Monday, October 15, 2018

The Federal Space Advisory Board (SAB) Insists that It's Working Hard

          By Henry Stewart

Lucy Stojack, the chair of the Federally mandated Space Advisory Board (SAB), has sent out an e-mail outlining the half dozen events SAB members have attended recently plus listed several additional upcoming events which members expect to participate in this fall.

SAB chair Stojak. Photo c/o HEC.
According to the e-mail:
As the Chair of the Space Advisory Board, I hope this newsletter finds you well rested after the summer and poised for the fall. 
This summer was indeed a busy one! 
The Board provided updated advice to the Minister on Canadian space opportunities and risks in relation to global space trends as a follow on to our (August 2017) report Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard. 
We have also been in regular contact with the Minister’s office (Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains) to provide advice and input as the Government moves forward on the development of a long-term vision for space; we continue to reinforce insights gained from Canadian stakeholders and to underscore the urgent need for Government action. 
Furthermore, we have been busy participating in multiple events across Canada and the US to highlight the benefits of space to Canadians and the importance of the Canadian space sector at home and abroad. 
Since our last update, Members of the Board have participated in the following events:
  • WILSON CENTER EVENT – On September 7, 2018, the Woodrow Wilson Center, based in Washington D.C., hosted a one-day conference on Canada-U.S. space cooperation. The Wilson Center convened a high-level strategic policy dialogue, as U.S. and Canadian officials (NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and CSA President Sylvain Laporte) and representatives from communications, robotics, and aerospace companies addressed civilian and military space, emerging threats, and new technologies. 
Experts also examined how government and industry can work together on principles, norms, and institutions that will ensure responsible human activity in a changing space domain. Space Advisory Board members Mac Evans, Lucy Stojak and Mike Pley participated on panel discussions throughout the conference to provide expertise on Canada’s space history, international space regulations and Canada’s civilian space program.  
  • SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEETING IN OTTAWA WITH US GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS – On September 17, 2018 several members of the Board met with William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations at NASA along with representatives from the State Department, Department of Commerce and the U.S. Embassy to Canada. The discussion was focused around NASA’s future space exploration plans and how to better leverage commercial space. Canada’s opportunities in future space projects/programs were also discussed. 
  • DIGITAL ROUNDTABLES – Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada had digital innovation leaders host roundtable discussions in cities across Canada with business, academia, civil society and others. The Space Advisory Board participated in a number of these roundtables. 
  • LET GO CANADA: SECURING CANADA’S PLACE IN SPACE – On September 17, 2018 a coalition of Canadian space stakeholders representing industry, academia and the space enthusiast community had an event at iPolitics to raise awareness of Canada’s accomplishments in space. The event was focused around the findings of the public opinion research by Ipsos with an expert panel representing different views on the sector. The panel participants included two Board members, Kate Howells and Mike Pley.
  • U.S. EMBASSY OTTAWA AND ACTUA PRESENT A VIDEO CHAT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION – On Friday, September 21, 2018 the United States Embassy in Ottawa, in partnership with Actua, Canada’s largest science, technology, engineering and math outreach organization, hosted a video chat between local Ottawa elementary school students, stakeholders, and American-Canadian astronaut Drew Feustel at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Drew is currently aboard the International Space Station and is Commander of its 56th mission. 
Kate Howells participated in a panel discussion on STEM with Drew’s wife, Indira Feustel; the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; and the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and Canada’s first astronaut in space. 
  • FIRESIDE CHAT WITH CANADIAN ASTRONAUTS – On Friday, September 21, 2018, at the University of Ottawa, Space Advisory Board Member Mac Evans attended an event of nine Canadian Astronauts participating in a panel discussion on Canada’s role in space exploration. 
Points of discussion included ‘New Space,’ next steps for Canadian space exploration, the changing roles of astronauts, the importance of space, STEM programs, and international collaboration.
The Board will be participating in additional upcoming fall events to continue to engage with the public and to build momentum. These events include the Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s Space Conference (October 16th in Ottawa), the Canadian Science Policy Conference (November 7th - 9th in Ottawa), the AIAC Canadian Aerospace Summit (November 13th - 14th in Ottawa), and the Canadian Space Summit (November 27th - 29th in Ottawa).
In the coming weeks, the Board will also meet with (Navdeep Bains) the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. This meeting will provide an opportunity for the Board members to update the Minister on our continued engagement with the space sector in Canada and abroad, and provide feedback on what we heard. 
This meeting will also provide an opportunity to discuss how best the Space Advisory Board can continue to advise the Minister and inform the government’s work as it develops a long term vision for Canada’s space program. 
Finally, we will remain engaged with the public on Canada’s future in space through our participation in the above mentioned events and welcome input through contact with members of the Board at these events or e-mail to ic.sab-cce.ic@canada.ca. 
Please note that the Space Advisory Board website URL has changed, here is the updated link: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/082.nsf/eng/h_03983.html.
While the specifics of the contributions to each event listed in the e-mail is not always explained, the overall suggestion is that the SAB is at least working hard for the Canadian space industry.

If Stojak and the SAB only including a few discussions about the specific solutions they were advocating and the actual influence the SAB has with the Federal government, then we could start getting really excited.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

AI is Hot and Even Gets Government Funding From the Canadian Space Agency

          By Chuck Black

Although the participants at several upcoming events over the next few weeks are expected to strongly lobby the Federal government to provide new funding for space focused projects, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has just gone out of its way to remind applicants that, while Federal funding for artificial intelligence (AI) is hot (even when the AI firms being funded are actually space companies), Federal funding for space activities is not.


As outlined in the October 15th, 2018 CSA press release, "Strengthening Canada's leadership in AI-driven robotics to support jobs," the CSA:
... is positioning Canada's space community to maintain its global leadership in space robotics. 
Accordingly, the CSA announced today that it is investing $1.6Mln CDN in two concepts for lunar rovers that would use artificial intelligence (AI) to make their own decisions. 
According to the press release, Brampton ON based MDA, a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies and Caledon ON based Canadensys Aerospace Corporation have each been awarded a contract worth $800 000 CDN to develop innovative rovers using AI concepts for the CSA. The contracts awarded will support sixty-one "well-paying jobs" and position Canada to play an important role in future missions to the Moon.

But for the rest of us, we'll need to find private sector partners. 

The CSA made their latest announcement at the start of a three-day CSA "Industry Days" event to promote Canadian space capabilities to major space companies, including Kent WA based Blue Origin, Ottobrunn, Germany based Airbus Defense and Space and  Cape Canaveral FL based Moon Express. More than forty-four organizations are expected to attend the event from October 15th - 17th and over 70 business-to-business meetings are expected to take place, according to the press release.

Hopefully, some of those meetings will generate deals.


This is not the first time the Federal government has favored funding AI development over space activities.

As outlined most recently in the October 9th, 2018 post, "Creative Destruction Lab Receives $25Mln CDN from Federal Government for AI, Start-up Infrastructure and Jobs," the Federal Liberal government is heavily promoting AI investments.

As for MDA and Canadensys, they've both received previous funding from the CSA for rovers and can be reasonably expected to go after any new funding. Expect both to apply for the September 20th, 2018 CSA Announcement of Opportunity (AO) "Lunar Exploration Analogue Deployment (LEAD) – Capability Demonstration." 

The program objectives, worth $250,000 CDN over a maximum period of 24 months, are:
  • To advance complementary community lunar science and/or technology that can benefit from test and capability demonstration at the Lunar Exploration Analogue Deployment (LEAD) analogue site and
  • To train project managers, engineers, scientists, post-doc fellows and technicians plus support the development of Canadian industrial capabilities in the area of space technologies for the purpose of increasing the commercial potential of Canadian space companies.
Expect either MDA or Canadensys to be awarded the latest AO, sometime after it closes on October 26th, 2018. After all, as outlined in the AO, "there will be financial support for only one project awarded to one recipient as a result of this AO."

Of course, several private sector players, including Cape Canaveral based Moon Express, might eventually end up taking up the slack. As outlined in the October 16th, 2018 Moon Express press release, "Moon Express Expands Into Canada With The Establishment Of Moon Express Canada And New Partnerships," the company has opened up a new Canadian office and signed up several local partners,

But as outlined in the April 30th, 2018 post, "NASA Resource Prospector Cancellation "Disappointing" Says Deltion Innovations CEO Boucher," the September 26th, 2016 post, "The REAL Reason Why Canada Won't Be Participating in the NASA Resolve Mission Anytime Soon, Probably!," and the October 20th, 2012 post, "Lots and Lots of Rovers Looking for Missions," the CSA has a long history of supporting lunar rover programs which never go anywhere.

So lets wait and see what happens this time.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Blue Origin Joins the US Military Rocket Building Club

          By Brian Orlotti

The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a total $2.3Bln US ($3.0Bln CDN) in contracts to three firms to develop launch systems for national security payloads. The announcement is a watershed moment, highlighting the entry of a new player as well as new technology into the US national security launch apparatus.


The military contracts were awarded to:
As outlined in the October 10th, 2018 Ars Technica post, "The military chooses which rockets it wants built for the next decade," the contracts are part of a US Department of Defense initiative to ensure stable military access to space and end US reliance on foreign-made rocket engines, such as the ULA Atlas V rocket, which uses Russian RD-180 engines.

Blue Origin’s and Northrop’s prototype vehicles are expected to be ready to fly by late 2024 while ULA’s Vulcan rocket is to be completed by March 2025.


Blue Origin’s award is of particular note, as it is the second NewSpace firm to win a US military contract after Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX. The USAF’s selection of Blue Origin is likely the hedging of bets to avoid dependence on SpaceX or any other single firm, a situation which happened previously with ULA. 

From its formation in 2006 as a joint venture between Sunnyvale CA based Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Berkley MI based Boeing Defense, Space & Security ULA dominated and served as the sole supplier for US military space launches until 2017, when SpaceX received accreditation.

It's worth noting that SpaceX received permission to launch military payloads only after it had an operational Falcon-9 program lofting commercial satellites into orbits. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher (which was funded through NASA commercial crew contracts) is already certified for all Air Force requirements and, as outlined in the June 21st, 2018 post, "Air Force certifies Falcon Heavy, orders satellite launch for 2020," SpaceX currently has outstanding military contracts for the launcher.

In essence, the new awards will each cover the substantial research and development costs needed to roll out operational versions of what are essentially design studies, something not needed in the case of SpaceX.

Besides, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher (which was funded through NASA commercial crew contracts) is already certified for all Air Force requirements. As outlined in the June 21st, 2018 post, "Air Force certifies Falcon Heavy, orders satellite launch for 2020," SpaceX currently has outstanding military contracts for this operational launcher.


Blue Origin’s New Glenn is a two-stage heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle, development of which began in 2012.

With a 7-meter (23 ft) diameter, the New Glenn with a reusable first stage as well as an optional third stage. Its first stage will be powered by seven in-house designed and built BE-4 liquid methane/oxygen engines producing 17,000 kN (3,800,000 lbf) of liftoff thrust.

New Glenn will be built at Blue Origin’s Florida factory and launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In addition to commercial and military satelite launches, New Glenn will also be available for space tourism flights.

New Glenn’s first stage boosters are reusable and will be recovered downrange on the Atlantic Ocean via a ship acting as a floating landing platform in much the same way as SpaceX’s Falcon rockets.

The awarding of the USAF contract appears to have enabled Blue Origin’s further expansion. Following the USAF’s announcement, Blue Origin revealed that it will build a second launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, enabling the company to launch from both the east and west coasts.

In addition, ULA announced in September that its upcoming Vulcan rocket will be powered by Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines.

Of course, providing US government funding to launch providers to develop new rocket launchers is a service not restricted to the military. NASA is also funding an entry for the next generation of rockets with the Space Launch System (SLS), a space shuttle derived super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, which has been having more than its fair share of cost overruns and funding shortfalls.


Blue Origin’s entry into the realm of national security space launch is a hopeful sign that the space sector can learn from past mistakes, which include being locked into single supplier monopolies (a la ULA), cost-plus procurement contracts (which reward cost overruns) and expensive, single use launchers.

With multiple launch providers pursuing multiple markets and goals, the coming decades of space exploration will be far livelier than previous ones.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thursdays Soyuz MS-10 Rocket Failure Could End Up Assisting US Commercial Crew Development

          By Henry Stewart

Both astronauts are safe after a Russian Soyuz MS-10 rocket failed less than two minutes after launching an American and a Russian on their scheduled Expedition 57-58 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday morning.


It was the first failure of a manned Soyuz booster at high altitude since April 1975, when Soyuz 7K-T No.39 also failed to achieve orbit.

As outlined in the October 11th, 2018 Associated Press post, "2 astronauts safe after Soyuz forced to make emergency landing," NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were both subjected "to heavy gravitational forces as their capsule automatically jettisoned from the Soyuz booster rocket and fell back to Earth at a sharper-than-normal angle and landed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

This latest failure is probably not going to help the Russian space industry.

But it might end up helping Hawthorne CA based SpaceX and Houston TX based Boeing. Both companies are building privately operated crew vehicles under the US Commercial Crew Development program designed to replace Russian rockets and Soyuz capsules with US boosters and spacecraft for low Earth orbit and ISS resupply missions.

At press time, it is not known what impact the Soyuz MS-10 failure and subsequent investigation will have on the ISS crew schedule. According to the October 11th, 2018 Canadian Space Agency (CSA) press release, "Canadian Space Agency Statement on Soyuz Launch Abort," the CSA is monitoring the situation:
A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. It is not known whether this will affect Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques' launch date of December 20, 2018.
According to the press release, both astronauts are en route to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow for debriefing and medical examinations.


As outlined in the October 11th, 2018 Reuters post, "Astronauts Taking Off for International Space Station Make Emergency Landing," Russia immediately suspended all manned space launches.

Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos) also ordered a state commission to be set up to "investigate what had gone wrong."

Image c/o @JimBridenstine.
As outlined in the Reuters post:
The failure is a setback for the Russian space programme and the latest in a string of mishaps.  
In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule already docked to the ISS which caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Rogozin has said it could have been "sabotage".

For now, the United States relies on Moscow to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) which was launched 20 years ago. NASA tentatively plans to send its first crew to the ISS using a SpaceX craft instead of a Soyuz next April. 
Washington and NASA echoed those thoughts.

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine remarked on his twitter feed that “NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in good condition following today’s aborted launch. I’m grateful that everyone is safe. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted

According to the October 11th, 2018 The Verge post, "Today’s failed Soyuz launch complicates the future of the International Space Station," the Russian Soyuz spacecraft "is currently the only vehicle that can take humans to and from the ISS, and the rocket is now grounded from human spaceflight for the foreseeable future. That means NASA may not be able to send astronauts to the station for a while, which could eventually leave the ISS without a crew."

According to the post, "NASA has been working for years on new ways to get its astronauts to the ISS," but neither the SpaceX manned Dragon spacecraft / Falcon 9 configuration nor the Boeing CST-100 spacecraft/Atlas V system is currently flight ready. Both programs are expected to take their first manned flights sometime next year.

When it comes to rockets, the New York NY based Space Angels are fiscal experts for the growing private sector. As outlined in the preamble to the Q3 2018 Space Investment Quarterly Report, "in our last issue, we saw growing evidence that 2018 would be the Year of Small Launch and indeed that trend has continued in Q3 2018, with investment in Launch now exceeding $1Bln US ($1.3Bln CDN) year-to-date." The Space Angels also noted an increase in Series B rounds for satellite start-ups and China’s rapid growth in private investment for the space industry. Graphic c/o Space Angels

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is currently at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan where he served as back astronaut for the current mission and continues to train for his now postponed Expedition 58-59 mission.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sudbury ON Based Deltion Innovations Becomes First Canadian Company to Sign MOU with Moon Express

          By Chuck Black

Sudbury ON based Deltion Innovations has become the first Canadian company to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cape Canaveral FL based Moon Express for the collaborative development and deployment of in situ-resource utilization, space mining and science payloads for the moon.


During the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC2018) which was held from October 1st - 5th in Bremen Germany, Moon Express also signed a MOU with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Moon Express CEO and co-founder Dr. Robert "Bob" Richards is a Canadian expat entrepreneur with an extensive resume in Canada's space sector, including a stint as director of the space division at Toronto ON based Optech (now known as Teledyne Optech).

As outlined in the October 10th, 2018 Deltion Innovations press release, "Sudbury Space Mining System Developers First Canadian Company to Sign MOU with US Commercial Space Company," the MOU will allow both firms to work together to develop space mining and science payloads for future missions.

Moon Express is a privately funded commercial space company developing a family of low-cost robotic spacecraft dedicated to collapsing the cost of lunar and deep space access for science, exploration and commerce.

The company was most recently profiled in the October 5th, 2018 post, "Moon Express and Blue Origin are Bringing Jobs to Florida."

Deltion Innovations is a privately owned Canadian mining equipment design company which designs and develops unique solutions for terrestrial mining and space mining, specializing in small efficient lightweight systems and extreme environments.

Deltion was last profiled in the April 30th, 2018 post, "NASA Resource Prospector Cancellation "Disappointing" Says Deltion Innovations CEO Boucher."


This is a very important milestone for Deltion,” stated CEO Dale Boucher. “This is an opportunity to provide a more balanced suite of capabilities for lunar exploration and lunar space mining. It provides a defined platform for launch, cruise, orbiting, landing and potential surface hopping allowing us to offer more complete technical solutions for lunar science and lunar prospecting.

According to Boucher, "These capabilities are absolutely critical for early stage mining exploration and for in-situ resource utilization on the lunar surface. This collaboration will not only facilitate lunar mining activities at the early exploration stage of the mining cycle, but will also allow us to pretest later stage mining activities such as excavation and mining infrastructure buildup.”

We are very happy that Deltion is our first Canadian industry MOU,” stated Moon Express Founder & CEO Bob Richards. “We are confident that this partnership will allow Moon Express to offer services to our customers to meet their science and exploration needs, especially in the area of lunar resources.”

CSA will host Moon Express at its “Fall 2018 Industry Days” event on October 26th, 2018 to promote Canadian industry's capabilities to Moon Express.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Creative Destruction Lab Receives $25Mln CDN from Federal Government for AI, Start-up Infrastructure and Jobs

          By Henry Stewart

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains dropped by the Toronto ON based Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) on Tuesday, where he announced that the Federal Liberal government has provided $25Mln CDN in new funding for the organization.

Minister Bains on Periscope (a live video streaming app for Android and iOS) on October 9th, making the announcement that the CDL would be receiving new funding. To see the complete presentation, simply click on this link. Image c/o Periscope

As outlined in the October 9th, 2018 Government of Canada press release, "Government of Canada invests in artificial intelligence and start-up innovation across Canada," the new funding will allow CDL to:
...create and maintain 125 jobs, attract more investments in Canadian businesses, and see more intellectual property developed and retained in Canada. 
CDL's project will also involve more than 1,300 science-based ventures in a wider network across Canada over four years, and it is estimated that these ventures could create up to 22,000 new jobs.     
The CDL is a non-profit organization based at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Business that "merges science-based projects with business expertise to help young companies scale up into creators of new jobs, processes and services" and acts as a seed-stage program for scalable, science-based companies.

As outlined on the CDL website, the organization has six locations in Calgary AB, Halifax NS, Montreal PQ, Toronto ON, Vancouver BC plus a US based location in New York NY. It runs a variety of tracks based on different areas of science.

Earlier this summer, as outlined in the June 6th, 2018 Rotman School of Management press release, "Creative Destruction Lab Builds the Next Generation of Space Entrepreneurs," CDL announced the launch of CDL-Space, a new program "designed for entrepreneurs building new, science-based companies in space-related markets."
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Canadian Rocket Teams Spread Their Wings

          By Brian Orlotti

The million dollar Base 11 Space Challenge, announced with much fanfare in June 2018, continues to move forward.

Adam Trumpour in an earlier incarnation, as a member of the University of Toronto Aerospace team (UTAT) in 2015. Trumpour was first profiled in the October 13th, 2014 post, "Canadian Entrepreneur Returning Rocketry to its Roots." Photo c/o Facebook.  

As part of a recent interview with the author, Base 11 Challenge safety expert Adam Trumpour discussed the final selection of the Canadian teams that will compete in the contest. Trumpour is a Canadian propulsion engineer who spends his days working at Mississauga ON based Pratt and Whitney Canada.

The Challenge promises a $1Mln USD ($1.3Mln CDN) prize for the first student-led university team to design, build and launch a liquid-fuelled, single-stage rocket to an altitude of 100 km (aka the Karman Line, the boundary between Earth and space) by the end of 2021.

The Base 11 Challenge is being organized by Costa Mesa CA based Base 11, a nonprofit science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) accelerator, and being held at Truth or Consequences NM based Spaceport America.

The contest’s teams come from across Canada and the US and will be sponsored by a wide variety of government, academic, industry and philanthropic groups. Current sponsors include the Pasadena CA based California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the V√©lizy-Villacoublay France based Dassault Systemes, the New York NY based Deloitte Foundation, the Washington DC based Smithsonian Institution, Spaceport America and New York NY based Verizon Wireless.

In addition, space industry leaders such as X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis and former US astronaut/plasma engine pioneer Franklin Chang Diaz have also endorsed the challenge.


Along with its confirmed sponsors, the challenge will make use of  Vancouver BC based HeroX, a crowdfunding platform spun off from the Culver City CA based X Prize Foundation following the 2004 Ansari X Prize competition.

The Canadian contingent at the Base 11 Challenge will comprise teams from multiple universities including:
  • The University of Toronto
  • Concordia University
  • McGill University
  • The University of British Columbia
  • Simon Fraser University
Trumpour made a point of highlighting the teams’ technical skill, recently demonstrated at this year’s Spaceport America Cup, held from June 20th - 24th in Las Cruces NM. McGill University’s team won the competition, while Concordia and U of Waterloo took first place in the advanced solid fuel rockets and advanced hybrid/liquid fuel rockets categories, respectively.

A driving force encouraging Canadian teams to join the Base 11 Challenge, Trumpour is also aiding in the contest’s design as a member of its safety council, conducting advanced safety training for all teams.

His eyes fixed on history, Trumpour also said that a successful launch by any of the Canadian teams will be momentous, as it will mark the first time that a Canadian liquid-fueled rocket will have reached space.


The Base 11 Challenge’s first milestone prize of $50,000 USD ($60,000CDN) for the best engineering design, safety plan, and outreach strategy will be awarded at the 2019 Base 11 Aerospace Symposium & Expo, to be held in May 2019.

Past generations of Canadian space engineers, through ingenuity and determination, forged our country’s reputation as a leader in satellites, robotics and communications. As the next generation rises to a new challenge, those pioneers can rest well knowing that the future is in good hands.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Moon Express and Blue Origin are Bringing Jobs to Florida

          By Chuck Black

Two recent news stories note that the current commercial space renaissance is generating significant amounts of new jobs along Florida's Space Coast.


As outlined in the October 3rd, 2018 Orlando Sentinel post, "In a 'significant step,' Blue Origin is building a second facility on the Space Coast," Kent WA based Blue Origin has entered into an agreement to build a new $60Mln US ($75.5Mln CDN) testing and refurbishment center in Exploration Park, the state-run complex near Kennedy Space Center where Blue Origin is already building another $200Mln US ($258.5Mln CDN) rocket factory, set to open early next year.

According to the post:
The new testing and refurbishment complex will create about 50 jobs with estimated annual wages of $70,000 US ($90,000CDN), plus benefits, according to Space Florida’s board of director meeting agenda. The board approved Space Florida to enter into an agreement with Blue Origin regarding the facility last month.
The company, led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is building its New Glenn rocket in Florida and plans its first launch in 2020.

A second story published on the same day in the same news outlet suggests that Blue Origin isn't the only space company generating jobs in Florida.


As outlined in the October 3rd, 2018 Orlando Sentinel post, "Thanks to new funding, Moon Express plans to add dozens of new jobs on the Space Coast," Cape Canaveral FL based Moon Express has committed to build out its facilities at launch complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Those renovations to the former United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket pads will likely create about 50 new jobs, "increasing to about 100 or more" as the company ramps up its planned Lunar mission activities, according to the post.

As outlined in the June 5th, 2017 post, "Only Seven Years after Bob Richards Left Canada, His Rover is Going to the Moon," Moon Express CEO and co-founder Dr. Robert "Bob" Richards is a Canadian expat entrepreneur with an extensive resume in Canada's space sector, including a stint as director of the space division at Toronto ON based Optech (now known as Teledyne Optech).

Richards left Canada in 2010.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Zoom Zoom Zoom! We're Going to the Moon!

          By Henry Stewart

The great thing about conferences, especially something as entrenched as the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC2018), currently winding down after a successful run from October 1st - 5th in Germany, is that many will use the event to run their projects up the international flagpole to see if anyone will step forward to offer funding.


This year, a surprising number have attempted to steal the thunder from Hawthorne CA based SpaceX CEO Elon Musk who, as outlined in the September 19th, 2018 post, "Japanese Billionaire Parties Around the Moon," announced last month that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and an entourage of artists would use a Falcon BFR to visit the Moon in 2023.

They've done that by making their own announcements about possible new "Moon shots" and exploration initiatives. Two even boast a Canadian connection. They include:
As outlined in the post, this effort is composed of European and North American partners including Airbus (the lead), Mexico City based Agencia Espacial Mexicana, Kent WA based Blue Origin, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Cedex France based Vinci Construction.  
More partners are expected to join as the project moves forward.
Airbus is also working with the ESA, Boeing and others on the planned US Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G). As outlined in the September 20th, 2018 The Engineer post, "Airbus to develop concepts for moon-orbiting space station," the ESA has "asked Airbus to work on concepts for key parts of the proposed Deep Space Gateway, a major international effort to build a moon-orbiting space station." Photo c/a Boeing.
According to the October 1st, 2018 The Moon Race press release, "The Moon Race: Pioneering Sustainable Lunar Exploration," the partners will contribute to a German based not for profit limited liability corporation called "The Moon Race NPO gGmbH," which will manage a contest, called The Moon Race. The contest will target "teams worldwide including start-ups and new ventures eager to bring their technologies to the Moon surface." 
The object will be to establish partnerships and to gather the necessary funds for the project and to act as a "strategic platform for discussion and information sharing both inside the community."
Specific prizes and milestones are still to be defined and, as outlined in the October 3rd, 2018 Al-Jazeera post, "Moon missions in five years: Bezos' Blue Origin sets sights high," at least one of the corporate partners is working on "the conceptual design phase of a large lunar lander that it says will provide reusable access to the moon's surface and its resources."
According to the article, "the news comes as leaders of the US and Chinese space agencies said they were open to cooperation on research and missions."
As outlined in the article, Lockheed Martin is responding to "NASA's plans to renew the exploration of the moon and Mars in the next decade" with a package designed to shuttle between the moon's surface and NASA's proposed orbiting "Lunar Gateway," the newest name for what is more formally known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).
There's no doubt the final program will be pricey. But Lockheed Martin is assuming that buckets of money will come available for future exploration sometime after the first flights of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) either occur or the program gets cancelled to free up funds, sometime after 2020. 
Moon Express CEO Richard and CSA CEO Laporte on October 3rd. Photo c/o ME.
As outlined in the far larger October 3rd, 2018 Moon Express press release, "Moon Express Signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Space Agency," the two organizations "will explore the possibilities of using Moon Express lunar orbiter and lander systems for potential CSA payloads and will promote possibilities for collaboration between Moon Express and the Canadian space industry and academia."
Of course, MOU's are traditionally non-binding agreements. 
As outlined in the June 5th, 2017 post, "Only Seven Years after Bob Richards Left Canada, His Rover is Going to the Moon," Moon Express CEO and co-founder Dr. Robert "Bob" Richards is a Canadian expat entrepreneur with an extensive resume in Canada's space sector, including a stint as director of the space division at Toronto, ON based Optech (now known as Teledyne Optech). 
In essence, Richards certainly has the ability to source Canadian connections even without the active support of the CSA. 
The CSA will be hosting Fall 2018 Industry Days from October 15th - 17th at the CSA headquarters in Saint-Hubert PQ, in order to promote Canadian capabilities to Moon Express and other major space companies. For Richards, it be a triumphant return to tiny Canada after almost a decade competing successfully in a far larger international marketplace.
At IAC2018, the CSA also signed MOU's with the new Australian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Dr. Ido Anteby, the CEO of SpaceIL ,an Israeli nonprofit organization formed in 2011 to compete in the mostly defunct Google Lunar XPrize, was also present.
SpaceIL intends to continue "to work toward landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. Together, NASA and SpaceIL will collaborate on analyzing the scientific data returned from the mission," according to the press release. 
  • NASA and a bunch of other domestic and international organizations, including (possibly) Canada. 
As per the October 3rd, 2018 NASA press release, "NASA Administrator Highlights 'Moon to Mars' Events Across Agency Oct. 24." the US space agency plans to hold an online press conference and series of events on October 24th, to provide details on how NASA will prepare to first return astronauts to the Moon and then send them to Mars.
During these events, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will speak at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at noon EDT, spotlighting NASA's new Moon to Mars approach for human space exploration. 
He'll discuss the agency's plans to lead a sustainable return to the Moon, which includes the integration of U.S. companies and international partners, with the aim to use the Moon as a proving ground for the ultimate goal - sending astronauts to Mars.
Bridenstine's speech will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website.
The US is also pulling in a variety of international favors in order to generate the widest possible support for the program. 
For example, as outlined first in the September 18th, 2018 post, "Colorado Based Maxar/MDA Asking for $1-2Bln to Build Another Canadarm for the US LOP-G," NASA employees are working with senior members of the CSA and others to encourage the Federal government to announce funding for Canada's contribution to future US space plans just as soon as possible.
According to the article, recent international political pressures are slowly driving a wedge into the traditional partnership between the US and Russia, who developed a joint partnership based on their many years of working together on the International Space Station (ISS). 
Of course, this isn't the first time China and Russia have promised greater cooperation and it likely won't be the last. At some point, both nations may even decide to follow through on their pronouncements.
As a result of the 2014 Crimean crisis, Dmitri Rogozin, the director general of the russian space corporation Roscosmos, was added to an international  sanctions list by the US, Canada and the European Union (EU), and therefore did not attend IAC2018. He was replaced at the IAC2018 Heads of Agencies Plenary by Dmitry Loskutov, the head of the international cooperation department at Roscosmos.
For more on this new race to the Moon, check out future editions of the Commercial Space blog
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Space Science Intersecting With Science Policy and Funding in Ottawa and Germany

          By Chuck Black

While many of the public and private movers and shakers of the Canadian space industry are spending the week at the 2018 International Astronautical Congress (IAC2018) which is being held from October 1st - 5th in Bremen Germany, other Canadian scientists are working to organize their first "Day on the Hill," which will take place during the 2018 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC2018) in Ottawa from November 7th - 9th.


This is probably a good thing given that the Ottawa ON based Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the Canadian union representing Federal and provincially funded scientists (including those working at the Canadian Space Agency), has just come out with a press release announcing that "overall funding for federal government science is in fact lower today than it was under the Harper government, in particular for research and development."

As outlined in the September 28th, 2018 PIPSC press release, "Despite public support for more funding, spending on federal science is lower today than under the Harper government, says PIPSC," while some science funding has shifted to the private sector to encourage innovation, "R&D by federal scientists has declined steeply," and  "72%" of Canadians agree “in the next federal budget, funding for federal government science programs should be restored to what it was in 2011.”

The press release also referenced Statistics Canada figures which indicated that "spending on R&D by government scientists has declined by $891Mln CDN compared to 2010/11 under the Harper government."

"While Statistics Canada figures show overall funding of government science has increased from $10.4Bln in 2015/16 to $11.3Bln in 2018/19, actual spending is projected to be $112Mln CDN lower in 2018/19 than in 2014/15," it said.

According to the press release:
The StatsCan numbers reinforce the findings of a 2017 survey of federal scientists, which discovered well over half (58%) believe their departments do not have sufficient resources to fulfill their mandates. 
The problem is particularly pronounced in the Canadian Space Agency (79%), Natural Resources Canada (64%) and even Environment and Climate Change Canada, where 60% do not feel their department has sufficient resources.

Perhaps more interaction between scientists and politicians is the solution.

As outlined in the September 28th, 2018 University Affairs post, "Scientists to meet with political leaders for a day on the Hill," a new program being launched at the annual CSPC in November will "give scientists a chance to spend a day getting to know Parliament Hill and the people who work there."

Called Science Meets Parliament, the event will allow up to 20 participants to meet with MPs and senators for informal talks and to learn about their daily business. In exchange, perhaps both sides will learn a little more about the constraints and capabilities of the other.

According to the CSPC website:
Science Meets Parliament is presented as a pilot project this year. 
We endeavour to make this milestone project an annual event that brings scientists working in Canada to Parliament Hill in order to meet with Members of Parliament and Senators, attend House and Senate committee meetings, discuss scientific research, and gain familiarity with the political process.
The CSPC initially outlined its plan to bring Scientists on the Hill in a Five-Year Strategic Plan (2018-2023), mainly as a mechanism to connect the two communities of scientists and politicians, foster dialogue, and enhance mutual understanding.


Meanwhile over in Bremen at IAC2018, things are chugging merrily along.

As per the October 1st, 2018 IAC2018 press release, "Watch the IAC 2018 Public Day Remotely Free of Charge," some of the sessions are even available online for viewing.

IAC2018 is organized by the Paris France based International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) to establish a dialogue between scientists from around the world and provide a forum for "international space cooperation."
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.



Monday, October 01, 2018

Smart Cities in Our Foreseeable Future

          By Brian Orlotti

It's worth noting that many of the tools developed to generate large amounts of "actionable" Earth imaging data from the space program are also used to connect that data to practical terrestrial technologies designed to improve our life on Earth.

As outlined on the Elevate Toronto Smart Cities web page, "We are witnessing the highest levels of urbanization since World War One. With this, cities must adapt and innovate with technology to support this influx in demand. World leaders will tackle this problem by demonstrating innovative solutions to improving energy efficiency, sustainability and communication." Photo c/o Elevate Toronto.

Several local examples illustrating this, and other areas of interest relating to the concepts surrounding "smart cities," were explored during the Smart Cities track of the annual Elevate Toronto Festival, held on September 26th at the Design Exchange in downtown Toronto.

The first session, ‘Smart Cities, Same Old Blind Spots,’ was a ‘fireside chat’ between Design Exchange CEO Shauna Levy and Toronto ON based Doblin Canada's executive adviser Zahra Ibrahim. The theme of their chat was how smart city planners could minimize resistance to and improve the design of smart cities. Levy and Ibrahim stated their view that the key to achieving this is ‘inclusive design.’

The two went on to define inclusive design as incorporating all stakeholders into the design process, rather than just corporate interests or academics. In this view, urban design should be both aspirational and reciprocal. Being aspirational was defined as building public works of art as well as using artistic elements in public areas in order stimulate creative thinkers, create warmth and a shared sense of space.

Reciprocity involves bringing traditionally marginalized groups into the design process. Levy and Ibrahim used the example of Detroit, where redevelopment efforts adopted a shared governance model. Under this model, indigenous peoples were brought into the design process to foster a spirit of reciprocity as well as to dispel perceptions of the redevelopment as exploitative.


In ‘Public-Private Partnerships: Finding the Sweet Spot,’ Uber Canada public policy manager Chris Schafer discussed Uber’s partnership with the City of Innisfil ON to creative an alternative form of public transit.

The city government had done an extensive study on building tradition public transit surface bus routes but concluded that this would be both prohibitively expensive and unable to meet the needs of Innisfil’s diffuse population.

In 2017 Uber, sensing opportunity, approached the city with an innovative alternative.

The company created a custom Uberpool for Innisfil in its smartphone app, offering residents $3-5 CDN flat rate fares funded by both a $100,000CDN grant from the city as well Ontario’s municipal gas tax. Innisfil’s Uberpool is geo-fenced for travel in the Innisfil/Barrie area only.

The project was a success with both Innisfil residents as well as the city government, which has saved an estimated $8Mln CDN over traditional public transit.


The centre piece of the event, was ‘Expanding the Public Realm in the Smart City’ by Toronto ON based Sidewalk Labs director Jesse Shapins.

In his talk, Shapins outlined the vision and philosophy behind Quayside, the Smart City being planned for construction on Toronto’s eastern waterfront. Sidewalk Labs envisions Quayside as both a test-bed for innovation and an opportunity to correct mistakes made by past Toronto city planning.

Quayside, Shapins said, is designed as a ‘living room’ not a formal room, meaning not too polished or perfect. In past decades, Toronto city planning adhered to the Modernist school, resulting in a variety of diverse neighborhoods that were isolated from each other. Sidewalk Labs considers this a mistake, and Quayside is intended to remedy this by having its neighborhoods interconnected.

Shapins laid out a vision of city blocks laid out not in a traditional grid separated by streets, but connected to each other by an internal network of narrow pedestrian streets. Shapins said that this design harkens back to the layout of medieval European cities. In Quayside, these internal streets will contain public gathering spaces, playgrounds and markets.

Continuing with the theme of interconnectedness, Quayside will avoid the traditional segregation of residential, commercial and industrial zones and experiment with new building types that combine all three. Shapins argued that this will make Quayside’s neighborhoods more compact and walk-able, doing away with long commutes and fostering a greater sense of community.


Quayside’s buildings will incorporate simple, low-cost systems to make outdoor spaces usable year round, i.e. retractable canopies to shield people from wind and rain. Shapins also showed a modular pavement system which will come in three types: heated (for melting ice/snow), dynamic (with built-in LED lights) and green zones (trees and other vegetation).

For his final topic, Shapins unveiled Sidewalk Labs’ plans for enlarging and extending the Jarvis Street Slip. Currently used by freighters delivering sugar cane to the Redpath Sugar Refinery at Queen’s Quay, Sidewalks Labs proposes extending the slip inland as far north as Parliament Street and widening it to serve as an enclosed, park-lined waterway for residents’ recreation.

This year’s Elevate Toronto once again served as a showpiece of Canadian talent and innovation. While not traditionally an innovative city, Toronto has plenty of it on the horizon. 
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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