Monday, May 21, 2018

The First Chinese "Private Space Company" Has Launched its First Suborbital Rocket

          By Brian Orlotti

Beijing-based OneSpace Technologies has launched a suborbital rocket from northwestern China, becoming the first private Chinese space firm to do so. While OneSpace’s claims to being a private firm are debatable, they are the vanguard of a slew of new Chinese space firms eager to stake their claim to the opening space market.


As outlined in the May 17th, 2018 Reuters post, "China launches first rocket designed by a private company," the rocket, dubbed the “Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” reached a reported altitude of 25 miles and travelled about 170 miles before falling back to Earth.

It is powered by a solid fuel engine developed by OneSpace and its control systems are customizable to users’ needs, the company’s chairman, Ma Chao, told Chinese state news agency Xinhua. The craft, also known as the OS-XO, can place a 100 kg payload into an 800 km Earth orbit.

According to the May 17th, 2018 Xinhua post, "China launches rocket developed by private company," the rocket is energy-efficient by using wireless rather than wired networking to link onboard systems, cutting weight and thus lowering fuel costs by about 30%.

The launch is the first step towards the company’s goal of a scalable business focused on launching small satellites into orbit. OneSpace is aiming for 10 satellite launches in 2019, company founder Shu Chang told the official newspaper China Daily.  “I hope we can become one of the biggest small-satellite launchers in the world,” Shu said.


In a May 17th, 2018 CNN interview under the title, "OneSpace launches China's first private rocket," Shu compared his company to Hawthorne, CA based rocket pioneer SpaceX. Other media outlets have drawn the same comparison, but a fairer comment would be that OneSpace (like SpaceX) inhabits the grey area between private and government-run.

According to CNN, Shu Chang is a former employee of a “state-owned aerospace company.”

OneSpace, as outlined in the May 17th, 2018 Quartz post, "A Chinese firm says it launched the country’s first privately built rocket," was reportedly founded with money from the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, and this particular flight was financed by China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation.

The rocket’s very name, “Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” is a nod to the state-run Chongqing Liangjiang Aviation Industry Investment Group, which OneSpace is partnering with to build a research and manufacturing base that will become part of the Chinese government’s massive Belt and Road initiative.


OneSpace’s rocket, in its current form, has marked disadvantages over SpaceX’s Falcon rockets. It stands at just 30 feet tall and can only carry a 220 pound payload, far below the 230 ft tall and 50,000 pound capacity of the Falcon 9.

OneSpace also uses a solid-fuel engine, which, though generally more stable and simple to build, prevents reuse of the rocket---unlike SpaceX craft.

It is important to note, however, that similar criticisms were hurled at SpaceX in its early years, yet the company was able to overcome the naysayers. Shu Chang has stated that OneSpace will eventually build larger rockets with greater payload capacity and intends to serve both commercial and govt customers, like SpaceX.

However, OneSpace faces significant hurdles in building an international clientele, particularly in the US.

Existing US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), as well as the US Congress’ prohibitions on NASA and other government entities from cooperating with China currently lock OneSpace out of the lucrative US market. Yet OneSpace may be able to build up a sizeable customer base in Asia, Europe and elsewhere in addition to government contract work.

Murky though its origins may be, OneSpace’s entry into the commercial spaceflight industry is no bad thing. Keeping competitors on each other’s toes is a spur that drives progress forward.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

EU "Freezes" Britain out of Galileo SatNav System; RAF Promises New "British" SatNav & Space Defence Policy

          By Henry Stewart

In the latest example of how politics influences the activities of the space industry, the United Kingdom (UK) has learned that, after contributing £1.2Bln ($2.06Bln CDN) of the estimated £8.5Bln ($14.6Bln CDN) total cost towards the building of the European Union (EU) Galileo navigation satellite system (GNSS) UK scientists will not be allowed to remain involved with the program.


As outlined in the May 21st, 2018 Express post, "RAF to launch NASA-style space agency after EU freezes Britain out of Galileo project," the non-elected governing body of the European Union (EU), known as the European Commission (EC), has said that continued UK participation in the Galileo program would “no longer be appropriate” after the expected exit of the UK from the EU (known as 'Brexit"), currently scheduled for midnight on March 30th, 2019 Central European Time.

In response, UK Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has tasked the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) with assessing "the military requirements for a UK global navigation system," and developing partnerships "with other close allies such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US" interested in contributing to a UK based satellite navigation project.

UK Defence Secretary Williamson. Photo c/o Mirror.
The assessment will become a core component of the first UK Defence Space Strategy, which is expected to be developed over the next few months.

Other UK news services are also reporting on the story.

As outlined in the May 21st, Independent post, "UK plans own space programme after dispute with EU over Galileo project, defence secretary announces," the UK will:
...review its contribution to the EU’s Galileo satellite programme and “plan for alternative systems in this crucial area”, Gavin Williamson has said as he announced the launch of the UK’s first Defence Space Strategy. 
The move follows an increasingly bitter dispute between Whitehall (the centre of the UK government) and Brussels (the EU capital) over the access the UK, the European Union’s biggest spender on defence, will have to the bloc’s satellite navigation project after it leaves the EU.
The article also quoted the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who said last week that British companies could not be directly involved in a new EU satellite navigation system after Brexit, but Britain would have access to its signal.

It cannot be business as usual,” according to Barnier. “Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

The announcement that the UK is planning “alternative systems” suggests that the UK government is resigned to being excluded from Galileo and forfeiting its investment.


The proposed new UK Space Defence Strategy "aims to significantly boost the sector in response to changing threats to the country’s critical infrastructure," according to the May 21st, 2018 Government Europa post, "UK launches first space defence strategy to protect space-based infrastructure."

According to the post:
Under the new strategy, the RAF Air Command will take control and assume responsibility for the UK’s military space operations in the future. These operations are set to increase as the nature of space-based threats changes.
According to UK Secretary of State Williamson, “Britain is a world leader in the space industry and our defence scientists and military personnel have played a central role in the development of the EU’s Galileo satellite programme alongside British companies, so it is important we also review our contribution and how we plan for alternative systems in this crucial area.”

Galileo GNSS is being built through the European Union (EU) by the European Space Agency (ESA). It's advertized as being intended primarily for civilian use, unlike the more military-orientated systems such as the US based Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's  Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) or China's 1st generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and 2nd generation COMPASS system.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is a "cooperating state" of the ESA and participates in a variety of ESA programs and missions including Galileo, as outlined in the October 8th, 2003 Universe Today post, "Canada Joins Galileo System."
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Friday, May 18, 2018

That Massive Political Elephant Crowding Every Room at CASI ASTRO'18

         By Chuck Black

It's worth noting that few (if any) Canadian Federal government space related initiatives can move forward without the active participation of some fairly senior Ottawa based politcal operatives.

An "advocacy funnel," one of many useful, graphic representations available online to help define the mechanisms and actions needed to gain the attention of elected representatives. Graphic c/o The Campaign Workshop.

As outlined most recently in the March 22nd, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?," that political engagement has been missing under the present Justin Trudeau Federal government.

It's not that the appropriate politician won't politely return the phone calls from the appropriate technocrat, bureaucrat or independent advisory board panel member. It's that the politicians continue to promise action next week, not this week, after making similar promises last week and the week before.

In some cases, such as the proposed Canadian contributions to the US Deep Space Gateway (DSG), now known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), political approval may simply be a formality.

After all, the general consensus within government is that the program is the logical follow-on to one of the current core mission of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), which is to administer and co-ordinate Canadian contributions to the International Space Station (ISS).

But sometimes those initial assumptions are simply not congruent with the final political and funding decisions.

As outlined in the both the April 30th, 2018 post, "NASA Resource Prospector Cancellation "Disappointing" Says Deltion Innovations CEO Boucher," and the September 26th, 2016 post, "The REAL Reason Why Canada Won't Be Participating in the NASA Resolve Mission Anytime Soon, Probably!," those disconnects happen often and occur because of political decisions at both the domestic and international level.


Sometimes, the consensus needed to make a political decision may be lacking.

An example of this could be found at the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) ASTRO'18 conference, held this year in Quebec City, PQ from May 15th - 17th, during the Thursday morning presentation on the upcoming "RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) Data Policy."

The presentation focused on the substancial amount of legislation which has grown up around Earth imaging since RADARSAT-2 launched in 2005 and how the existing policy needs to be taken into account before creating a new set of policy decisions to cover the release of the expected flood of upcoming RCM data.

Given that RCM is currently scheduled to launch sometime before the end of 2018, there are reasonable grounds to conclude that the constellation could begin operating and collecting data before any RCM data policy is finalized and appoved at the political level.

The complexity of integrating the existing and proposed new legislation could also be a part of the problem with that new, private sector commercial ground station built by Inuvik, NWT based New North Networks for San Francisco, CA based Planet and Norwegian based Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT). 

As outlined in the March 5th, 2018 post, "That Commercial Ground Station Built by New North Networks in Inuvik Still Can't be Used," and the newer, May 7th, 2018 CTV news post, "'We're quite frustrated:' Red tape threatens growing Arctic space industry," that situation has remained unresolved for two years and will fall apart if not soon dealt with by Ottawa.


Of course, there were at least a few people focused on space policy at CASI ASTRO'18.

These including Federal Space Advisory Board (SAB) head Lucy Stojak, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) executive VP Iain Christie, along with representatives from the McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and others.

But there wasn't any influencial members of parliment in attendance or any explicitely political operatives of the kind that inhabit the darker corridors of the typical AIAC or Canadian Science Policy Centre conference.

And, for the most part, those who did attend focused either on a simple listing of the items needing to be politically addressed (and that's a long list) or on their favoured version of a political end result.

There wasn't a lot of discussion on practical methodologies needed to achieve results or address problems. This is an obvious failure on the part of our domestic space industry.

Until it can come to grips with the specific steps required to move the political ball forward, that massive political elephant already crowding every room at CASI ASTRO'18 will continue to grow larger.

Eventually, it could end up crushing us all.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. During this past week, he attended and participated at CASI ASTRO'18 in Quebec City.

UTIAS Space Flight Lab Team Presented With 2018 Alouette Award at CASI ASTRO'18

         By Chuck Black

The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) has honoured the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) for their highly successful Canadian Advanced Nanospace eXperiment (CanX) nanosatellite precision formation flying mission. 

CanX-4 and CanX-5 at the UTIAS SFL just before being transfered to Sriharikota, India for launch onboard the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) PSLV C23 launch vehicle on June 30th, 2014. As outlined in the July 30th, 2014 UTUAS SFL press release, "CanX-4 & CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission, One Month in Space," the satellites were commissioned quickly after launch and were designed to demonstrate low cost, low mass orbital positioning technologies with.practical application related to sparse aperture sensing, ground target tracking, precise geolocation and on-orbit satellite servicing. Photo c/o UTIAS SFL.

In November 2014, the CanX-4 and CanX-5 dual formation flying mission accomplished a series of automous orbital formations with sub metre control and centimetre level relative position knowlege which allowed the two micrsats to dance around each other in an orbital ballet of unparalleled complexity for a smallsat.

CASI president Dr. Jacques Giroux presented each of the six named mambers of the UTIAS SFL team with the 2018 Alouette Award for outstanding contribution to advancement in Canadian space technology during the gala dinner of the biannual CASI ASTRO'18 conference, held this year in Quebec City, PQ from May 15th - 17th.

The CanX-4/CanX-5 team included: 
  • Dr. Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, the director general, space science and technology at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • Dr. Brad Wallace of Defence R&D Canada
  • Dr. Cameron Ower, the director of engineering and chief technology officer, robotics and automation at Brampton ON based MDA.
  • Doug Sinclair the owner of Sinclair Interplanetary, a supplier of hardware, software, training and expertise to the spacecraft community.
Mission contributions also included control algorithms from Prof. Christopher J. Damaren of UTIAS and navigation algorithms from Profs Susan Skone and Elizabeth Cannon of the University of Calgary.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The First Falcon-9 Block 5 Launch

          By Brian Orlotti

On May 11th, the SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket launched and landed successfully at the Kennedy Space Centre. The launch marks another milestone for the commercial space industry, allowing SpaceX and its customers to greatly up the tempo of launches.


The Falcon 9 Block 5’s first flight was actually delayed by a day, after a technical issue triggered an automatic abort with less than a minute remaining before launch on May 10th. Fortunately, no issues marred the rescheduled launch, allowing the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket to deliver its payload to orbit.

As outlined in the  May 11th, 2018 The Verge post, "With the landing of SpaceX’s powerful new Falcon 9, a new era of rocket reusability takes off," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk admitted to some nervousness:
The reason that it’s so hard to make an orbital rocket work is that your passing grade is 100 percent. And you can’t fully and properly test an orbital rocket until it launches, because you cannot recreate those conditions on Earth… Man, anyway, I’m stressed.
The Block 5’s first payload was Bangabandhu 1, a Bangladeshi communications satellite designed and built by Thales Alenia Space. Bangabandhu 1 is Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite, providing Internet access across the country as well as India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The $248 million USD satellite was financed via a loan from HSBC Holdings plc.


The Falcon 9 Block 5 incorporates upgrades meant to satisfy both NASA Commercial Crew program as well as US military launch requirements. These include:
  • Uprated engines enabling 7-10% more thrust
  • An improved flight control system that lowers landing fuel requirements
  • A reusable heat shield at the rocket’s base to protect the engines and plumbing
  • More temperature-resistant cast and machined titanium grid fins
  • A thermal protection coating on the first stage to limit damage from re-entry heating
  • Redesigned and requalified valves for greater durability
  • A set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping
These various upgrades will make the new Block 5 rockets sturdier and easier to maintain, so that each can be flown up to 10 times before needing refurbishment. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has states that his next goal is to launch the same Falcon booster stage twice within 24 hours. The Falcon 9 Block 5’s leap forward in efficiency will greatly help to cut the cost of space travel, a key enabler for Elon Musk’s ambitious plans to settle Mars.

The success of the Falcon 9 Block 5 is another step towards the bright future envisioned by Musk, Jeff Bezos and others; a vision of millions of humans living and working in space.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mississauga ON Based Macfab Builds Space Industry Connections Throughout the World

         By Chuck Black

It's well known within its industry, but less well known internationally. Mississauga ON based Macfab, a precision component and sub-assembly manufacturing facility with connections to the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Lab (SFL) and expertise in satellite control devices and space science instruments, is hoping to change that.

Macfab director of R&D Charles Day (left), and business development director Joe Magyar (right) discuss synergies and opportunities with ÅAC Microtec AB and Clyde Space Ltd. founder & CSO Craig Clark on day three of the 34th Space Symposium, which was held from April 16th - 19th  in Colorado Springs, Colorado. macfab is registered with Canada's controlled goods program and holds membership in the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI), the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) and the Southern Ontario Defense Association (SODA). Photo c/o macfab.

According to Macfab business development director Joe Magyar, the next step in that process will be exhibiting at the upcoming Small Satellites, Systems and Services Symposium (4S Symposium), which will be held in Sorrento, Italy from May 28th - June 1st, 2018.

"It's good to connect with your Canadian customers and potential clients at a national event," said Magyar during a recent interview. "It's even better to connect at an international event like the annual Colorado based Space Symposium, which has a lot of high level content and connections. But we are really looking forward to this event in Italy."

As outlined on the 4S Symposium website, this year's event is jointly organized with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the French national space agency.

But it's also a cooperative venture, organized in conjunction with two other major smallsat conferences; the annual Small Satellite Conference (organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Utah State University) and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Symposium on Small Satellites for Earth Observation.

The technical exhibition area is currently booked solid with a cross-section of well known international precision manufacturers and smallsat firms including Irving-TX based Orbital Systems Ltd., Stockholm, Sweden based GOMSpace, Toronto, ON based UTIAS SFL, the UK based Science and Technologies Facilities Council and quite a number of others.

"I'm especially looking forward to connecting with Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS), a Netherlands based supplier of launch services and cubesat products and OHB Sweden , who are also exhibiting at the 4S Symposium," said Magyar.

As outlined in the May 2018 Macfab newsletter post, "Hybrid rocket engine wins 2018 Capstone Grand Prize," this year’s Macfab-sponsored award for the "Best Overall Project" at the 2018 Capstone Design Symposium went to a three-person team for their design and development of a hybrid rocket engine. As outlined in the post, Nicholas Christopher, Nerissa Wong and Scott Dalgliesh also picked up two other awards at the event and will join their colleagues from the Waterloo Rocketry student team, to compete at the 2018 Spaceport America Cup, which will be held from June 19th - 23rd, 2018 at Spaceport America NM. Photo and graphic c/o Macfab.

With a production range that runs from single components into the thousands, Macfab produces custom components and assemblies for numerous specialized science, high technology and industrial product applications, including cardiovascular devices, mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, mass cytometry, satellites, space science instruments, power generation and distribution equipment, medical diagnostic devices.

The firm’s focus is on close tolerance precision components and assemblies; its evolution strategy has been to complement its core business, and to offer new value-added services to its customers, through the introduction and integration of a complete suite of finishing, cleaning and assembly solutions.

"We have made a huge investment in our clean lab," according to Magyar. "We can deliver components so clean that they can go directly into the client clean room. It's a huge differentiator to our clients, to have a supplier go from raw materials to finished products which are cleaned, assembled, and tested as per customer requirements, then delivered straight to the clients own clean room facilities."

Macfab was launched in 1987. Today Macfab serves client organizations across North and South America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Quick Notes on the Upcoming CASI ASTRO'18

          By Henry Stewart

Here's a few quick notes on the upcoming Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) ASTRO'18, Canada's largest space conference, which will be held on May 15th - 17th at the Hôtel Delta Quebec in Quebec City, PQ.
  • News updates, registration, sponsorship and accommodation information, plus information on the one day "Space Resiliancy" workshop, which will be held on May 14th, 2018, are available on the  main ASTRO18 webpage
  • The ASTRO'18 team has organized a site visit to ABB Canada’s Measurement and Analytics business unit’s unique high-tech facility in the Espace d’innovation Michelet, a next-generation technological park in Québec City on Thursday, May 17th from 2:15pm – 4:30pm.
This 85,000-square-foot new facility boasts some impressive features including: 
  • Cleanroom space (2,800 sq. ft.) composed of 8 individual rooms and external service hall to double simultaneous integration capacity. 
  • Laboratory space (40% larger) for R&D and contract engineering with dedicated optical (2x) and ESD critical electronic (2x) rooms. 
  • A large TVAC (1.5 meter inside diameter) adapted for large payloads such as the PCW Meteorological Imager. 
  • Metrology room with anti-vibration floating slab and micro-vibration tests setup. 
  • 28 feet height high bay production floor for integration and test of large equipment (ex. astronomy instruments).
For more information on this site visit, please check out the ABB Canada – Site Visit web page on the CASI website.

  • Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black is on the technical committee of the event this year and will be speaking on the topic of "So You Want to be a Space Advocate" on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 as part of the Public Engagement and Outreach track. 
If you like what he has to say please feel free to provide feedback during the session. Otherwise, feel free to bring ripe fruit for throwing. Either way, a good time will be had by all. 
See you in Quebec City.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Still No Funding From the Space Agency? Check Out These Options

          By Henry Stewart

Looking for a listing of 100+ firms which provide support and capital to Canadian technology entrepreneurs? Then check out this incredible group of mostly Canadian based incubators, accelerators, angel, seed, series A and series B investors from Maple Leaf Start-ups.

May 8th, 2018 screenshot from the Maple Leaf Start-Ups Home page showing sixteen of the 100+ organizations the firm tracks.

Each listing contains a firm overview, a link to the website, the firm portfolio (the small businesses it has funded or is planning to fund) and a listing of the principals involved with the project.

As outlined in the March 31st, 2014 Marc Evans consulting post, "Canadian Startup Financing Landscape (2014)" the listing derived from an earlier info-graphic, but has been updated and improved.

While the list favors software and biosciences funding, it also contains essential background for anyone looking for an entry into the world of venture capital, even if all you really want to do is build a better rocket ship.

This list, along with the The Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) listing of its 250 strong member directory, is "essential background reading" for the 21st Century Canadian entrepreneur. Enjoy.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Monday, May 07, 2018

Canadian Cubesat Project Finally Moving Forward

         By Chuck Black

It's got more academic, industry and government/non-government advisors than it has teams actually building something. And since there seems to be a whole lot of importance attached to the outcome, it's likely that there's also a whole lot of administration in the background to manage the program.

But most of the serious industry players, including Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX (currently working on its Starlink satellite constellation), Arlington, VA based OneWeb (currently building out its OneWeb satellite constellation) and Ottawa ON based Telesat (currently testing the first satellite in a planned low Earth orbit constellation), aren't involved in the project, at least for now.


Neither are many of the smaller domestic players in the satellite industry, such as Toronto, ON based Kepler Communications or Montreal, PQ based GHGSat.

Be that as it may, and after a year of waiting, on Friday, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the fifteen post-secondary based teams it picked to participate in the Canadian Cubesat Project (CCP).

The CCP provided grants of between $200,000 - $250,000 to fifteen proposals submitted by university professors to build and launch small cubesats (normally a low weight, 10×10×10 cm cubic satellite) by 2020. The announcement was made by CSA astronaut Jenni Sidey in Winnipeg, MB and streamed across Canada via FaceBook.

As outlined in the May 4th, 2018 CSA website, "Selected Teams," the competitors, "led by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)," will design, build and launch their cubesats, then operate and conduct "scientific experiments and/or validation of their technology development from space according to the objectives of their respective missions, which could last up to 12 months."

Along with the fifteen competitors, thirty-seven other organizations are listed under various roles as participating. Twenty-nine of those are Canadian institutions and the other eight are from Australia, Belgium, France, Norway, Portugal, Russia, and the United States.

As outlined in the May 4th, 2018 Nanoracks press release, "NanoRacks Selected as Launch Provider for Nationwide Canadian CubeSat Project," Webster, TX based Nanoracks, a US based commercial provider of satellite launch services, has been contracted by the CSA to manage the deployment of the cubesats, beginning in 2020.

Overall cost of the entire program (covering design, build, launch and operations), is expected to be approximately $8Mln CDN over four years.

By way of comparison, the overall cost of the Canadian built Microvariability and Oscillations of STars telescope (MOST), was generally considered to less than $10Mln CDN from from the beginning of the project until its sale to Mississauga ON based Microsatellite Systems Canada Inc. (MSCI) in October 2014.

The CCP is promising to launch fifteen smaller satellites over the next few years, not one. All things considered it's hard to believe, at least from a financial perspective. If it does work out, its good value for the money, even if some of the cubesats end up failing.


Teams, projects and partners include:
  • The Edmonton AB based University of Alberta (UofA) Ex-Alta 2 cubesat. As outlined in the May 4th, 2018 UofA Faculty of Science post, "The future of wildfire monitoring," this is the second satellite to be designed and built by the AlbertaSat team, a group of "50 undergraduate and graduate students who work with the assistance of several faculty advisors at the University of Alberta."
Academic collaborators on this project include Aurora College, Yukon College, the University of Calgary, the University of Saskatchewan, York University, the University of Oslo (Norway), the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (Belgium) and the University of Iowa (USA).  
Academic collaborators for this project include Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, the Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal) and Harvard University (USA). 
UVIC also has a knowledgeable industry collaborator in the form of Palo Alto, CA based SSL, a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies which, although SSL's focus has always been on building large, expensive satellites for geostationary Earth orbit, it has at least launched a few satellites of its own. The governmental/NGO collaborator is Canada's National Research Council (NRC).
Academic collaborators for the project include the University of Winnipeg, York University and the Interlake School Division, which seems like an odd partner, given that it seems to be a Manitoban primary and secondary school division. The Industry collaborator is Mississauga, ON based Magellan Aerospace.
  • The Fredericton NB based University of New Brunswick (UNB) CubeSat NB high-precision satellite positioning and imaging project. CubeSat NB will provide "new insights into the behaviour of Earth’s ionosphere" by tracking signals transmitted by global navigation satellite systems, such as GPS, as they travel through the ionosphere and are affected by it.
Academic collaborators include the University of Moncton and the Saint John Campus of New Brunswick Community College. 
The academic collaborators is the University of Prince Edward Island. The Industry collaborator is St. John’s, NFLD based C-CORE
  • The Inuvik NWT based Aurora Research Institute (part of the larger Aurora College) AuroraSat. This project has an interesting artistic focus to "promote and share Indigenous culture across Canada through northern images, a project that will take northern art to space, where pictures of various pieces will be taken with Earth in the background" and "engage amateur radio across the country with stories and messages in Indigenous languages."
The academic collaborators include the University of Alberta, Yukon College, Nunavut Arctic College and the University of Alberta North. The government/NGO collaborator is the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure, a department of Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN). 
DUCS has no listed academic collaborators but industry partners include Halifax, NS based IMP Group International and Dartmouth, NS based Xeos Technologies
Industry partners include Bolton ON based Canadensys Aerospace and another Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies subsidiary, the Brampton, ON based MDA
  • The Hamilton ON based McMaster University (McMaster) NEUDOSE mission, a CubeSat to collect information on the dosimetry of charged and neutral particles
The academic collaborator is Mohawk College. The industry collaborator is ON based Bubble Technology Industries (BTI), and interesting company which conducts "innovative research in radiation, explosives, and contraband detection for clients around the world." The governmental/ NGO collaborator is NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center which, to be fair, is one of the best organizations in the world to partner with if you want to launch something into space.

  • The Toronto ON based York University (York) educational space science and engineering cubesat experiment (ESSENCE).
Academic collaborators include the school of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at the Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology (ON) and the University of Sydney (Australia). Industry collaborators include Bolton ON based Canadensys Aerospace
Academic collaborators include the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (in Russia). Industry collaborators include St. John’s, NL based C-CORE.
  • The Montreal PQ based Concordia University CHIRad satellite, which will test an imaging instrument to collect data on dust measurements and study the effect of climate change in the Kluane Lake region, located in the southwest area of the Yukon, and "evaluate the viability of a new electronic component that shows better resistance to the harsh conditions of space and that could improve the cost-effectiveness and performance of future CubeSat computers." 
The academic collaborators include Université de Montréal and L'Institut polytechnique de Grenoble (in France). Industry collaborators include the Montreal PQ office of MDA, Pointe-Claire, PQ based MPB Communications,  Ottawa ON based Mission Control Space Services, Paris France based Kalray S.A. and German based Spectrum Aerospace Group. Government/ NGO collaborators include London ON based Let's Talk Science
  • The Sherbrooke PQ based Université de Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke) UdeSat cubesat, designed to conduct one of the first demonstrations of a quantum sensor in space. Such measurements are useful to study the effect of solar storms on radio communication, GPS or electrical grids, or the flow of magma under Earth's crust.
Academic collaborators include the École nationale d'aéronautique. 
  • The Saskatoon SK based University of Saskatchewan (UofS) IDRSat. It will study how materials degrade in space by looking at how useful construction materials are affected by extreme temperatures, radiation, and space debris in low Earth orbit, and by studying material changes in colour, texture, brittleness, and electrical conductivity.
Academic collaborators include Saskatchewan Polytechnic (SK) and the University of Alberta. Industry collaborators include Saskatoon SK based SED Systems and Saskatoon, SK based Innocorps Research Corporation
  • The Whitehorse, Yukon based Yukon College YukonSat. The project will focus on promoting STEM and engage the community through three main initiatives relating to coding challenges and data analysis.
Academic collaborators include the University of Alberta and Aurora College. The governmental/NGO collaborator is Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN).

There's a lot riding on this program. The CSA has been considering funding microsats and cubesats since the 2010 CSA workshop on Suborbital Platforms and Nanosatellites, but nothing has moved forward until now.

Then again, and after eight years, you'd assume the CSA would have some of the major industry players on board with the program.

So far, that doesn't seem to be so. The lone exception is Maxar subsidiary SSL, which has experience in large geostationary communications satellites, not the smaller cubesat's needed for the CCP. The firms building lots and lots of commercial small-sats have, so far at least, decided to sit this party out.

Even the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Lab (SFL) is missing from the CCP list of competitors and partners. With its heritage of over a dozen successful microsat launches over the past decade, it seems obvious that, if anyone in Canada knows how to build a cubesat, it's the UTIAS SFL. If only they were contributing to the CCP.

It's almost as if, while there's a lot of organizations on the CCP list looking to learn how to make a cubesat, there's not a lot of organizations who already know how and are willing to share their expertise.

So while we're hopeful, we're also suitably cautious over the end result. 

Here's hoping the CSA, along with their cubesat developers and other partners, are able to prove us wrong over the next few years.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Friday, May 04, 2018

NASA's Proposed Lunar Outpost Will Promote "US Preeminence in Cislunar Space" & US Aerospace Companies

         By Henry Stewart

NASA has released a "partnerships memo" on the proposed Deep Space Gateway/ Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), the planned follow-on program to the current International Space Station (ISS), which has been proposed as a staging point for future Moon and planetary exploration.


But the new memo doesn't say a lot to comfort the current ISS partners, which include the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

As outlined in the May 2nd, 2018 NASA "Gateway Memorandum for the Record: A statement from NASA regarding partnerships and development of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway," the next step in human spaceflight:
... is the establishment of US preeminence in cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a US-led lunar orbital platform, “gateway.” 
Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion (the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, an American interplanetary spacecraft intended to carry crews to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit), the gateway is central to advancing and sustaining human space exploration goals, and is the unifying single stepping off point in our architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars.
The gateway advances US industry development and ensures US global leadership in an emerging, critical domain allowing the US to chart the course by which others may join...
Most importantly for the international partners,"NASA will balance and serve as the integrator of the spaceflight capabilities and contributions of US commercial partners, our international partners and other US government entities."

In other words, "America First!"


It's not that there is anything wrong with a nation prioritizing domestic political considerations over international partnerships. This is historically what nations do.

That's why the 2018 Canadian Federal budget included so much more domestic funding for science and innovation.

It's also why current US president Donald Trump, with his calls for "America First," enjoys enough popularity to remain US president, no matter what other political baggage he might happen to possess.

But looking out for Canada isn't really the role of the space agency.

CSA is the federal government agency responsible for Canada’s contributions to the ISS, so it's got to be angling for a position on whatever comes afterwords, no matter what the real benefit might be for Canada.

Bureaucracies act to preserve themselves.

If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails. As outlined in the May 5th, 2017 Jan Wörner blog post, "Reflecting on Where We Stand Today," the head of the ESA believes strongly in teamwork and "intensive cooperation." According to Wörner, "my simple plea if we wish to continue to secure the success of flagship (ESA) programmes is to proceed as in recent years: with a focus on teamwork, clear terms of reference for the various actors, combining efficiency with knowledge, and not looking to secure any institutional or individual advantage. The European taxpayer and all Europe’s citizens deserve no less than that their publicly-financed organisations conduct themselves according to those principles." 

The CSA also acts as Canada's liaison with other national space agencies such as NASA, the ESA and a variety of non-governmental international organizations involved in space activities such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS, currently chaired by retired CSA director general David Kendall, who will wrap up his term in June 2018).

And when your only real tool for solving problems is a winning personality and the ability to forge partnerships with others, then the solution to every problem is to make a new friend.

But sometime the cost of friendship is high.

Now that the Trump Administration and NASA have seen fit to appraise us of the cost of participating in the proposed Lunar outpost, we might want to take a look at one or two proposals designed to promote Canadian preeminence and highlight Canadian aerospace firms.

At some point, unless we find an area to become or remain "preeminent" in, the US and most others, will stop asking for our help.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

(Mostly) Canadian Government Departments of Interest to the Space Industry

There's substantial overlap between space advocates who believe that Canada needs a "long-term space plan" or a "national space act" to facilitate "global space law progress," and those who believe that national space activities should be centralized around and funded only through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Cartoon c/o Greg Perry/ Ottawa Citizen.
Of course, Canada spent the first thirty years of our current space age without a national space agency.
Some of our best work, including the Black Brant suborbital sounding rockets, the Alouette satellite, Telesat opening up communications in the far north, the preliminary work on the first Radarsat, the original Canadarm development and even the early days of the Canadian astronaut program, were all projects developed before the CSA came into existence in 1990.
Besides, the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review had some seriously damaging things to say about CSA fiscal prudence during the RADARSAT Constellation program, which is certainly part of the reason why CSA hasn't been given a large program to administer since Emerson was released. 
So the CSA isn't the only game in town for those looking for government support to work in the space industry. Here's a representative sampling of a dozen of the more notable and useful options.
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The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) - Established in 1946, the CCC is a federal Crown corporation mandated to promote and facilitate international trade on behalf of Canadian industry (particularly within government markets).
This is quite useful since Canadian space firms typically sell half or more of their products on the international market.
CCC offers "commercial advocacy, collaborative project development and foreign contracting expertise to help Canadian exporters secure international contracts with government buyers around the world" and often acts as prime contractor for foreign government purchases from Canada.
The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) - Set up by the Federal government in 1997 to build Canada’s capacity to undertake world-class research and technology development.
CFI funds a variety of state-of-the-art equipment, laboratories, databases, specimens, scientific collections, computer facilities and organizations which support innovative research.
The Canadian Government Concierge Service - Tired of slogging through websites trying to access the appropriate government program?
The mandate of this government organization is to help users find and access programs and services provided by all those other government departments, which bureaucrats believe to be less effective at answering the phone and replying to the e-mails of those looking to learn more. 
Services covered include funding, research and development facilities, industry specific programs, advisory services and the sourcing of industry specific technical experts and focus primarily on accessing programs for small and medium businesses.
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – The federal government agency responsible for Canada’s contributions to the International Space Station (ISS) also acts as Canada's liaison with other national space agencies, the European Space Agency (ESA) and a variety of non-governmental international organizations involved in space activities. 
The CSA was established in March 1989 under the Canadian Space Agency Act and works with the Department of National Defense (DND) on military space focused activities and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) on activities related to international cooperation and technology transfer.

As per the 2012 Federal Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies (or "Emerson Report"), the CSA acts "as a technical supervisor" in supporting specific committees, supports the Minister of Public Works in negotiating "co-operative agreements with other countries' space agencies," co-manages space technology development (along with the National Research Council), conducts its own research, operates its existing satellite inventory and maintains the Canadian astronaut program.
The CSA, and Canadian space activities in general, were most recently reviewed by the Federal government appointed Space Advisory Board (SAB), mandated to help "support the development of a new vision for Canada's space sector."
The SAB report, released on August 17th, 2017 under the title, "Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard," was almost immediately dismissed by the Federal government. Eventually, and as outlined in the March 8th, 2018 post, "Space Advisory Board Chair Admits Disappointment over Budget but Promises to Continue to Support Space Sector," even the head of the SAB expressed public "disappointment" over this response. 
For more on the expected next steps, it's worth checking out the March 22th, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?"
CSA programs are often funded only partially through the CSA, and depend on funds from other areas, such the National Research Council (NRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), other government departments, academic institutions and the private sector, to top-up their funding requirements.
And sometimes, as outlined most recently in the February 28th, 2018 post, ""Big Winners" in Tuesday's Federal Budget," funding for space focused programs doesn't necessarily even need to go through the CSA.
The current president of the CSA is Sylvain Laporte, who spends at least some of his time privately advocating to protect the CSA's turf from other Federal government departments, and reports directly to Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), Navdeep Bains.
It's worth noting that, if there is an important and photogenic CSA announcement to be made to the Canadian public, Minister Bains is usually front and center to make it, not president Laporte.
The Canadian Trade Commissioners Service for Aerospace - A Federal government service which provides informed assessments of foreign markets for aircraft, spacecraft and space-based services.
The website includes market reports and important Canadian government contacts. It's part of the larger Canadian Trade Commissioners Service.
The Department of National Defence (DND) - Home of the Canadian Armed Forces and a variety of other sub-groups and departments, some of which directly relate to space activities and some of which relate more to space assets being used for military command, control and communications (C3) functions.
For innovators, it's well worth checking out the the $1.6Bln CDN Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEeS) program, which included funding opportunities for the private sector in the space domain.
For an overview of who the DND perceives of Canadian military space operations, it's worth checking out the Winter 2015 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Journal post, "Integrating Space into Canadian Armed Forces Operations." 
It's also worth noting that, according to the article, the "USAF has primacy in the space domain for the American military forces," and the Canadian role is mostly to support the US. From a practical perspective, this often means that the Canadian military often purchases services from US military providers, instead of building their own assets. 
For a recent overview of the Canadian defence industry, check out the May 25th, 2016 Canada Defence Review article on the "Critical Impact of Canada's Defence Industry on Economy."
For an overview of the current DND procurement requirements, plus an assessment of the increasing importance of government off-set credits, job creation expectations and economic development requirements in overall Federal government procurement policy, it's worth taking a look at the May 28th, 2015 IHS Janes 360 article, "Canadian defence industry overview [CAN2015D2]."
In July, 2016, as outlined in the November 16th, 2016 Canadian government "Defence Policy Review" website, the DND concluded "an unprecedented public consultation in support of the development of a new defence policy for Canada." The results of that review, are slowly working their way through the Canadian military.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) - The lead agency for Canadian activities related to the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), remote sensing and Earth imaging.
Nearly all precise positioning in Canada relies on NRCAN services at some level because of the massive opportunities to drive innovation and efficiencies in the broad national economy. For an overview of these potential efficiencies, check out the March 2011 Royal Academy of Engineering paper on "Global Navigation Space Systems: Reliance and Vulnerabilities."
NRCAN does face challenges. The 2005 Remote Sensing Systems Act, a piece of legislation last revised in 2007 and sorely in need of updating, currently governs Canadian remote sensing activities. 
The act is reviewed every five years and was most recently critiqued by the 2017 Independent Review of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act, written by associate professor Ram S. Jakhu and research assistant Aram Daniel Kerkonian from the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University.
As outlined in the April 20th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "A Review of Canada’s Remote Sensing Law Recommends Creating a New General Outer Space Act." the McGill review found that the original act had fallen behind "the pace of technological change" and recommended the creation of a new "Outer Space Act" able to balance commercial interests with national security needs.
NRCAN is home to the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO), once known as the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) and the Canadian Geodetic Survey, which supports and facilitates access to the Canadian Spatial Reference System (CSRS).
Export Development Canada (EDC) - Canada's export credit agency, this crown corporation works with the CCC and other government agencies to offer up "innovative financing packages" to those looking to expand their international business.
In 2013, EDC claimed over $5Bln CDN in support to the Canadian aerospace sector, mostly in the form of financing and alternative financing solutions, accounts receivable insurance and bonds to ensure supplier obligations.

The agency also maintains and manages the ExportWise website, which contains timely articles on export opportunities, analyses of key markets and emerging opportunities, how-to guides and profiles of successful exporters.
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) – The Canadian government department charged with fostering a growing, competitive and knowledge-based Canadian economy.
ISED oversees the Federal government's economic development, corporate affairs activities and manages Canada's innovation agenda. 
The head of the CSA reports directly to the head of this ministry and both agencies are governed by a variety of existing IC policies on science and technology including the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Report (May 2007) and the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Progress Report (June 2009).

These policies enjoy wide bipartisan support among Canadian political parties and were reviewed/ updated by the 2012 Federal Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies (or "Emerson Report," presented to then Industry Minister Christian Paradis in November 2012) and the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development (or "Jenkins panel," which was presented to then Minister of State Gary Goodyear in October 2011).
More recently, Canada's Fundamental Science Review, also known as the "Naylor Report" was presented to to the Government of Canada on April 10th 2017. As outlined most recently in the April 28th, 2018 University of Toronto News post, "David Naylor upbeat about research funding in Canada, gives kudos to students and researchers for #SupportTheReport," the report led to a substantial increase in Canadian government funding for basic science.
It includes the National Research Council (NRC), National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), the Networks of Centres of Excellence. and a number of other government departments of interest to the space entrepreneur including the $1.2Bln CDN Strategic Innovation Fund.
ISED is also the lead agency administering "Canada's New Superclusters," a Federal government program providing up to $950Mln CDN to each of five consortium's composed of business and academic partners, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the private sector, and is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs over ten years and grow Canada's GDP. 
The National Research Council (NRC) – The primary Canadian government resource for science and technology (S&T) funding.

The NRC reports to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (IC), which, as outlined above, focuses Canadian spending in this area around questions of commercialization and (sometimes) basic research.
The NRC works with the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and the Networks of Centres of Excellence
NRC is also home to the Build in Canada Innovation Program, designed to help innovators: 
  • Land their first major reference sale with the Canadian government.while retaining the intellectual property 
  • Have their innovation tested in a real-life setting and gain feedback to help get products to market faster.
The program pays up to $500,000 for non-military innovations and up to $1Mln for military innovations. It targets innovations in 10 priority areas
The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) - A collaborative network of organizations across Ontario designed to help entrepreneurs, businesses and researchers commercialize their ideas.
One of the better provincial government offerings in this area although other provincial governments offer many of the same services with greater or lesser degrees of success.

Collaborative organizations include the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the Centre for Commercialization of Research (CCR), OMERS Ventures, the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC), the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), the Network of Angel Organizations - Ontario (which administrators the Ontario Angel Network Program) and quite a few others.

Many Canadian space companies (and even a few academic institutions) receive funding through the OCE or through organizations affiliated with it.
The United States Office of Space Commerce – Only in Canada would it be possible to suggest that one of the best places to find information on government space policies and initiatives would be a foreign government website.
But in an age focused on the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and its Canadian equivalent, the Controlled Goods Program (CGP), this site provides great background material from the US Department of Commerce relating to commercial space activities, general policy information affecting all areas of commercial space activities, including presidential announcementsinformation on doing business with the US governmentinformation on the US space industrial base and primary documentation relating to satellite export controls.
According to the website, the office "is the principal unit for space commerce policy activities within the Department of Commerce. Its mission is to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the US commercial space industry." The department serves as the "lead civil agency" for civilian space policy.
Highly recommended for space geeks and business entrepreneurs looking to sell into, but not necessarily live in, the highly lucrative US market.

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