Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Those New Maple Leaf Brand Rockets

          By Brian Orlotti

Propulsion engineer Adam Trumpour has unveiled the Launch Canada Rocket Innovation Challenge, Canada’s first major rocket competition. The contest will offer Canadians the opportunity to build a home grown space launch capability, in turn fostering a vibrant private launch industry.

The announcement was made on October 18th, 2018 at the Montreal Space Symposium.

Launch Canada seeks to enable Canada's growing student rocketry community to take their activities to the next level by embracing the idea of ‘grassroots rocketry.’ Referring to the success of firms like Hawthorne CA based SpaceX, Kent Washington based Blue Origin and Huntington Beach CA based Rocket Lab, Trumpour made the point that groups initially made up of amateurs have achieved success and are now building sophisticated spacecraft and pushing the envelope of a host of technologies. It is this success that he wishes to replicate in Canada.

Trumpour’s motivations behind the contest are varied, but include the desire to reverse the decline of  Canada’s space sector, undoing Canadians’ self-limiting colonial mindset, diversifying Canada’s economy and creating new opportunities for Canada’s workforce. 

Adam Trumpour. Photo c/o CSCA.
The Launch Canada Challenge will consist of three prize categories meant to encourage the development of Canadian rocketry talent and launch vehicle technologies:
  • Beginner Launch Challenge – A more accessible challenge intended for less experienced teams to build their expertise and interact with the larger Canadian rocketry community. It will involve building and launching a rocket to an altitude of 10,000 feet. The use of off-the-shelf hobby rocket motors will be permitted.  Points will be awarded for reaching the target altitude as well for demonstrating a useful payload.
  • Subsystem Design Challenge - This challenge will allow teams to develop and demonstrate rocket technologies at the component or subsystem level. Adopting a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style approach, teams will make a pitch to a panel of judges, outlining potential business cases for their technology amidst the broader competitive landscape,
  • Advanced Launch Challenge - This challenge involves the successful launch of student-developed rocket vehicles to high altitudes. The emphasis will be on overall systems engineering, incentivizing the use of innovative technologies and concepts as well as the development of reusable launch vehicles.
Launch Canada is intended to be a recurring annual competition (beginning in Summer 2019) with prize money allocated as a percentage of donations raised from industry. The current prize purse, consisting of donations from several Canadian rocket engineers, is $30,000 CDN.

Trumpour is modelling Launch Canada on the Base 11 Space Challenge, an ambitious $1Mln US ($1.3Mln CDN) competition for the first student-built liquid-propellant rocket to reach space. Trumpour currently sits on the Base 11 Space Challenge’s Safety Committee, conducting rocketry safety training for all teams and several Canadian teams are competing in the Base 11 challenge.

The Launch Canada Rocket Innovation Challenge comes at a branch-point in Canadian history.

The United Sates’ behavior during the recent NAFTA renegotiation, culminating in US President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to the Canadian economy, have made clear the need for Canada to protect its homegrown talent and diversify its trade. An independent Canadian space launch industry would offer greater opportunity, keep Canadian talent at home and protect our nation’s space activities from foreign interference.   

Perhaps, on a day not far from now, maple Leaf-bearing rockets could propel us away from America’s grip.
Brian Orlotti.

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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