Monday, May 20, 2019

NASA Begins Issuing "Non-Traditional" Procurement Contracts for Human Rated Lunar Landers

          By Henry Stewart

NASA has begun issuing contracts to US based companies to develop human rated lunar landers as part of US President Donald Trump's plan to return American astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

In an effort to keep costs down and speed up program roll-out, the contracts will be based around "public/private partnership" procurement methodologies and not the "cost-plus" methodologies traditionally favored by NASA and other national space agencies, including Canada's.


As outlined in the May 16th, 2019 NASA press release, "NASA Taps 11 American Companies to Advance Human Lunar Landers," the new contracts were issued last week to eleven companies for preliminary design studies and the development of prototypes that "reduce schedule risk for the descent, transfer, and refueling elements of a potential human landing system."

The awards total $45.5Mln US ($61Mln CDN) and "will help put American astronauts - the first woman and next man - on the Moon's south pole by 2024 and establish sustainable missions by 2028," according to the press release:
To accelerate our return to the Moon, we are challenging our traditional ways of doing business. We will streamline everything from procurement to partnerships to hardware development and even operations," said Marshall Smith, director for human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters. 
"Our team is excited to get back to the Moon quickly as possible, and our public/private partnerships to study human landing systems are an important step in that process."
The awards were made under the NASA Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. The successful companies are required to contribute at least 20% of the total project cost of the contract.

To expedite the work, NASA will be invoking what they describe as "undefinitized" contract actions, which allow the agency to authorize partners to start on components of a larger project, while negotiations for the undefined project components continue in parallel.


The eleven companies receiving contracts are from eight states located across the US. They include:
  • Canoga Park CA based Aerojet Rocketdyne -  Awarded one contract for a transfer vehicle study.
  • Kent WA based Blue Origin - Awarded three contracts covering one descent element study, one transfer vehicle study and one transfer vehicle prototype.
  • Houston TX based Boeing - Awarded seven contracts covering one descent element study, two descent element prototypes, one transfer vehicle study, one transfer vehicle prototype, one refueling element study and one refueling element prototype.
  • Huntsville AL based Dynetics -  Awarded six contracts covering one descent element study and five descent element prototypes.
  • Littleton CO based Lockheed Martin - Awarded seven contracts covering one descent element study, four descent element prototypes, one transfer vehicle study and one refueling element study.
  • Dulles VA based Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems -  Awarded seven contracts covering one descent element study, four descent element prototypes, one refueling element study and one refueling element prototype.
  • Edison NJ based ORBITBeyond - Awarded two contracts covering two refueling element prototypes.
  • Louisville CO and Madison WI based Sierra Nevada Corporation - Awarded five contracts covering one descent element study, one descent element prototype, one transfer vehicle study, one transfer vehicle prototype and one refueling element study.
  • Hawthorne CA based SpaceX - Awarded one contract for one descent element study. 
  • Palo Alto CA based SSL - Awarded two contracts covering one refueling element study and one refueling element prototype.


In April 2019, NASA notified US industry of its intention to partner with US based companies to develop an integrated lander.

The formal solicitation is expected to be issued sometime this summer, It's expected to provide a general overview of the requirements for a 2024 human landing, "and leave it to US industry to propose innovative concepts, hardware development and integration," according to the NASA press release.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

No Canadarms Needed Under Current US Plans to Return to the Moon by 2024 Says NASA's Gerstenmaier

          By Chuck Black

Short weeks after noting in the May 1st, 2019 post "The Canadian Space Agency has Begun Issuing Millions of Dollars in New Canadarm Contracts for the US Lunar Gateway" that, "if the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) really wanted to build a new "3rd generation Canadarm" for the NASA led US Lunar Gateway, then it might want to wait until someone figures out if and/or when the US wants one," someone has figured out that NASA doesn't really want one.

One of the most famous catchphrases of the 50s was from the TV show, The Life of Riley, which ran from 1953 to 1958. The show featured William Bendix as kind-hearted doofus Chester A. Riley, a wing riveter at the Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. When Riley's well-intentioned blunders blew up in his face, he'd turn to the camera and exclaim,  "What a revoltin' development this is!" Kinda reminds you of Canada. Graphic c/o Imgflip.

At least not for today and not until an alternative plan to plant American astronaut boots on the Moon by 2024 is completed.

The information, as outlined in the May 14th, 2019 SpaceQ post, "Accelerated NASA Moon Landing Plan Doesn’t Need Canadian Robotic System," derived from a series of e-mails from Bill Gerstenmaier, the NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations. The emails occurred after a May 13th, 2019 NASA teleconference announcing a preliminary budget for the Moon 2024 initiative and naming the project "Artemis."

According to the post, Gerstenmaier said that “at this point in our planning the robotic arm is not required for the 2024 landing.” He also said “we would like the arm as soon as available. The CSA arm concept is very creative and (could) be used inside (of the station) as well.”

This publication has never been a fan of SpaceQ, finding the writing and editorial stance tilted way too far away from journalism in favor of promoting legacy CSA subcontractors, but this particular article is timely and throws most of Canada's space community into a tailspin.

As outlined in the February 28th, 2019 post, "Canada Becomes the First Nation to Formally Commit to the NASA Lunar Gateway Plan," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the initial announcement that Canada would be contributing to the US Lunar Gateway in late February, just before the 2019 Federal budget was released and the US decided to change its plan.


Unlike the current Canadian space program, which is locked in concrete until after the next Federal election in October 2019. the NASA's preliminary budget is still expected to be subjected to months of political infighting before being finalized.

As outlined in the May 14th, 2019 Space.com post, "Trump Proposes Extra $1.6Bln for NASA's 2024 Return to Moon," the proposed budgetgives NASA an additional $1.6Bln US ($2.2Bln CDN) in fiscal year 2020, on top of the $21Bln US ($28Bln CDN) already allocated to the space agency."

The plan calls for American astronauts to return to the moon using American made landers and hardware.

But NASA won't get the money "until Congress, which has the power of the purse, officially signs off." No one really knows when that will happen or what will happen with next years budget.

Most observers expect that far more funding will be required in future years. The long-term political prognosis for the proposal is, so far at least, far from favorable. 

So while its good that NASA's Mr. Gerstenmaier is still interested in getting free Canadarms which can be traded for future astronaut slots, informed Canadians should note that the US budget and its NASA component are targeted specifically at programs designed to further US interests.

Not Canadian interests. 


Back in March, almost as soon as Canada committed funding for the US Lunar Gateway, the US government, as outlined in the March 28th, 2019 post, "If NASA is Putting US Boots on the Moon by 2024, Who Will Pay for the Lunar Gateway and Space Launch System?," quietly began the process of throwing Canada's proposed contribution under the bus.

In retrospect, this country and the ruling Justin Trudeau Liberal government was foolish to bet so much of its space future on a US space program focused almost exclusively on US domestic and international concerns. 

Let's see about cleaning up our mistake. Canada's space activities should address Canadian concerns, grow Canada's space industry and solve Canadian problems on Canadian timetables.

We don't need to serve as an adjunct to someone else's space program.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Proposed CASTOR Space Telescope is Looking for Funding

          By Chuck Black

A design for a proposed Canadian space telescope intended to provide panoramic, high-resolution imaging in the UV/optical (0.15–0.55 µm) spectral region is being revisited by many of the same academics, scientists and engineers who contributed to the initial design.


The Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and ultraviolet Research (CASTOR) was the subject of a thirty five page Canadian Space Agency (CSA) position paper seven years ago, but the project has received no substantive funding since the paper was published in March 2012.

The original CASTOR proposal was developed in response to the Canadian Astronomical Society's (CASCA) 2010 Long Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy, a review of Canadian capabilities intended to outline "the broad goals and directions of astronomical and astrophysical research in Canada," over the period from 2010 - 2020.

It derived from an earlier CASCA plans to champion a domestically based large space telescope project in order to promote Canadian academic and private sector capabilities to the rest of the world.

As outlined in the CASCA 2010 Long Range Plan:

  • The highest priority in space astronomy is: “…significant involvement in the next generation of dark energy missions — ESA‘s Euclid, or the NASA WFIRST mission, or a Canadian-led mission, the Canadian Space Telescope (CST).”
  • … Canadian space astronomy technology has reached the point that we could [now] lead a large space astronomy mission (such as the Canadian Space Telescope).”
  • Leading such a project would break new ground for Canadian space astronomy and present numerous opportunities for Canadian companies to showcase technological capabilities.” 

The CASCA Joint Committee on Space Astronomy advises the CSA on matters pertaining to the space astronomy segment of the CSA space science program including priorities, areas of research, selection mechanisms and funding. They thought that they had a decent chance of moving the program forward, but after the initial reception, the plan languished in unfunded space project purgatory, where it seemingly remained until last week.

Early milestones in CASCA's quest to generate the CST. Chart c/o the July 2014 CASCA CASTOR website

The revival came on the Space Matters website from one of the original authors of the 2012 CASTOR proposal. As outlined in the May 9th, 2019 Space Matters post, "CASTOR: a Beaver or a Canadian Space Telescope?," space astronomy is on the verge of a revolution:
In the next decade, a pair of sophisticated imaging telescopes — Europe’s Euclid mission and NASA’s WFIRST mission — will survey the skies at red-optical and infrared wavelengths, hoping to unlock the secrets of Dark Energy, a mysterious form of energy that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. 
CASTOR has been designed to complement these by providing razor-sharp images at shorter wavelengths, in the ultraviolet and blue-optical region.
CASTOR would not only open a new window on the cosmos, but it would succeed the legendary Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as the world’s preeminent imaging facility at these wavelengths. Launched in 1990, HST is nearing the end of its lifetime, and astronomers worldwide will soon lose access to the razor-sharp imaging capabilities that have propelled their research to new heights and captivated the pubic in the process.
Author Patrick Côté is an astronomer at the National Research Council’s (NRC) Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria BC and one of the contributors to the 2012 CASTOR proposal.

The Space Matters website began in 2018 with a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience grant to the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) at the University of Western Ontario (Western).

Current partners in the Space Matters collective also include the Canadian Association of Science Centres, the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Partners in Research Canada, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Space Generation Advisory Council and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

Cover page from the March 2012 CSA overview of CASTOR, which included a list of contributing authors. Cambridge ON based COM DEV International would likely have become the prime contractor for the program had it been approved and funded by the CSA, which accounts for the large number of COM DEV contributors. Graphic c/o CSA.

Will CASTER ever receive enough funding to move forward? That's not likely given the upcoming election and the uncomfortable fact that the natural prime contractor for the project is no longer in existence.

In November 2015, Cambridge ON based COM DEV International, a strong contributer to the 2012 CASTOR position paper, was purchased by Charlotte NC based Honeywell International.

It's unknown if the current owners would be able to take on the prime contractor role for CASTER. Maybe that's something that can be revisited at some point.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mr. Bezos Goes to the Moon

          By Brian Orlotti

On May 9th, Kent WA based Blue Origin, a private space firm company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos—revealed at an invite-only event in Washington DC its plans to send a lunar lander named Blue Moon to the Moon’s south pole.

Offering images of teeming, free-floating O’Neill space cylinders, Bezos’ ambition has drawn admiration, skepticism and cynicism alike.


Looking liked an amped-up Apollo lunar module designed by Syd Mead, the Blue Moon will be capable of autonomous navigation and delivering 3.6 to 6.5 metric tons of payload to the Moon’s surface.

Blue Moon can also carry as many as four large rovers, or an "ascent stage," which can launch from the lander to transport people off the Lunar surface. the surface of the Moon. The lander will use a newly developed engine called the BE-7, which will see its first ignition test this summer.

Blue Origin’s target, Shackleton Crater, is an area of both scientific interest as well as a source of two settlement-enabling resources; water and steady sunlight.

Lunar water, useful for drinking water as well as making rocket fuel, was first discovered in the 1990’s by NASA’s Lunar crater observation and sensing satellite (LCROSS) and more recently confirmed by India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. This water consists of ice deposits residing in the dark areas of craters, like Shackleton, where temperatures do not rise above -156 degrees Celsius.

The ice, likely mixed in with surface soil, could be present in quantities between 10 thousand and a hundred million tons at the Lunar south pole alone.  The lunar poles are also areas of lengthy (though not constant) sunlight, ideal for powering a lunar base via solar energy.

As noted in the May 13th, 2019 Thinknum.com post, "Billionaire Star Wars: Bezos' Blue Origin is now hiring more than Musk's SpaceX," Bezos has ramped up the hiring at Blue Origin. Graphic c/o Thinknum Open Dataset.

The Bezos presentation was likely an attempt to position Blue Origin as the vendor of choice for contracts expected to be issued by NASA over the next few months to support US President Donald Trump's plan to return American astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

While this might not sit well with some of the more entrenched, traditional and "cost-plus" focused NASA subcontractors over the short term, it is the best opportunity for Bezos and Blue Origin to become a major industry player in the space industry. 
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, May 10, 2019

Maxar Technologies Reports $504Mln US Consolidated Revenues and Net Loss of $0.99 US per share for Q1 2019

          By Chuck Black

Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies has reported a decrease in quarterly revenues due to "lackluster geostationary communication satellite sales," the wind down of new Canadian procurement requirements related to the now ready to launch RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) and the recent loss of its Worldview-4 high-resolution imaging satellite.

The front cover of the twenty-three page powerpoint deck covering its Q1 2019 quarterly conference call. For the complete deck, check out the MAy 10th, 2019 Seeking Alpha post, "Maxar Technologies Inc. 2019 Q1 - Results - Earnings Call Slides." For a transcript of the call, check out the May 10th, 2019 Seeking Alpha post, "Maxar Technologies Inc. (MAXR) CEO Dan Jablonsky on Q1 2019 Results - Earnings Call Transcript." Graphic c/o Maxar. 

The comments were made by Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky during a May 9th, 2019 Maxar earnings call. Other Maxar participants on the call included EVP/CFO  Biggs Porter and VP of investor relations Jason Gursky.

As outlined in the May 9th, 2019 Maxar press release, "Maxar Technologies Reports First Quarter 2019 Results," key points of the quarterly report included:
  • Consolidated revenues of $504Mln US ($677Mln CDN).
  • A net loss of $0.99 US ($1.33CDN) per share.
  • A adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA1) of $117Mln US ($157Mln CDN) with a adjusted EBITDA1 margin of 23%.
As outlined in the May 8th, 2019 Maxar Press release, "Maxar Board of Directors Approves Quarterly Dividend," Maxar has also issued a quarterly dividend of $0.01 US per share payable on June 28th, 2019 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on June 14th, 2019.

According to CEO Jablonsky, the company remains "laser focused" on reducing the $3.18Bln US ($4.27Bln CDN) debt load, built up during its acquisition of Westminster CO based DigitalGlobe in 2017.

Maxar stock prices dropped sharply after the release of the earnings report from a May 9th, 2019 high of $6.71 US to $5.98 on May 10th, but have since recovered slightly in moderate trading.

The jury is still out on whether Maxar acted prudently by retaining its geostationary communication satellite manufacturing facility and its quarterly dividend. Both cost money to retain and with a growing debt load, the company will likely need to reassess its choices in the near future.

Here's hoping that Maxar can pull a rabbit out of the hat sometime soon.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Procurement is How Governments Reward NASA and CSA's Subcontractors, Domestic Shipbuilders and SNC Lavalin

          By Chuck Black

It's worth noting that the current US plans to return to the Moon by 2024 are being held up more by procurement issues and whether cost-plus pricing or fixed cost contracts will provide the best combination of jobs and off-sets to the powerful than by any lack of willpower, technology or scientific knowledge.


The US Congress grilled representatives from NASA earlier this week over the agency’s "failure to deliver a plan for getting back to the Moon within five years."

As outlined in the May 8th, 2019 The Verge post, "NASA’s plan to get to the Moon by 2024 isn’t ready yet," the plan "was supposed to be ready by mid-April but NASA officials say it’ll probably be a couple more weeks until the details are finalized and delivered."

That time-line is likely a little optimistic. The program won't be ready to fly anytime soon, unless a great deal of new money is set aside to fund it.

As outlined in the March 27th, 2019 Forbes post, "'Get Americans On The Moon In 5 Years' - VP Mike Pence Challenges NASA," the US VP called for "American astronauts to be back on the Moon within the next five years," during a speech at the Huntsville AL based US Space and Rocket Center on March 21st, 2019.

At that time, it was also expected that the White House would be able to present a budget for accomplishing the goal within a few weeks.

Time flies when you're having fun.

Of course, the US has a history of funding space programs such as the Space Launch System (SLS) which, while highly expensive, never really seem to get off the ground. The latest attempt to cancel or wind-down that program was rolled out as part of the March 2019 NASA budget request.


At one point, as outlined in the March 16th, 2019 post, "Bridenstine Reassures SLS/Orion Workforce That They're Still Needed," the White House even considered using the far less expensive (and mostly operational) commercial crew rockets to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024. NASA backtracked only a few days later under pressure from SLS contractors and a variety of others.

In Canada, government procurement from the space industry is a little more subtle.

Graphic c/o Idlehearts.com.
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) generally prefers not to use pay-for-performance contracts, a situation which has historically allowed our larger space firms to make money throughout the prototyping and life-cycle phases of a program by recording normal changes and improvements to the design and charging extra to make those changes.

But the case of Canadian Admiral Mark Norman, as recently noted in the May 9th, 2019 National Post article, "In an inspired performance, Norman lawyer Marie Henein did incalculable damage to the Trudeau brand," does suggest a large political component associated with winning large Canadian procurement projects under the current government.

If nothing else, it seems obvious by now that the Federal Conservatives under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper favored a different Federal contractor for shipbuilding in 2015 than the Justin Trudeau Liberal government favored in 2016 and Admiral Norman suffered for this.

The current Federal government also seems to have preferences in other areas of procurement, as the recent stories about Montreal PQ based SNC Lavalin illustrate.

It's also worth noting the general consensus in Ottawa that there are procurement contracts relating to the 3rd generation Canadarm which will likely be won by Brampton ON based MDA, a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, governments used procurement to purchase services useful to its constituents. Maybe they still do, somewhere.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Another Storied Canadian Aerospace Company Twists in the Fiscal Wind

          By Henry Stewart

Anyone remember those grand old days when Montreal PQ based Bombardier Aerospace actually built planes?


As outlined in the May 6th, 2019 Leeham News and Analysis post, "The decline and fall of Bombardier," those days are mostly done.

According to the post, with the announcement that its Belfast manufacturing facility and a smaller one in Morocco are for sale, Bombardier retains control over the manufacture of only the CRJ regional series of airliners. However, analysts expect that this facility will also be sold in the near future.

According to the post:
Bombardier pioneered the regional jetliner and dominated the turboprop sector.
(But Brazilian based Embraer surpassed the former and ATR (the Blagnac, France based ATR Aircraft) the latter.
A bold move to jump into the lower end of the market dominated by Airbus and Boeing, coupled with bad management and over-extending the balance sheet, nearly bankrupted the company.
As outlined in the January 29th, 2018 post, "A Pyrrhic Victory for Bombardier," that last near catastrophe was only averted when Bombardier "partnered" with Toulouse, France based aerospace powerhouse Airbus SE.

Earlier this month, as outlined in the May 2nd, 2019 Bombardier press release, "Bombardier Reports First Quarter 2019 Financial Results and New Strategic Direction for Aerospace, the formation of Bombardier Aviation," the company announced that it was consolidating  its aerospace assets "into a single, streamlined, and fully integrated Bombardier Aviation business unit."

Except, of course, for the parts that it's not trying to sell in an effort to cover its over extended balance sheet. Those components include the Belfast manufacturing facility and, as outlined in the May 6th, 2019 Globe and Mail post, "Bombardier to be supplied by Morocco plant after sale: minister," the smaller manufacturing facility in Morocco.

As outlined in the post, "Canada’s Bombardier Inc will sell its wing component plant in Morocco to a manufacturer that will continue to supply Bombardier after a sale, Moroccan Industry Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy said on Monday."

The new owner will be revealed in three weeks.

Bombardier reported $2.1Bln US ($2.83Bln CDN) in revenues in the three month period ending March 31th, a drop of 11% over the same period last year.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Telesat Prepares to Issue Contracts for its $3Bln CDN Constellation

          By Chuck Black

It's fortunate that Canada's space industry isn't entirely dependent on the $2Bln CDN in new Federal contracts expected to be issued for the US led Lunar Gateway program over the next twenty-four years.

Telesat isn't the only company attempting to build out these complex. satellite constellations As outlined in the March 13th, 2018 Space News post, "LEO and MEO broadband constellations mega source of consternation," the demand for ever-faster broadband internet connections "is maxing out today’s satellites, setting off an industry-wide stampede toward increasingly powerful high-throughput satellites (HTS)." Graphic c/o Space News.

A larger, mostly private sector series of contracts worth approximately $3Bln CDN in total is also expected to roll out within the next few months from Ottawa ON based Telesat for its proposed constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) small communications satellites.

Telesat is competing against London UK based OneWeb, Hawthorne CA based SpaceX and a variety of other satellite providers attempting to build out enormously complex, but potentially profitable satellite communications networks able to compete with existing DSL, cable, fibre and/or other ground based terrestrial networks in urban areas plus provide internet access to rural regions currently without service.

As outlined in the May 2nd, 2019 Space News post, "Telesat to receive constellation bids this summer," Ottobrunn Germany based Airbus Defence is competing for the Telesat contract against a consortium of companies wrapped around Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies and Paris France based Thales Alenia.

Both Airbus and the Maxar/Thales consortium already possess connections with Telesat competitor, OneWeb.

As most recently noted in the May 6th, 2019 SpaceQ post, "Airbus and Thales Alenia Space-Maxar Consortium Complete Milestones in Bid for Telesat Contract," Brampton ON based MDA, a Maxar subsidiary, is providing antennas for OneWeb satellites. And, as outlined on the Airbus website promoting their OneWeb satellite contributions, OneWeb and Airbus have teamed up to design and manufacture up to 900 satellites for the OneWeb constellation.

Airbus and the Maxar/Thales have also said they’re willing to establish factories in Canada to build the satellites.


According to Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg, the next step in the process "would be getting commercial proposals from both of these prospective suppliers,” an activity expected to move forward over the summer.

As outlined in the May 6th, 2019 Telesat press release, "Another Milestone for Telesat’s LEO Program – Manufacturing Teams Complete System Definition and Risk Management Phase," both teams are moving forward with their bid. The proposals are focused around how the satellites would be built and inter-operate with ground systems once in orbit.

According in the April 9th, 2019 post, "Telesat Hires a Four Year Old US Based Start-up to Launch its Satellites," Telesat has signed multiple-launch agreements with at least two launch providers, but hasn't specified how many satellites each company will launch.

Much of the funding for the Telesat LEO constellation is expected to be provided through the $1.7Bln CDN Universal Broadband Fund, first noted earlier this year as part of the Budget 2019 commitment to universal high speed internet access for all Canadians.

Telesat plans to have the constellation in service in 2022 and is expected to decide on a prime contractor to manufacture the satellites in the second quarter of 2019. The Telesat constellation is expected to contain 292 satellites, but could potentially grow to 512 satellites.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Toronto Based Kepler Communications Hires Former Inmarsat Executive as Strategy Advisor

          By Henry Stewart

While its entertaining to report on student focused events and educational outreach posts originating from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), sometimes one of the grown-ups in our domestic space industry does something deserving of note.

As the then Inmarsat VP of business development and strategy, McDougal was one of the presenters at the 2nd Annual European Satellite Day, which was held on September 5th, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium. Photo c/o Flicker

For example, Toronto ON based Internet-of-things satellite start-up Kepler Communications has just up-ended the typical career path of a distinguished Canadian working abroad.

"As a Canadian who has worked overseas all my professional life, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with the Toronto-based Kepler team – smart, highly motivated and ambitious,’’ according to  Patrick McDougal, Kepler's new strategy advisor. "I am delighted to contribute my experiences as I believe that they have what it takes for long-term success. I’m happy to be with them for the next stage of the journey.’’

As outlined in the April 30th, 2019 Kepler Communications press release, "Kepler Hires Former Inmarsat Chief Strategy Officer Patrick McDougal," McDougal joined Kepler this month as a strategy advisor to support its business units. According to the press release:
McDougal is a veteran business strategist within the satellite telecommunications industry with over 30 years of senior experience working for global leaders in the sector such as Inmarsat (29 years) and Intelsat (4 years). 
Before joining Kepler, McDougal was a member of the executive management team at London UK based Inmarsat plc where "he led a number of initiatives including the acquisition of various companies, securing EU-wide spectrum licenses that advanced Inmarsat’s market strength, and global oversight of the company’s overall corporate business development efforts," according to the May 1st, 2019 Telecompaper post, "Kepler hires former Inmarsat chief strategy officer McDougal."

Welcome home, Mr. McDougal. Best of luck with your latest venture.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Canadian Space Agency has Begun Issuing Millions of Dollars in New Canadarm Contracts for the US Lunar Gateway

          By Chuck Black

If the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) really wanted to build a new "3rd generation Canadarm" for the NASA led US Lunar Gateway, then it might want to wait until someone figures out if and/or when the US wants one.


After all, as outlined most recently in the April 22nd, 2019 post, "Second Thoughts About Bolting Canada's Space Future to the US Lunar Gateway," the US has already moved away from its original proposal to build the Gateway by 2028 and embraced (at least for today) a far more ambitious plan to return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

No one is sure if the new plan would even need another Canadarm, although its expected that the usual contractors will argue that jobs, corporate profits, the upcoming election and an intangible "Canadian pride" all depend on continued Federal funding for every existing component of the original plan along with additional funding for all the hoped for new components.

The Federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to have embraced the contractors perspective. As outlined in the April 26th, 2019 request for proposal (RFP) on the Federal government BuyandSell procurement website under the title, "Gateway External Robotics Interfaces (GERI) Large and Dextrous Arms Interfaces - Phase A (9F052-18-0865)," the CSA has has issued a $2.7Mln CDN Phase-A RFP for a "Lunar Gateway External Large" plus a $3.8Mln CDN Phase-A RFP for "Dextous Arms Interfaces."

The RFPs are a follow-up to the January 29th, 2019 BuyandSell procurement website request for information (RFI) under the title, "Gateway External Robotics Interfaces - Large and dexterous arms interfaces (9F052-18-0648)." Both the original RFI and the current RFPs were issued under the CSA Deep Space Exploration Robotics (DSXR) initiative.

Conventional wisdom expects Brampton ON based MDA, a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies, to receive awards under both parts of the contract, unless the election is called before the awards can be announced.

Both RFPs close on June 13th, 2019 and call for work to be completed before August 31st, 2020. The next Canadian Federal election is scheduled to take place on or before October 21st, 2019 and will likely be called three months before hand, to allow appropriate time for a proper campaign.


The problem with this sort of procurement is quite simply that, once the project is in the funding funnel it's very difficult to cancel the program, even if the customer requirements change.

A good example of this are the various iterations of US space shuttle derived launch vehicles which, since 1991, have been consistently been rolled out under promises to retain existing expertise at a lower cost, but eventually outgrew their budget and were scaled back and canceled before ever actually flying.

The component parts of the program were then repackaged under a new name and refunded, at least until they also spent too much money and got canceled.

As outlined in the May 1st, 2012 post, "Media Reports: CSA "Lost in Space," RADARSAT "Over Budget" & UrtheCast "Hyped Vaporware"," Canada has also come across one or two of these types of programs.

Most were never really meant to create usable technology. Instead, their intent was to achieve political ends and preserve local jobs and existing corporations which would continue to support the incumbent governments in a variety of ways.

PM Trudeau at CSA headquarters in PQ on February 28th, 2019 during a presentation announcing that Canada would allocate approximately $2Bln CDN over the next twenty four years to support the US plan to build a Lunar Gateway by 2028 as a preliminary step before returning astronauts to the Moon and Mars. But in late March, the US publicly pivoted away from that plan towards a new plan to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024. As outlined in the May 1st, 2019 Space News post, "NASA outlines plan for 2024 lunar landing," the current version of the plan calls for a "minimal version of the Lunar Gateway" with power, propulsion and "some kind of docking/ habitation small module." No word on whether any of those modules will need an arm. Photo c/o Adam Scotti/PMO.

And this specific Canadarm funding program, as noted in the  February 28, 2019 post, "Canada Becomes the First Nation to Formally Commit to the NASA Lunar Gateway Plan," was personally announced by the Canadian Prime Minister, so he's likely to double down on his commitment, even if there is no immediate customer requirement.

Given that, it looks like the new Canadarm program is at risk of becoming the latest in a series of expensive government procurement boondoggles.

It might even end up like CSA Moon rover program, where Canada spent a lot of money and hype beginning in the early 2000's to design, test and build demonstrators, but never got around to actually landing one on another heavenly body.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Chinese Raise the Stakes in Space

          By Brian Orlotti

Over the past week, several announcements from China have heralded a raising of the stakes in the current international resurgence of space exploration; the successful tests of both a hypersonic space plane and a reusable orbital rocket designed and built by Chinese launch startups and the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) April 24th announcement of its plans to build a scientific research base on the Moon’s south polar region within the next ten years.


As outlined in the April 26th, 2019 Space News post, "Chinese firms Space Transportation and Linkspace test reusable launcher technologies," the Chinese based  launch firm Space Transportation (a rough translation of its Chinese name: 凌空天行) carried out a test on April 22nd, 2019 in northwest China in cooperation with Xiamen University, launching a 3,700-kilogram  reusable winged suborbital demonstrator named Jiageng-1 which reached a maximum altitude of 26.2 kilometers and a top speed of above 4,300 kilometers per hour.

After the test, the rocket was recovered at a designated landing site. Space Transportation is funded through Chinese based venture capital firm Source Code Capital (源码资本).

The second test was a follow-up of an earlier, March 27th, 2019 low-altitude untethered launch and test landing. On April 19th, 2019, Chinese launch provider Linkspace launched its RLV-T5 tech demonstrator to a height of 40 meters (double that of the first test) and achieved a greater landing accuracy, according to the company.

According to the Space News post:
LinkSpace Aerospace Technology Group was founded in 2014 with the aim of developing a reusable launch vehicle capable of vertical takeoff and vertical landing since its founding in 2014. The company aims for a full test flight of the NewLine-1 orbital launcher in 2021, which will be capable of carrying 200 kilograms to a 500 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).
As outlined in the post, a large number of number of NewSpace focused companies have emerged in China "following a 2014 policy decision to open the launch and small satellite sectors to private capital. Approved firms have also received support through a civil-military integration national strategy, which facilitates the transfer of restricted technologies in order to promote innovation in dual-use technology and reduce costs."


As well, on April 24th, China’s Space Day, CNSA chief Zhang Kejian announced China’s intent to build a scientific research base in the Moon’s south polar region in about ten years. The announcement was made at the Space Day opening ceremony in Changsha, capital of China's Hunan Province. Kejian also discussed the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission to launch in late 2019 as well as China’s yet-to-be-named first Mars mission to launch in 2020.

China’s latest announcements and their effect on the policy of the US and other spacefaring nations remains to be seen. Earlier this year, limited cooperation between the CNSA and NASA during the Chang’e-4 lunar landing opened the door to possible Chinese/US collaboration in exploring and settling the moon. In the context of the current US/China trade war, such actions could be a ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ strategy on the US’ part.

However, given the Western world’s current social and economic problems and the chaotic tendencies of the US’ Donald Trump administration, the boots on the lunar ground may, at least initially, be only those of the CNSA and SpaceX, Blue Origin, Moon Express and other private space firms. A Trump defeat in the 2020 US elections could signal yet another abrupt shift in policy.

The next few decades in space look to be anything but boring.
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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

DARPA Still Looking to Build Out US On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Capabilities

          By Chuck Black

Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies may have dropped out of the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, a public-private partnership with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in January 2019, but that doesn't mean that DARPA isn't looking to replace Maxar with new private sector partners able to help them develop this emerging technology.


As outlined in the April 19th, 2019 Next Gov post, "The Pentagon is Investing in Space Robots to Repair Satellites," the latest DARPA RSGS plans calls for lots and lots of space robots orbiting silently and prepared for action.

As outlined in the post, DARPA currently believes that:
...space-based robots offer the best bet for inspecting and repairing high-altitude satellites, especially with the number of satellites set to skyrocket due to a budding Space Force and federal agencies and industry ramping up operations in outer space. 
Under the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program, DARPA will partner with teams to build both robots that can maintain and upgrade satellites, as well as the spacecraft to move the bots through space. Once deployed, the tech would periodically check in on different satellites and service them as needed.
As outlined in the January 30th, 2019 post, "Why did Maxar Subsidiary SSL "Terminate" its Participation in the DARPA GEOsynchronous Satellite Servicing Program?," the original Maxar plan was to test a single robotic servicing vehicle (RSV) capable of repairing large GEOsynchronous orbiting satellites as required.

The current plan is focused around smaller but more numerous repair satellites built to different designs and capable of performing different repairs and refueling functions. According to the post:
The robotic repairmen would “both provide increased resilience for the current U.S. space infrastructure and be the first concrete step toward a transformed space architecture with revolutionary capabilities,” DARPA officials wrote in the solicitation. Ultimately, each system would be expected to perform “dozens of missions over several years.”
The program is scheduled to last roughly five years, and DARPA will host a "Proposers Day" on May 22nd for those interested in competing in the program.


While its dropped out of the DARPA program, a Maxar subsidiary, the Palo Alto CA based SSL, retains its role as prime contractor for the NASA RESTORE-L robotic satellite servicing mission. The RESTORE-L is a fixed price NASA contract worth between $600 - $700Mln US ($800 - $925Mln CDN) designed around an SSL 1300 satellite bus equipped to service orbiting satellites.

But SSL, as outlined most recently in the April 10th, 2019 Space News post, "Maxar’s path to growth runs through Worldview Legion" has had its workforce slashed and is in the process of being integrated into the larger Maxar corporate structure. After dropping out of the DARPA RSGS program it will be interesting to see if Maxar can retain its lead role in the RESOLVE-L program.

The first RESOLVE-L on-orbit satellite servicer is currently scheduled for launch sometime in 2020.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

New US Bill Asks NASA to Encourage Space Mining and Assess the Establishment of a Space Resources Institute

          By Chuck Black

A proposed new bill introduced into the US House of Representatives by Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) is calling for the US to encourage space mining activities and for NASA to assess the usefulness of establishing a space resources institute.


But the bill is beginning to raise "off-the-record" eyebrows in Canada among space mining advocates who feel the US legislation could create barriers for international cooperation and damage the potential for making any sort of private sector profit from space based resources.

The legislation, known as the Space Resources Institute Act (H.R.1029) was first presented to the 116th Congress on February 12th, 2019, but languished until referenced by the Washington DC based National Space Society (NSS) in their April 24th, 2019 NSS press release, "National Space Society Endorses the Space Resources Institute Act (H.R. 1029)."

According to the NSS press release:
The National Space Society (NSS) enthusiastically supports the Space Resources Institute Act (H.R. 1029), a bi-partisan bill submitted by Representatives Scott Tipton and Ed Perlmutter. H.R. 1029 directs NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to submit to Congress “a report on the merits of, and options for, establishing an institute relating to space resources, and for other purposes.” NSS looks forward to seeing a similar bill submitted to the Senate. 
NSS has long called for the utilization of space resources to ensure that space exploration, development, and settlement become cost-effective and sustainable. Chair of the NSS Executive Committee Dale Skran stated, “Establishing a space resources institute to investigate potential technologies and techniques for finding, extracting, and utilizing space resources, including water, minerals, and solar energy, would be a rational next step on the way to enabling sustainable space settlement.”
The bill called for  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to submit a report, within the next six months, on the benefits of and options for establishing an institute that would be focused on:
  • Identifying, developing, and distributing space resources, including by encouraging the development of foundational science and technology; and,
  • Reducing the technological risks associated with identifying, developing, and distributing space resources.

The institute could be based in a physical location or established virtually and could also include partnerships with universities and companies representing aerospace and extractive industries.

In essence, it's a bill asking for more research, not action and everyone needs to begin somewhere. However, that could be where some of the real problems with this sort of national legislation could begin, at least for organizations based outside of the US.

For example, NASA already has a mechanism in place dedicated to funding virtual institutes for fundamental research. It's called the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) and supplements existing NASA lunar science programs and could certainly serve as a useful model for the proposed space resources institute.

As outlined on the SSERVI overview, the organization mandate is to bring together multiple entities (academic, industry, government and international) to address significant research issues that cannot be managed by stand alone entities.

But the international, cooperative efforts are all on a "no exchange of funds" basis. To cooperate with the SSERVI, or any similarly structured organization, Canadian and other externally based organizations would be required to share any intellectual property used in a cooperative venture but wouldn't be paid for it.

The only benefit to the contributor would be the chance to participate in program it couldn't create on its own. The US based coordinating organization would gain the IP and would therefore be able to reproduce the venture entirely on its own in the future.

Over time, the knowledge and skill-sets required to fulfill the various missions and mandates would all flow into the US based coordinating organization while the external, participating organizations would slowly lose their ability to organize independent missions.

Eventually, those external organizations would become simple component manufacturers for others, much like the current Canadian Space Agency (CSA) operates in conjunction with NASA.

All of which suggests that there are a great many problems and big gaps in the knowledge of how everything is supposed to work with the new bill, which could be a part of the reason why the bill calls on NASA to "assess" and not "implement."


Both of the US sponsors of the space mining institute legislation represent Colorado, where the Golden CO based Colorado School of Mines Space Resources Program as been a leading institution for the study of space resources and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) since the 1990's.

It's perfectly sensible for the sponsors represent their own constituents but other nations and organizations should look out for their own self-interests.

Maybe the real trick for Canada is to move forward with independent, domestically focused legislation designed to assist our own industries instead of waiting for some other nation to get the ball rolling and then react to the new state of affairs.

Canada could lead, instead of follow.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

CSA President Laporte in Connecticut to Learn How to Buy and Sell to the "5 Eyes" Intelligence Alliance

          By Henry Stewart

It looks like Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Sylvain Laporte will be spending time in Hartford, Connecticut next month to speak at a conference organized by the Commercial Service of the US Department of Commerce and focused (officially at least) around sharing technologies, data, contacts and intelligence from the US, UK, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian space agencies.

Literature from the 2019 International Space Summit. Graphic c/o International Space Trade Summit.

But the five countries participating in the event also comprise the membership of the "5 Eyes" anglophone intelligence alliance and are signatories to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation and the sharing of huge amounts of legally (and sometime illegally) acquired electronic "signals intelligence" and private sector telecom data.

In fact the event has an explicit intelligence connection and the event organizers aren't shy about promoting this. As outlined on the web-page promoting the event:
The International Space Trade Summit will bring the participating countries' advanced manufacturing, high-tech supply chain, and IT companies into the global Space Sector.  
Current and future capabilities required to be in the sector, as well as available opportunities will be discussed. Firms will be provided a better understanding of the space sector in the 5 Eyes allied countries. Companies will be introduced to the space agencies, OEMs, and supply chain SMEs in those countries.
The site also contains an undated, thirty minute video from the CT-N Connecticut Network, covering the US Department of Commerce announcement that it would be organizing the event. The video contains various statements of support from local Connecticut politicians and noted its overt military and intelligence gathering focus.

The 1st International Space Summit, organized by Connecticut district office of the US Department of Commerce, will take place in Hartford CT from May 19th - 21st, 2019. Attendance is restricted to "registrants representing businesses from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada" according to the summit registration page.

Representatives from the five space agencies (including Laporte) and from the US military will be in attendance, along with prime contractors interested in providing data or technology to military and/or intelligence agencies.

A full agenda and complete speaker list for the event is also available on-line.


As outlined in the April 24th, 2019 BBC News post, "Huawei row: UK to let Chinese firm help build 5G network," the "5-Eyes" network has been in the news lately over concerns that the Shenzhen, China based multinational telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer Huawei is in the midst of building a parallel information gathering network (similar to the Western "5-Eyes" network) which could compromise security in western nations.

Maybe our CSA president should rent a room in Ottawa or Toronto when he returns and give a presentation on what he learned. Canadian companies would surely benefit from this sort of knowledge.

Or maybe not.

As noted many times previously in the blog, Canadian owned and operated companies are not eligible for US military contracts, which are restricted to American owned and operated organizations.

But since the 1st International Space Summit is designed specifically to help grow Connecticut based companies focused on military and intelligence applications and since Laporte is a civilian and non-US based space agency president who isn't likely to sell any Canadian products or technology while he's in town, if might be worthwhile to ask one simple question.

"What's a nice, civilian focused, science associated guy like our current CSA president doing in a deep state, military intelligence dominated place like this?"
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The New Procure Space Exchange-Traded Fund Facilitates Space Industry Investments

          By Brian Orlotti

Levittown NY based asset management firm Procure Holdings and New York NY based Space Investment Services, a firm founded by former Space Foundation Director of Research Micah Walter-Range, have joined forces to create the Procure Space Exchange-Traded Fund (UFO ETF). The new fund is structured to allow everyday investors a chance to own their own stake in the growing space industry.


An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a type of fund that owns stock in multiple companies across one industry or several industries. Investors may buy and sell an ETF with its price fluctuating over time. ETFs advantages include lower purchase prices and fewer broker commissions over purchasing individual stocks.

The UFO ETF was created to address a common investor issue; a lack of publicly-traded companies that generate the majority of their revenue from space business.

Firms like Hawthorne CA SpaceX, Kent WA based Blue Origin, Huntington Beach CA based Rocket Lab and Mojave CA based Virgin Galactic are on the cutting edge of space technology but, being privately owned, are inaccessible to the majority of investors.

The UFO ETF focuses, wherever possible, on firms that derive 80% or more of their revenue from space.

The ETF is not restricted to US companies either, with stakes in MacLean VA based Iridium Satellite Communications, London UK based Inmarsat and Betzdorf Luxembourg based SES as well as industrial manufacturers like Melbourne FL based Harris Corporation and  Leiden Netherlands based Airbus.

Front cover of the Q4 2018 Space Angels quarterly report on the international space industry. The complete report is available online for download here. Graphic c/o Space Angels.

The UFO ETF comes at a time of increasing investment into the private space industry.

New York NY based investment firm Space Angels recently released a report stating that more than $20Bln US ($27Bln CDN) has been invested into 435 space companies over the last decade. These investments have recently accelerated, with Q1 2019 seeing 29 fund raising rounds inject $1.7Bln US ($2.3Bln CDN) of equity into space companies, nearly double the previous quarter.

Space Angels pointed to the pouring of resources into satellite internet networks by a variety of firms including SpaceX, London UK based OneWeb and Seattle WA based Amazon.

It is heartening to see the space industry, once derided by investors with giggles and snorts, now a magnet for capital. With its now-swelling coffers, the space industry can at last lay the foundations of an off-world economy and propel humanity into a new age.

Let a thousand rockets boom.
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.

Second Thoughts About Bolting Canada's Space Future to the US Lunar Gateway

          By Chuck Black

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have formally announced Canada's multi-billion dollar commitment to the proposed US Lunar Gateway in the weeks leading up to the release of Budget 2019, but that was before domestic pundits began expressing their reservations.

Space policy isn't the only area where Canada's PM is facing an uphill battle. As outlined in the April 21st, 2019 CBC News post, "With 6 months to go, Justin Trudeau is up against history," incumbent governments "usually lead in the polls this far out from an election," but Trudeau isn't and is struggling in the run-up to the next Canadian election. It's also worth noting the widely held, bipartisan consensus throughout government that MDA is the only company capable of building a Canadarm, a categorization which puts the firm on much the same indispensable government procurement list as Montreal PQ based SNC-Lavalin. Whether or not this is a shrewd place to park over the long-term is problematic. Photo c/o Christopher Katsarov/CP.

Then mercurial US President Donald Trump seemingly abandoned the Gateway in favor of a far more aggressive proposal to return US astronauts to the Moon by 2024. As noted in the April 17th, 2019 Space News post, "Op-ed | Lunar Gateway or Moon Direct?," no one is really sure if some sort of Gateway is even necessary under the revised plan now being developed by NASA.

Given that, much of the second guessing currently winding it's way through the public conscious suddenly takes on a far more reasonable air. Since the US plan is being revised, maybe Canada should also have a second look.

Here are a few recent editorials on the topic:
According to the March 28th, 2019 Policy Options post, "Ask Canadian's what kind of space Program they want," polls show that "Canadians would rather spend public money on other priorities, like education and health care. Similarly, sending an astronaut to the moon may not be what Canadians would prioritize from their space program, compared with the myriad of other aspects of space exploration where we could be investing." 
The article went on to state that, "space policy-making is dominated by technical and industry perspectives."
The Canadian government "needs to ensure that the space policy framework creates an environment which presents a level playing field for all companies, and stimulates true key industrial capabilities for Canada; intellectual property which resides here, and jobs and profits that remain in Canada," according to an undated post on the Future Economy website under the title "Spotlight on the Space Economy; Positioning Canada for Success in the Future of Space,"
The post also included interviews with retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, current Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Sylvain Laporte, ADGA Group CEO Françoise Gagnon and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Assistant Deputy Minister Glenn Mason
Future Economy is "a multimedia publishing house that builds on over two decades of international media and events experience," so it's possible that they are in the midst of organizing a conference on this topic.
A Canadian robotics expert, who initially believed that he should welcome Trudeau's new space plan is no longer quite so certain. 
As outlined in the April 18th, 2019 The Conversation post, "Canada’s approach to lunar exploration needs to be strategic or we’ll be left behind," Carlton University assistant professor Alex Ellery called the Lunar Gateway "an incremental progression from the International Space Station (ISS) that has dominated American (and Canadian) human spaceflight for the past few decades. 
Of course, the history of the ISS has been mired in controversy — it was expensive, purposeless, took decades to design, re-design and finally build. It has neither yielded any great scientific advances nor has it advanced human Mars exploration as originally proposed."
Ellery noted that Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway will be funneled through a single company. According to Ellery "the Gateway promises to be another white elephant like its predecessor the ISS."
And finally, the April 20th, 2019 Advocator post, "Canada Has to Revamp the National Lunar Exploration Strategy," noted that:
Voices are already raising against this plan. A few condemn the fact that the Canadian Space Agency continues to use the services of a singular company instead of looking at other enterprises which should be able to provide competitive alternatives. Others criticize Canada’s minor ambitions as a country. 
While the other participants in the project are working hard to develop strategies which will allow them to build a veritable lunar colony Canada seems content to remain a mere observer. 
Unless our strategy is revised and improved, we will remain a witness to the greatness of others, while paying for the privilege.
He might be President and CEO of the Canadarm's ultimate prime contractor, but Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky isn't willing to bet his company on Trudeau government largess. As outlined in the April 10th, 2019 Space News post, "Maxar’s path to growth runs through Worldview Legion," Jablonsky is currently hunting options to keep his core, corporate assets from being broken up and sold. According to the article, all Maxar business units, except for MDA in Canada, have been integrated into a single corporate entity, which kinda suggests that MDA could be sold. An MDA sale for a reasonable amount of money (say, half a billion dollars) could potentially end up being the single best option to raise enough money to insure the funding of the WorldView Legion Constellation, which Maxar management considers essential to future profitability, while retaining core assets within a single, US based corporate entity. This would also allow the company to retain its highly profitable US military contracts. Photo c/o Keith Johnson/SpaceNews.

As outlined in the February 28th, 2019 post, "Canada Becomes the First Nation to Formally Commit to the NASA Lunar Gateway Plan," Trudeau's initial announcement committed Canada to becoming the program's first international partner and allocated $2.05Bln CDN over twenty-four years to fund the program.

Most of the new funding would go to the design and development of a "3rd generation" Canadarm for the Lunar Gateway, which would serve the same function as earlier Canadarm's installed on the ISS and on US space shuttles.

Brampton ON based MDA Corporation, a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies, will almost certainly receive the lions share of the new funding as the prime contractor for the new Canadarm.

MDA and Maxar both know this.

As outlined in the January 1st, 2019 post, "2018: The Year in Space for Canada," both organizations spent large portions of 2018 lobbying the Trudeau government to support and fund the US Lunar Gateway.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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