, personnel and propellant components. 
The engine burns hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide (carcinogenic hypergolic propellants) which are not currently produced in Ukraine and have to be imported from China. 
There are also problems with the production of new components for the engine, which forced engineers to recycle parts from older units and caused several delays in the latest tests. 
The post goes on to state that, "one industry source told that KB Yuzhnoye (the rocket designer) had been able to line up domestic suppliers of the structural materials necessary for the RD-861K program."
But according to others: 
... the production of the turbine for the RD-861K still depended on the EP742 heat-resistant alloy that KB Yuzhnoe had procured from the TsNIIMV material science institute based in Korolev, Russia. 
Each turbine in the RD-861K engine is certified to operate in up to a dozen live firings before being replaced.
Theoretically, a similar material for the turbine could be acquired elsewhere, but it would need to go through its own tests before being certified for use on the engine, an expert familiar with the matter said.
The Ukrainian-built version of the RD-120 engine (on the left) will be a basis for the next generation RD-870 engine (right), planned for use in the Cyclone 4M. As outlined in the September 19th, 2017 RussianSpaceWeb post, "RD-870 could become Ukraine's first booster engine," the RD-870 engine is "intended to propel the first stage of the Tsyklon-4M (Cyclone-4M) rocket' and "will be based on a Soviet-era second-stage engine but redesigned to lift the rocket off the launch pad", instead of firing in the stratosphere." The RD-120 was developed at NPO Energomash in Moscow, but built in the Ukraine by KB Yuzhnoye (design) and Yuzhmash (manufacturing), except for its combustion chamber, which was "supplied by a manufacturer in Samara, Russia." The RD-870 is yet to be built. Graphic and photo c/o Anatoly Zak.

  • The second stage of the Cyclone 4M rocket isn't the only stage with potential sourcing problems. There are also concerns over the Zenit rockets, which are intended to serve as the basis for the first stage of the Cyclone 4M.
Sea Launch, a multinational launch provider which, until 2013 used a mobile maritime launch platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit-3SL rockets, has plans to revive the mothballed service.
But they'd prefer not to use the Zenit because those rockets are getting hard to come by.
As outlined in the November 15th, 2017 Russian Space Web post, "Sea Launch seeks help from Roskosmos, proposes new applications,"  Sergei Sopov, the director general of the S7 Group which owns Sea Launch, has sent a draft of a potential cooperation agreement to Roskosmos head Igor Komarov. 
The latest plea for cooperation would open the Sea Launch platform to Russian satellite developers, who until now have relied almost exclusively on launch vehicles based in Kazakhstan or Russia. 
But it would also include, "the development of a new-generation cargo ship which could lift off from the Sea Launch to re-supply manned orbital stations."  
Cyclone 4M configuration, including the listing of the engines required for the program (four RD-870's and one RD-861K). The November 9th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Maritime Launch Services Targets May 1 to Begin Construction at Nova Scotia Spaceport," quoted MLS CEO Steve Matier as saying that the work remaining on the rocket is more of a simple "integration of parts. Some of them are already done, but the work that Yuzhnoye is doing right now is essentially all the design work for integration of these known quantity and proven heritage components into the vehicle itself." Graphic c/o MLS
This new rocket would likely be a variation of the next generation Russian medium class launcher which, as outlined in the November 13th, 2017 Russian Space web post, "Preliminary design for Soyuz-5 races to completion," will be known as the Soyuz 5, and is expected to replace the Zenit rocket.  
The first prototype for the new rocket is expected to be tested in 2022. 
The five or more year development period is typical in programs of this type and would certainly have to be duplicated in the Ukraine, where the existing RD-120 engine used in the Zenit second stage, would need to be upgraded to the RD-870 engine which is supposed to comprise the first stage of the Cyclone 4M.
If the Russians are taking five years or more to replace Zenit rockets and having trouble sourcing them now, what makes the Ukraine think that it will be able to source rockets for new Canadian customers?
And how specifically would the Ukraine propose to take any less time to develop a new rocket engine? What's so special about their development process?
As of now, no one knows.
A Soyuz booster is assembled prior to a crewed flight to the International Space Station. As outlined in the August 20th, 2015 Spaceflight New post, "Russia to build new eco-friendly Soyuz-5 rocket by 2022," the proposed new rocket should be able to solve all the problems associated with the previous rocket model. This suggests a certain "fuzzyness" in the design parameters and indicates that there is much work still to be done before the design is finalized. Photo c/o Bill Ingalls / NASA.

  • Speaking of Russia, it's worth noting that Roscosmos has a plan to compete with SpaceX, but that plan likely isn't going to work.
As outlined in the November 13th, 2017 Ars Technica post, "Russia has a plan to compete with SpaceX—but it has a flaw," the Russian rocket corporation, NPO Energia, has fast-tracked development of a new medium-class launch Soyuz 5 vehicle in the hopes that it to be able to remain competitive with the existing SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. 
But of course, five years from now, the Falcon-9 rockets are expected to be much more capable, reusable and able to launch nearly on demand for far less than the $60Mln US ($76Mln CDN) currently being charged.
So the Soyuz 5 won't be able to compete when it rolls out in 2022, because SpaceX will have advanced with its capabilities. 
Is the Ukrainian Cyclone 4M able to compete with current SpaceX rockets? Nothing in the published specs indicate that it can. And when the actual Cyclone 4M rocket is finally rolled out, the indications are that it will be as far behind as the planned Russian Soyuz 5.
Pavel Botsula, the head of design in Dnipro (oddly enough, the same city where both Ukrainian based KB Yuzhnoye and  Yuzhmash have their HQ's), with Mikhail Andrievskiy, the head of propulsion system department at Dnipro and Daniel Smith, the business development manager at Edinburgh, UK based Skyrora. Photo c/o ROOM.

  • But if all else fails, there are plans to relocate components of the Ukrainian space program to Scotland. 
As outlined in the  October 25th, 2017 ROOM post, "Firm announces plan to launch rockets from Scotland," Edinburgh & London UK based Skyrora, a privately-funded launch vehicle developer with a research and development hub in Ukraine, has announced "plans for entering the small satellite launch market during the Reinventing Space conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, this week."
The article quoted Skyrora business development manager Daniel Smith as stating that “Scotland is an ideal place from which to operate. Its launch suitability, strong manufacturing history and the fact that Glasgow, in particular, is a leading city within the European space sector are all positive factors.
Over the summer, "Skyrora worked with a research and development hub in the Ukraine and with individuals that have experience on a number of major Ukrainian space projects," and visited the Shetland Islands off the north east coast of Scotland as part of their search for a launch site. 
The 15th Reinventing Space Conference was held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 24th - 26th, 2017. It focused on "novel applications that are becoming commercially viable as space technology improves. These include space tugs; space tourism; satellite refueling; debris removal; debris exploitation; manufacturing in orbit; real-time video from space; space mining; etc."
Of course, as outlined in the September 11th, 2016 post, "Ukranian Based Yuzhnoye Design Office Eyeing a Canadian Spaceport for its Cyclone-4 Rocket," what the Ukrainians really need isn't a good location or strong manufacturing.

What they really need is money (and lots of it) to help fund their ongoing development and build out the final product. Any suggestions that Ukrainian rockets are capable of flying now, with only a little bit of "integration" to fit together existing parts is obviously in error, given the facts of the situation.

But the first country willing to provide money, lots and lots of money, will get a spaceport, eventually.

For better or for worse.
    Chuck Black.

    Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    The Economist Assesses the Space Industry

              by Allison Rae Hannigan

    It felt like the conference was spread over two days, as so much content was packed into the one day at the “Space Summit: A New Space Age,” event presented by The Economist Events, which came to The Museum of Flight in Seattle on November 9th, 2017.

    Waiting for A New Space Age at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on the morning of November 9th. Photo c/o Allison Rae Hannigan.

    A mix of inspirational, and entertaining, presentations with thoughtful discussions of pertinent issues to the current state of the space industry was offered for the well over 200 participants to enjoy.

    Big Name” headliners included Lori Garver (the former deputy administrator to NASA), Steve Jurvetson (an American businessman, venture capitalist and former partner at venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson), planetary scientist Carolyn Porco and Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist, physicist and DST Global founder Yuri Milner.

    A variety of formats was used to keep participants engaged, which was a refreshing change of pace from more typical conferences.

    Here are some highlights from the sessions, fireside chats, and “big bang disrupters” presentations and discussions.

    Putting the Space Back into the Space Industry

    Inspirational and informative talks were sprinkled in that served to remind everyone about the true wonder of the actual place beyond Earth’s atmosphere called space, as opposed to the economic sphere of activity usually referred to as the ‘space industry.’ 
    Famed planetary scientist, Carolyn Porco, who was imaging lead for the recently-completed Cassini Mission, gave a talk on that mission and some of its discoveries. She gifted the audience with beautiful pictures of Saturn and spoke about the moons Enceladus and Titan, and possible future missions there. 
    She recalled her connection to Carl Sagan, and his “Pale Blue Dot” moment from the Voyager mission, when we could see Earth from space from the far reaches of the solar system for the first time. 
    As outlined in the July 22nd, 2013 post, "NASA Releases Images of Earth Taken By Distant Spacecraft," the Cassini mission had a similar effect with its, “interplanetary salute” moment, when Earthlings were told to smile for the camera in July 2013. 
    Earth as viewed through Saturn's rings. Photo c/o Graham Looney on Twitter.
    A ‘fireside chat” followed her talk, with one of the two moderators, Oliver Morton, the briefings editor at The Economist. Another “chat” was held later in the day between George Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic and Tom Standage, the deputy editor of The Economist
    An inspirational talk and discussion was delivered by Susmita Mohanty, co-founder and chief executive of Earth2Orbit. She is a serial entrepreneur, who spoke of future space activities by private entrepreneurs. She shared her experiences to date, and also highlighted recent advancements in India’s space program. 
    Challenging the audience to think of space activities in an inclusive way, she does not accept the commonly-used term "space colony" for historical reasons, and a new term needs to be imagined. 
    Turning her vision to the future, Susmita said she will begin work on climate change research, and will eventually launch an earth observation constellation of satellites. 

    Susmita Mohanty, co-founder and chief executive of Earth2Orbit in Seattle on November 9th, 2017. Photo c/o WaSpaceGrant.

    No Business Like the Space Business

    In a more familiar format, the morning started with a panel discussion about tools and vision for the next “great leap.” NASA’s Voyager mission was used as a benchmark for standards of technology over time, looking back at how it was so very “primitive” 40 years ago, and comparing it with today’s technology, as well as to what the future holds.

    Tom Bradicich, the head of IoT and intelligent edge systems at the event’s sponsor, HPE, made the case for using new technology in distant space to decrease latency in communications and control, for example on future Mars missions.

    Project Extreme Edge is building technologies that are faster than fixed technologies, but they also are re-configurable on the fly,” he said, introducing the audience to his company’s newest space effort, putting a supercomputer, the HPE Apollo System (also known as the Spaceborne Computer) on the International Space Station (ISS).

    The concept is to use ordinary open standard technology, wrapped around with intellectual property and invention for added value. The innovation is with what he called the “software hardening.” Using predictive analysis and looking at problems such as memory leaks, resources being used in an exhaustive way, or even failing, the system is able to program around these issues and will have redundancy built into the software.

    As outlined in the November 9th, 2017 HPE Newsroom post, "Our Next Frontier: Taking HPE Technology to the ‘Extreme Edge’" the software hardening is configured to “manage real time throttling of the computer systems based on current conditions and can mitigate environmentally induced errors.”
    Jim Bell, the president of the board of directors of the Planetary Society, and Robyn Gates, the deputy director of the ISS at NASA were also on the same panel, titled, “A Space Odyssey: The Tools and The Vision Powering Man’s[sic] Next Great Leap.” Tom Standage, the deputy editor of The Economist moderated. 
    Another “space business” panel, “Down to Earth: The Global Economic Impact of Space,” featured Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA and current general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). In addition, Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, as well as Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation and Dario Zamarian, the group president of Space Systems Loral (SSL) participated under the guidance of moderator Tom Standage.
    The purpose of this session was to examine the space economy and whether some of Earth’s greatest challenges can be solved by space-based technologies; while also looking at future business opportunities for entrepreneurs. 
    One main track of the discussion about the role of public funds in space technology development was led by Garver, who explained at length the analogies between civil aviation and space. In the economy that relies upon drone technology, the government role at this point is limited to staying as far out of the way as possible, and not ‘over-regulating it.’  
    Speaking of space, she said, “I just really think that fundamentally we need to shift how we invest our public dollars in these areas.” She basically advocated government spending less on big missions and more on enabling technologies so that the private sector can play a more commercial role. 
    Dirk Hoke, Lori Garver and Brian Weeden. Photo c/o Allison Rae Hannigan.
    Carissa Bryce Christensen, the founder and CEO of Bryce Space and Technology, Peter Platzer the CEO of Spire Global, Chad Anderson, the CEO of the Space Angels Network and Pete Roney, the chief innovations officer at Thales USA were guided by Oliver Morton in a lively conversation during the business session about remote sensing called, “The Data Race.” The panel of experts and entrepreneurs all came to similar conclusions about the huge economic opportunities for extracting answers from all the imagery currently being collected.
    It’s big, getting bigger, and innovation is making the future come along faster than anyone can realize. The environmental benefits are also plain to see, as Earth’s resources are being monitored and managed more every day.
    Anderson cited the year 2009 as the “Dawn of the Entrepreneurial Space Age,” which is basically when SpaceX started operating commercially. His Space Angels fund has issued a new space investment report (the Space Angels Investment Quarterly Q3 2017) that makes this claim, and shows the rise of equity investment in the sector.
    With billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos putting their own funds into developing space transportation systems, the certainty in future markets gains legitimacy, and follow-on investment is happening in new systems, especially the Big Data remote sensing constellations. 
    As outlined in the October 31st, 2017 Ars Technica post, "New report: Entrepreneurial space age began in 2009," SpaceX launched its first commercial payload in July 2009, a date which marked the "a key inflection point between the "governmental" space age and the "entrepreneurial" space age." Graphic c/o Space Angels Investment Quarterly Q3 2017.

    Teach them well and let them lead the way” – Whitney Houston

    In a session designed to showcase the industry’s future leaders, but more likely succeeding in helping much of the audience feel old, three MIT Media Lab experts presented, “Our way to the stars: astropreneurships and space hacking.” 
    Barret Schlegelmilch and Steven Link, co-presidents of the MIT Astropreneurship and Space Industry Club and Ariel Ekblaw, Founder and lead, MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative, each presented about their initiatives for self-assembling in-orbit architecture, bioengineering genomes for space and blockchain-mediated satellite telecommunications as they look to democratize access to space exploration technology with the help of source materials from the MIT Media Labs.

    Scaring the (Expletive) Out of Us!

    Space junk: clean-up time” painted a grim picture not only of human impact on the orbital environment, but also the geo-political risks we face here on Earth as potentially threatening space assets. The United States’ Air Force Space Command is tracking around 22,000 pieces of man-made space debris, mostly bigger than 10 cm across, and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands more smaller fragments. 
    Twitter was also active in Seattle on November 9th. Image c/o @TheAerospaceCorp
    Nobu Okada, Founder and chief executive, Astroscale, Jamie Morin, Executive director, Center for Space Policy and Strategy, and vice president, The Aerospace Corporation, and Saadia Pekkanen, Associate director, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington each gave their perspective on the situation.

    Always Leave Them Laughing / Wanting More

    Although the final session, a “spotlight interview,” with Yuri Milner, the founder of  DST Global, finished the day, the lasting impression will be the quite lively and downright funny “Three Way Debate” between Naveen Jain, the founder and chairman of Moon Express, Chris Lewicki, the president and CEO of Planetary Resources, and John Logsdon, the founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute
    Elon Musk has joked that he wants to die on Mars, “Just not on impact,” and the debate premise asks what will he see from his deathbed 100 years from now? Habitation on the Moon, Mars/Asteroids, or neither? 
    Speaking on behalf of the Moon, Jain made the feistiest jokes and boldest statements, often peppering his claims with profanity which created an even larger impact on the audience. “Who the Hell wants to live on an asteroid?”  
    Lewicki presented his case with the calm, cool and snark precision of a planetary scientist and engineer, arguing that we will find many more riches in asteroids than those spread very thinly on the Moon. 
    As for Logsdon, well, despite his personal desire to see all of these scenarios succeed, he is convinced that humanity will not succeed at any of them. 
    He argued that we’ve had since Apollo to make the case to the public to fund future space exploration, and have failed to secure the support needed.
    Fortunately, most of the rest of the people attending the conference were much more enthusiastic.

    Perhaps we were simply more focused around the entrepreneurs and private sector rather than concerned over public funding for government programs, while Logston's focus was on the governments and the public policy decisions which define their role.

    But as outlined in the November 9th, 2017 Geekwire post, "‘New Space Age’ gathering sets the stage for commercial spaceflight’s big year," this year is supposed to be a big one for the private sector. That's where the energy and the ambition is currently concentrated.

    Welcome to the future.
    Allison Rae Hannigan.

    Allison Rae Hannigan is an impassioned space industry professional focused on development opportunities, marketing, and business related to microgravity and earth observation sectors. 

    She is also a free-lance consultant who has created marketing communications campaigns, as well as provided market research, and regulatory expertise to the international space community.

    Monday, November 13, 2017

    On the Eve of Fusion Power

              By Brian Orlotti

    Curiosity and politics enable science, but sometimes the science is so obviously useful by itself that commercial interests step in to expedite the commercialization process.

    An example would be LPP Fusion (LPP), a private New Jersey-based firm, which has begun another round of crowdfunding for its alternative fusion reactor technology.

    Building on the success of a previous crowdfunding effort, the company has built a device that has achieved several key milestones. LPP is now seeking more funds to refine and commercialize its technology.

    The company, incorporated in 2003 and led by US plasma physicist Eric Lerner, was an outgrowth of alternative fusion experiments performed in collaboration with the University of Illinois in 1994 and Texas A&M University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2001.

    In May 2014, after years of steady progress, LPP launched a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo supported by a global blitz on social media, print media and television interviews. The effort was a great success, with LPP raising over $180,000 USD ($230K CDN).

    The 2014 Indigogo funding campaign for the LPP "Focus Fusion" technology peaked out at 90% of its stated goal, but fundraising continues. As outlined in the November 10th, 2017 Next Big Future post, "LPP Fusion raising $1 million via equity crowdfunding," the current goals are more ambitious. Screenshot c/o Indigogo/ LPP Fusion.

    The traditional approach to developing nuclear fusion is centered around the idea of containing super-hot gas (called plasma) and stabilizing it, which is both technically challenging and expensive.

    LPP instead utilizes a technique called  "focus fusion" in which a plasma's instabilities are harnessed in order to concentrate the plasma within a very small area.

    Focus fusion is done via a device called a Dense Plasma Focus (DPF). The DPF consists of a thick, hollow central anode surrounded by a ring of cathodes that are about the size and shape of candles.

    Using electromagnetic acceleration and compression, the device produces a short-lived plasma that is hot and dense enough to cause nuclear fusion and the emission of X-rays and neutrons.

    Earlier this year, LPP claimed to have set a world record temperature for fusion plasma of over 2 billion degrees kelvin. LPP’s paper documenting this claim is currently under peer review, having been submitted to the peer reviewed journal Physics of Plasmas.

    LPP shares its research results with both investors and the public. The company has also formed a network of focus fusion researchers in other nations in order to share knowledge and accelerate progress.

    LPP's effort, centered around a small and lean team contrasts with massive government-funded fusion research programs, most notably the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) now under construction in southern France. ITER, a joint effort of seven nations, has been marred by over a decade of delays as well as doubts over its long-term economic viability.

    ITER's cost is expected to exceed the $13.7Bln USD mark and won't begin operations until at least 2027.

    LPP Fusion's current Wefunder campaign at, as of 4pm EST, November 13th, 2017. The purchasing of shares in LPP Fusion is now available to both US and non-US citizens. Graphic c/o Wefunder/ LPP Fusion.

    As for LPP, only time will tell whether it can surpass its previous fundraising success and moves forward to create the promised new source of clean, cheap and ecologically safe energy.

    But such a success would enable the company to finally fulfill fusion power’s earthshaking promise and free humanity from the dirty, blood-soaked cost of fossil fuels.
    Brian Orlotti.

    Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

    Friday, November 10, 2017

    Even its Head Office Now Considers MDA, "a business unit of Maxar Technologies"

              By Henry Stewart

    Suppose you're an iconic Canadian space company with tens and perhaps even hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars worth of annual revenue tied up in ongoing Federal government space and communications contracts which are, at least in part, dependent upon your firm being viewed as a fully Canadian supplier, immune to foreign influence.

    And even your US HQ keeps forgetting to acknowledge your independence. What would you do?

    As outlined in the November 9th, 2017 National Post article, "Canadarm creator to transform into U.S. company, raising concerns of tech heading south of the border," Maxar CEO Howard Lance believes that "Canadians don’t need to worry (over MDA's status) since the country will still retain overall control of the Radarsat-2 surveillance satellite," and he has no plans "to cut jobs in Canada." That's not to say that the US executive wouldn't be able to lay off workers at any of his worldwide subsidiaries or rearrange his business units in any way that his US based board might see fit, if the need arose. Given that, the appropriate customer response should be to cultivate alternative suppliers for critical requirements, just in case. Graphic c/o National Post.

    That's the situation Richmond BC based MDA, a company once known as MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, but re-branded and re-organized into a subsidiary of the larger San Francisco, CA based Maxar Technologies earlier this year, is currently faced with.

    As outlined in the November 8th, 2017 Maxar Technologies press release, "MDA to provide communication subsystems," MDA is "a business unit of Maxar Technologies."

    November 9th, 2017 MDA online display ad from the SpaceQ website.
    On the other hand, the MDA business unit has just "signed a contract valued at approximately US$9 million for an undisclosed customer," so things aren't all bad.

    MDA will provide two communication subsystems that will increase the time LEO satellites are in communication with the ground and improve the amount of data that could be transferred, according to the press release.

    However, in order to keep the Canadian orders flowing and combat the perception that the company is no longer Canadian, MDA has embarked on a marketing campaign touting its Canadian origins and independence.

    The campaign includes various sponsorships in a variety of space focused conferences, including the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) 2017 Canadian Space Policy Summit, which was held in Ottawa on November 9th, 2017.

    MDA has also purchased display ads in the Ottawa, ON based Hill Times and other publications.

    Of course, the marketing campaign will do little more than postpone the inevitable. MDA will likely begin to bleed Canadian market share as the Justin Trudeau Liberal government moves to diversify its supplier base.

    If the Feds don't do this, the Federal Conservative party will begin asking uncomfortable questions in Parliament and the issue will divide up along party lines. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just business.

    Potential hungry MDA competitors include Toulouse, France based Airbus (bolstered by its new partnership with Montreal PQ based Bombardier and its influential Quebec voting base), Carlsbad, CA based Viasat (just itching to sell new communications capabilities to the Canadian military) and even Vancouver BC based Urthecast (the only Canadian company on this list, but one chock full of ex-MDA employees so there might be some synergies).

    Stand by. There's a great deal of money at stake.

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

    Thursday, November 09, 2017

    Commercial Space and Rocket Port Shenanigans

              By Chuck Black

    There's weird stuff going on behind the November 9th, 2017 announcement from Steve Matier, the CEO of Halifax, NS based based Maritime Launch Services (MLS), that his firm is targeting a May 1st, 2018 start date to begin construction on Canada’s first commercial spaceport.

    The pitch and the people, including a new one. Since the last time this blog checked, as part the November 7th, 2017 post, "The Ukraine State Space Agency & Aerospace Industry Needs All the Help It Can Get," MLS has added director Joseph Hasay (second from left) to it's roster. According to his Linked-In profile, Hasay is President/CEO at Santa Maria, CA based United Paradyne Corporation, which provides operations and engineering support for the space launch industry. Others listed include CEO Matier (who currently lives in New Mexico and acts as an independent consultant), CTO Dave Walsh (the VP and chief technical officer at United Paradyne), program manager Alona Andriienko and VP of strategic development Yaroslav Pustivyi who, at least until noon today, was listed on the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) website at their "director and acting chair of the board." Graphic c/o MLS

    According to Matier, the space port will be funded through private financing (with "secured commitments" of nearly $400Mln CDN  and with "series A," financing currently in "final closing," whatever that might mean), but with "no funding coming either from the Canadian or Ukrainian governments."

    This information was passed along via the November 9th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Maritime Launch Services Targets May 1 to Begin Construction at Nova Scotia Spaceport," but has not been corroborated through any other source this blog has been able to access.

    Forgive us if we're missing something, but if true, this makes the project very, very unusual and quite confusing.

    November 9th, 2017 screenshot of the SpaceQ website showing comments from MLS CEO Steve Mattier reflecting his statements that the MLS proposal to set up a commercial space port in Canso, NS is a "commercial project with no funding coming from either the Canadian or Ukrainian government." As for the MDA promotional ad on the SpaceQ site, you'll need to check out the November 10, 2017 post, "Even its Head Office Now Considers MDA, 'a business unit of Maxar Technologies'." Graphic c/o SpaceQ

    For example, Spaceport America, generally considered to be"the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport" is funded much like most other commercial airports and space launch facilities as a public private partnership (P3), in order to spread out risk and insure the participation of the appropriate legislators, who tend to have a lot of laws relating to this sort of thing.

    The investors look to government as guarantors to confirm that the law will not stand in the way of the project and the government looks to the private sector to drive the project forward and insure funding.

    MLS and their proposed Canso, NS rocket launch facility isn't a P3, at least according to the announcement. Here's what we know so far.

    There is evidence, even within the SpaceQ website that MLS is absolutely hoping to line up government partnerships. The November 4th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Canada and Ukraine Sign Space Agreement to Cooperate on Space Activities," has made clear both the connections MLS currently enjoys with the Ukrainian government and the connections it hopes to develop in the near future with the Canadian government.

    Oddly enough, SpaceQ has backtracked on this story.

    A retraction, plus a clear statement of bias. From the November 9th, 2017 Short Cuts from SpaceQ post. 

    As outlined in the November 9th, 2017 More Commercial Space News post, "Glad to see SpaceQ set record strait on erroneous Canada/ Ukrainian space story," SpaceQ admitted that Canada and the Ukraine did not sign a "comprehensive memorandum (MOU) of understanding."

    Instead SpaceQ said that, while "discussions leading up to the signing of the MOU were comprehensive," the agreement itself was not. The SpaceQ post then went on to say:
    While the CSA did not think it warranted a press release or informing the public though social media of the agreement, SpaceQ feels that was a mistake. As a government agency it has a responsibility in being transparent and providing the public with information pertaining to agreements it signs. After all, it is the public that funds the agency through their tax dollars. The CSA works for each and every one of us.
    As outlined in the November 6th, 2017 post, "The Ukraine State Space Agency & Aerospace Industry Needs All the Help It Can Get," MLS CEO Matier was invited to a signing ceremony between the Ukrainian and Canadian governments by the Ukrainian government at the Canadian-Ukrainian aerospace forum in Montreal, PQ last week.

    There is certainly nothing wrong with that. It's pretending that government participation hasn't been solicited and isn't required which is the problem.

    It's amazing what can happen over lunch. As shown above, the CSCA website as recently as the morning of November  9th, 2017 included both MLS VP Pustivyi and Marc Boucher, the editor/ owner of (which has acted in the past as a strong advocate for the MLS proposal), as part of their "Mission Team." But by the afternoon on November 9th, both names had been removed, replaced by new set of directors. These included Alec Wenzowski (previously listed as the CSCA VP of development and partnerships), Randal Lilko (no bio, but likely Randall Lilko,  an engineer with Honeywell Aerospace in Toronto, ON who spells his name with two "L's"), Tasha De Freitas (also with no bio, but likely a senior associate focused on intellectual property at the Tory's law firm in Toronto, ON) and "Stuart Crane," who could very well be the person previously known as "Baron Stewart Crane of Cluny." Screenshot c/o CSCA website

    And here's where it gets really weird.

    When the November 9th, 2017 More Commercial Space News post, "Glad to see SpaceQ set record strait on erroneous Canada/ Ukrainian space story," suggested that now would be a good time to come clean on the connections between SpaceQ, MLS and the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), an advocacy group pushing for more space engagement for the Canadian government, this blog received the most peculiar e-mail from SpaceQ editor Marc Boucher.

    As stated in his first November 9th, 2017 e-mail correspondence to this blog, "FYI. The CSCA has yet to update their website since the last AGM but Yarko (MLS VP and CSCA director and acting chair Pustivyi, has) resigned. They have a new board."

    When asked a follow-up question on the composition of the new board, Boucher said, "Ask them. Also, I had resigned as an advisor. The CSCA website does not reflect that."

    The new CSCA board of directors as per the CSCA website at 6pm EST on November 9th, 2017. A quick search through the CSCA media release page shows no explanation for the changing board composition when compared to the day before. Graphic c/o CSCA website.

    Inquiries to CSCA executive director Michelle Mendes and others have so far met with no response but this blog was prudent enough to record what the CSCA site looked like previous to today.

    As outlined in the November 2nd, 2017 post, "Media Refused Entrance to Thursday's CSCA Meeting at Denton's Law Firm," the CSCA has certainly not been forthcoming about its activities lately.

    That's not to say that any of the above information and list of activities make a whole lot of sense as it stands.

    To see where does this story goes, you'll have to stay tuned.
      Chuck Black.

      Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

      Tuesday, November 07, 2017

      Another High Level Canadian Space Expert Relocates to the US

                By Henry Stewart

      Alain Berinstain. Photo c/o Moon Express.
      Another high level Canadian space policy and science expert will relocate south after having been offered a better job in a US based space company being run by another Canadian ex-patriot.

      As outlined in the November 3rd, 2017 Moon Express press release, "Moon Express Welcomes Dr. Alain Berinstain, former Director of Planetary Exploration for the Canadian Space Agency, as Vice President of Global Development," ex-Canadian Space Agency (CSA) director general for space exploration, Dr. Alain Berinstain "will oversee the international growth of Moon Express business interests and lead engagements with global space agencies on science and exploration initiatives."

      Berinstain brings to his new role over seventeen years of experience working for the CSA, including stints as director of planetary exploration and space astronomy, and director of science & academic development. He was laid off in 2013 as part of a Federal government purge of CSA scientists under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

      At one time almost considered to be a protege of ex-astronaut, ex-CSA president and current Liberal transport minister Marc Garneau, Berinstain even made a failed attempt to run for Federal public office under the Liberal banner.

      Later on, he seemed by some to be disappointed when the Federal Liberals wrestled power from the Conservatives in the October 2015 Federal election, but Garneau wasn't offered the industry (now innovation) portfolio which oversees the CSA.

      As outlined in the March 13th, 2016 post, "Waiting for Garneau," Berinstain wasn't the only person who felt disappointed. Garneau instead took up the transport portfolio where Berinstain joined him as director of policy in December 2015.

      As for his new job, Cape Canaveral, FL based Moon Express, was formed in August 2010 by Canadian-born space entrepreneur Robert D. Richards, former ex-InfoSpace CEO Naveen Jain and American entrepreneur, angel investor and computer scientist Barney Pell, to win the Google Lunar X Prize, and mine the Moon for natural resources of economic value.

      For more on Moon Express, check out the June 5th, 2017 post, "Only Seven Years after Bob Richards Left Canada, His Rover is Going to the Moon."

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

      Monday, November 06, 2017

      The Ukraine State Space Agency & Aerospace Industry Needs All the Help It Can Get

                By Chuck Black

      The signing of a "comprehensive" memo of understanding (MOU) for co-operation in space between the Ukrainian and Canadian governments at the Canadian-Ukrainian aerospace forum in Montreal, PQ last week, is only the latest twist in a longer story of the Ukrainian economy attempting to find new customers and suppliers to replace those lost as a result of the 2013 Ukrainian crisis.

      Ukrainian based and government owned Yuzhmash is the prime manufacturer for most Ukrainian designed and built rockets, including the Cyclone-4M rocket designed by the Ukrainian based Yuzhnoye Design Office which is currently being pitched by Nova Scotia based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) for use in their proposed Canso, Nova Scotia.launch facility, and has certainly seen better days. As outlined in the March 3rd, 2015 Space Pod post, "Is the Ukrainian Space Industry on the Verge of Collapse?," the cause was the 2013 Ukrainian crisis, an unofficial war between the Ukraine and Russia, which began on November 21st, 2013 when then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych suspended preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union (EU). The crisis escalated as Russian annexed the Ukrainian governed Autonomous Republic of Crimea after the controversial 2014 Crimean status referendum, and the two governments have been going at it ever since. As outlined in the video, the Ukraine relied on Russian parts for the their Zenit (operated through Sea Launch), Sea Launch (purchased in October 2016 by Russian based S7 Group, the owner of S7 Airlines), Land Launch (a service project of the Sea Launch program), Rokot (currently operational as a Russian launch system) and Dniper (still operational) rockets. Yuzhomash was also involved with the orbital ATK Antares launcher, the Brazil Cyclone 4 rocket program (cancelled by the Brazilian government as outlined in the April 16th, 2015 Space News post, "Brazil Pulling Out of Ukrainian Launcher Project" but used as the basis for the MLS Canadian proposal) and the forth stage of the European Space Agency (ESA) Vega rocket. For a more recent view of the Ukrainian space industry, it's also worth taking a look at the  June 7th, 2016 Space News post, "How Crimea fractured Ukraine’s space program" and the August 18th, 2017 Reuters post, "Ukraine plant sucked into North Korea missile row has fallen on hard times." Screen shots c/o Space Pod.

      But it's also a reminder that the Ukrainian aerospace and space industry needs Canada far more than Canada needs the Ukrainians.

      First of all, the Ukrainian delegation, as represented by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) chairman Pavlo Degtiarenko suggested a certain overkill among the Ukrainian delegation to come to some kind of agreement, at least when compared to the far more junior Canadian government delegation, as represented by Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine Roman Waschuck and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Sylvain Laporte.

      As outlined in the November 4th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Canada and Ukraine Sign Space Agreement to Cooperate on Space Activities," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not in attendance to serve as a counterweight to the Ukrainian PM or to provide a baseline for the level of co-operation the two countries will likely engage in.

      And the Ukrainian/ Canadian agreement didn't attract a lot of media coverage in Canada, except for the SpaceQ post. For its part, the Canadian delegation was well served to focus on the agreements mechanism for future interactions while downplaying any specifics which they might or might not have had the authority to approve.  

      However, the Ukrainian government issued a series of press released promoting the partnership through Ukrinform, the national state information and news agency of the Ukraine. The November 2nd, 2017 Ukrinform press release, "Ukraine, Canada to explore space," even quoted Grovsman as stating that, "we are a space state possessing technologies and everything necessary for the implementation of successful projects in this area, and we want to act as reliable partners. I am deeply convinced that in our cooperation we will achieve joint success."

      But the November 6th, 2017 Ukrinform press release, "Canada should be involved in production of Ukrainian aircraft – ambassador," quoted Ukrainian ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko as stating that the Ukrainian based state owned Antonov State Company, which is currently building An-132 aircraft in the Ukraine using Pratt & Whitney Canada built PW150 turboprop engines, will be the most likely to benefit from any agreements made between Canada and the Ukraine.

      MLS management team as of November 6th, 2017. Graphic c/o MLS.
      Perhaps not surprisingly given the strong push for space cooperation from the Ukrainian team, Maritime Launch Services (MLS) CEO Steve Matier was invited to attend the Canadian-Ukrainian aerospace forum in Montreal, "by way of an invitation from the Ukrainian delegation," according to the SpaceQ post.

      MLS has been lobbying multiple levels of government to build a spaceport in Nova Scotia to launch payloads to orbit using a Ukrainian built Cyclone 4M launch vehicle.

      As outlined in the September 8th, 2017 post, "CATA Rage, Liberal Strategy, Space Advisory Board Tactics & Yuzhnoye Can't Manufacture Some Cyclone 4M Parts," MLS rocket supplier Yuzhnoye has been having a difficult time sourcing and reproducing Russian built parts for their rockets, although more recent reports (such as the November 3rd, 2017 More Space News post, "Ukraine resumes testing of the RD-861K engine") indicate that testing continues on the Cyclone 4M

      It's also worth noting that the newest member of the MLS executive team, current Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) director & acting chair of the board Yaroslav “Yarko” Pustovyi was once selected by Ukraine to be a member its first astronaut group.

      Not that there's anything wrong with that. As outlined in the November 2nd, 2017, "Media Refused Entrance to Thursday's CSCA Meeting at Denton's Law Firm," the CSCA has indicated that it will not look kindly on bad publicity generated through this blog.

      And while there is certainly nothing wrong with working out a deal between the Canadian and Ukrainian space and aerospace industries to encourage cooperation, the implied suggestion that the devastated Ukrainian aerospace industry will serve as a panacea for it's struggling Canadian equivalent is currently not supported by any available evidence.

      The Ukrainians need Canada far more than Canada needs the Ukraine. 
        Chuck Black.

        Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

        Friday, November 03, 2017

        Telesat Reviewing US Proposal for C-band Satellite Spectrum Use

                  By Henry Stewart

        Ottawa, ON based Telesat is reviewing a plan first proposed last month to the US Federal Aviation Commission (FCC) by Virginia based satellite provider Intelsat and Santa Clara, CA based  semiconductor manufacturing company Intel, which would allow terrestrial 5G networks use C-band satellite spectrum in the United States.

        Telesat CEO Goldberg. As outlined in the November 2nd, 2017 Telesat press release, "Telesat Reports Results for the Quarter Ended September 30, 2017," the company reported consolidated revenues of $214 million, a decline of 4% ($10 million) from the same period in 2016. Photo c/o SpaceNews/Kate Patterson.

        As outlined in the November 2nd, 2017 Space News post, "Telesat undecided on Intelsat, Intel C-band proposal," Telesat is one "of a handful of satellite operators with meaningful C-band capacity over the US, having less than Intelsat and SES, but more than Eutelsat." 

        The article quoted Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s president and CEO, who said his firm is well aware that the FCC “is looking hard at candidate frequency bands to accommodate more terrestrial wireless growth, particularly for 5G,” and that C-band from 3.7 to 4.2 GHz is a popular candidate. C-band stretches from 3.4 to 4.2 GHz, but in the U.S., 3.7 to 4.2 is allocated to satellite operators and predominantly used for television broadcasts."

        According to Goldberg, Telesat has yet to make a decision for or against the proposal.

        Satellite overcapacity and the effects of newer technology, especially proposals for large constellations of low cost, low and medium Earth orbit communications satellites have disrupted the legacy players in the satellite industry. Satellite providers have struggled to adapt to the changes using a variety of technological, business and legal methods.

        Last month, as outlined in the October 3rd, 2017 Space News post, "Intelsat, with Intel, proposes way for 5G to use satellite’s C-band spectrum," Intelsat and Intel made a proposal to "allow incumbent satellite operators to collaborate with terrestrial networks on ways to clear swaths of C-band from 3,700 to 4,200 MHz based on 5G needs and the presence of existing fixed satellite service (FSS) systems. Satellite operators would retain ownership of the spectrum, and auction the right for joint use of frequencies with terrestrial companies in cleared areas."

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

        Thursday, November 02, 2017

        Media Refused Entrance to Thursday's CSCA Meeting at Denton's Law Firm

                  By Chuck Black

        A small not-for-profit space focused group with more than its fair share of influence on the August 2017 Space Advisory Board (SAB) report, "Consultations on Canada’s future in space: What we heard," has refused entry to this media organization for an event focused around proposed updates to the Federal Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA).

        E-mail ad for the November 2nd, 2017 CSCA monthly meeting. It's worth noting that CSCA executive director Michelle Mendez is also a member of the SAB. Graphic c/o CSCA.

        We will acknowledge that lobby groups often hold private meetings to assess legislation and share information. That's just part of the way things work when you're trying to influence Ottawa. Everyone has their secrets.

        But this meeting was a little different. CSCA doesn't pitch itself as a lobby group but instead defines itself on the CSCA webpage as "Canada’s national association for the space sector, representing industry, academia, professionals, young entrepreneurs and students." It's kinda hard to represent all those people when you don't want the media to report on what was said.

        And here's where the problem lies.

        The meeting is advertised as featuring Kelly Anderson, the deputy director of policy and regulatory affairs at Global Affairs Canada, a Federal government department in the larger Foreign Affairs ministry. It promised "clarifications and consultation" into proposed changes to the RSSSA.

        It's essentially a Federal government sanctioned meeting being hosted at one of the nation's largest law firms. Discussions on legislation, in order to build consensus and validate the underlying assumptions, should be open to public debate and media coverage is both important and appropriate.

        Terse, and rather disappointing since this blog doesn't often get refused admission to industry events. In the last eight years, we've covered the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) the Canadian Space Agency (CSA),  the Canadian Space Society (CSS), the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC), The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) and most every other public and private organization listed on our Industry Page. Until 2012 we even covered CSCA events since, at the time editor Chuck Black and author Brian Orlotti were both active on the CSCA. As for next week, this blog will be covering the 2017 "A New Space Age," event, which is being organized by the Economist Magazine in Seattle, WA on November 9th. Graphic c/o author.

        This publication has requested clarifications on the changes to legislation from the office of Chrystia Freedland, the minister of Foreign Affairs, the Federal government department which includes Global Affairs Canada. With luck, we should be able to provide an independent assessment of the changes in the RSSSA over the next week or so.

        With respect to event admission, we queried several senior partners at Dentons Law LLP, where the event was held, but none would respond on the record.

        CSCA executives were also queried and CSCA director, Baron Stuart Crane of Cluny, responded as follows:
        Thank you for your email of today’s date. 
        The CSCA reserves the right to refuse entry to its events. The Board exercised its discretion in denying you entry to today’s event on the Consultation and Clarification of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA). 
        The Board is not required to provide an explanation for its decision, and accordingly, will not be responding to your request of this morning for the reason you were not permitted entry to the event.  
        We acknowledge your involvement in the space commerce sector and respect your right to report on the industry.
        We note, however, that in the event that there are unfounded or inaccurate statements that are published, and which are damaging to CSCA, the Board may be forced to take action against you for damages and defamation. 
        Govern yourself accordingly.
        Certainly we don't want to publish "unfounded" or "inaccurate" statements on this, or on any other topic. However, we will also continue to update this story as new information becomes available.
          Chuck Black.

          Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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