Tuesday, March 19, 2019

We'll Release a "Special Report" on the 2019 Federal Budget on Wednesday, March 20th

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will formally release his fourth Federal Budget to the Canadian House of Commons just after 4pm EST today.

This blog is compiling a "Special Report" on what the new budget means for Canada's space industry. It will be e-mailed directly to Commercial Space blog subscribers on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019.

If you're not a subscriber who already receives our regular Tuesday and Friday coverage and wish to receive a free subscription, please check out the "Subscribe to this Blog" section on the Commercial Space blog website.

Finance Minister Morneau in the House of Commons. Photo c/o Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick.

As outlined in the March 17th, 2019 National Post article, "Morneau seen delivering a stimulus-filled budget ahead of the election," Canada’s ruling Liberals "are expected to table a goody-filled budget later this week in bid to get back on course with voters."

Several of those about to be announced goodies are expected to effect the space industry and the various innovation policies developed by the Federal government over the last four years to turn Canada into a global centre for innovation.

The budget will almost certainly also serve as an informal (and perhaps formal, depending on the validity of various political rumors currently making the rounds) kick-off to the 2019 Federal election.

For more, check out the Commercial Space blog "Special Report" on the 2019 Federal Budget on Wednesday.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Canadian Tech Developed For Asteroid Mining is Now Available for Terrestrial Mining Operations

          By Chuck Black

Two years ago, as outlined in the April 10th, 2016 post, "Deltion Innovations Receives Gov't Funding to Develop Multi-Tool for Space Mining; Will Anyone Buy It?," Capreol ON based Deltion Innovations received a $700,000 CDN contract from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to build a Percussive and Rotary Multi-Purpose Tool (PROMPT), a combination drill and rotary multi-use tool designed to facilitate future mining operations on the Moon, the asteroids and on Mars.

The first PROMPT on the left with the commercial "MicroCorer" version on the right in the Deltion booth at PDAC 2019. Photo's c/o Chuck Black

At the time, the real question was whether anyone would ever commercially support the tool by buying one. While that question doesn't yet have a definitive answer, it's worth noting that Deltion, after delivering the original PROMPT in 2017, has just rolled out a smaller, less costly, commercially available version of the tool for terrestrial mining operations.

This is how the space industry is supposed to work.

The commercial version is called a "MicroCorer Sampling Tool" and according to the Deltion specification sheet, it's designed to "extract a small core sample in difficult to access areas, such as a drill face between advancement rounds."

According to Deltion CEO Dale Boucher:
...when mining companies are looking for minerals and drilling holes, core samples of the rock being drilled needs to be removed in order to gauge the appropriate next steps in the operation. 
Normally you'd need to send in a person to take a sample and that's normally dangerous and often expensive, since you need to shore up the rock to insure against cave-ins plus make the hole big enough for the person to function.
The MicroCorer is able to form and capture a small sample from any "competent" rock face. The system is fully automatic and once turned on, will drill and extract a 10 mm core sample up to 100 mm in length without further operator input.

According to Boucher, PROMPT required twenty years of "significant time and fiscal investments" before the CSA provided enough money to build the demonstration unit. The final cost for the commercial MicroCorer is expected to be under $50K CDN per unit, a substantial cost savings over current methods of accessing core samples during drilling operations.

MicroCorer spec sheet from Deltion Innovations. To view the full document, please click on this link. Graphic c/o Deltion

The new tool was rolled-out for review during the recently concluded 2019 annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), which was held in Toronto, ON from March 3rd - 6th.

As outlined in the March 4th, 2019 post, "The New Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan Stakes its Claim on the Space Industry," the recently released Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP), also unveiled at PDAC 2019, discussed the need for the adaption of "new and emerging technologies" from a variety of other industries, including Canada's space industry.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Bridenstine Reassures SLS/Orion Workforce That They're Still Needed

          By Henry Stewart


Jim Bridenstine. Photo c/o NASA/ Bill Ingalls.
It's worth noting that, only a day after questioning whether the US Space Launch System (SLS) will be ready in time to be used for the scheduled 2020 first orbital flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and its European built service module, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sent an e-mail to NASA employees and SLS contractors praising the SLS workforce and stating that using alternative commercial carriers for Orion missions "is not optimum or sustainable."

As outlined in the March 14th, 2019 NASA blog post, "A Message to the Workforce on SLS and Orion," Bridenstine sent this message to NASA employees and contractors:
Yesterday, I was asked by Congress about the schedule slip of the Space Launch System and plans to get NASA back on track. I mentioned that we are exploring the possibility of launching Orion and the European Service Module to low-Earth orbit on an existing heavy-lift rocket, then using a boost from another existing vehicle for Trans Lunar Injection. Our goal would be to test Orion in lunar orbit in 2020 and free up the first SLS for the launch of habitation or other hardware in 2021. This would get us back on schedule for a crewed lunar orbital mission in 2022 with the added bonus of a lunar destination for our astronauts. 
We are studying this approach to accelerate our lunar efforts. The review will take no longer than two weeks and the results will be made available. Please know that NASA is committed to building and flying the SLS for the following reasons: 
  • Launching two heavy-lift rockets to get Orion to the Moon is not optimum or sustainable. 
  • Docking crewed vehicles in Earth orbit to get to the Moon adds complexity and risk that is undesirable. 
  • SLS mitigates these challenges and allows crew and payloads to get to the Moon, and eventually to Mars, safer and more efficiently than any temporary solution used to get back on track.
I believe in the strength of our workforce and our ability to utilize every tool available to achieve our objectives. Our goal is to get to the Moon sustainably and on to Mars. With your focused efforts, and unmatched talent, the possibility of achieving this objective is real. 
Ad astra, 
Jim Bridenstine
Only the day before, as outlined in the March 14th, 2019 post, "NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is Officially in Trouble," Bridenstine had questioned the capabilities of SLS contractors to meet the tight deadlines required to be included as part of the first orbital Orion mission and stated that NASA was investigating alternatives to using SLS.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is Officially in Trouble

          By Chuck Black

The rumor has been whispered in the corridors of space industry experts since almost the beginning of the program. NASA's expensive Space Launch System (SLS), an American shuttle-derived "super heavy-lift" expendable launch vehicle developed originally as part of NASA's long-term deep space exploration plans, would eventually be replaced by the smaller, but far less expensive commercial crewed vehicles currently undergoing their final testing and expected to fly astronauts to space over the next year.

And now, that rumor has exploded into public view.


During a public hearing of the US Senate Commerce Committee to assess America's future in space held in Washington DC on March 13th, 2019, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency would decide in the coming weeks about whether to take the first orbital flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and its European built Orion service module on a pair of commercial launch vehicles, instead of the SLS.

This is a big thing. As outlined in the March 13th, 2019 Space News post, "NASA considering flying Orion on commercial launch vehicles," the mission, known as Exploration Mission (EM) 1, was: 
...intended to be the first flight of the SLS (with Orion and its service module). However, problems with the launch vehicle’s development have pushed that mission’s launch to the middle of 2020, and agency officials recently indicated that it could slip again.
Jim Bridenstine. Photo c/o NASA/ Bill Ingalls.
SLS is struggling to meet its schedule,” Bridenstine said in response to a line of questions from the committee’s chairman, Senator Roger Wicker (Republican-MI) “We’re now understanding better how difficult this project is and that it is going to take some additional time.”

Bridenstine went on to state that:
I think we as an agency need to stick to our commitment. If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the Moon, I think we should launch around the Moon in June of 2020. 
And I think it can be done. We should consider, as an agency, all options to accomplish that objective.
Without SLS the only real option to launch EM-1 in June 2020 would be to use two large, privately developed heavy lift rockets in-place of the single larger SLS rocket. The rockets would each carry a component (either the Orion capsule or the service module) and those components would dock in orbit.

The alternatives to the SLS include the Falcon-9 and Falcon Heavy rockets built by Hawthorne CA based SpaceX for their Dragon capsule and the Centennial CO based United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, which are the favored rockets for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner at least until the ULA Vulcan rocket is expected to become operational in 2021, although the CST-100 can also be launched on SpaceX rockets. 

While not as powerful as the SLS, these alternatives would allow for the mission to move forward on schedule and for a far lower cost.

A Delta-4 launched a test version of the Orion spacecraft to 3,600km in 2014, so the plan to launch on another rocket is quite feasible. And spacecraft have docked with each other and with the International Space Station (ISS) hundreds of times over the last 50 years, going back to the NASA Gemini program in the 1960's. Maybe Canada could even sell the US another Canadarm to include with Orion in order to facilitate the docking.

It's worth noting that ULA is a partnership between Denver CO based Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Berkeley MI based Boeing Defense, Space & Security a subsidiary of the larger Seattle WA based Boeing Company, which is (along with ULA and others) also responsible for building the SLS.


As outlined in the March 14th, 2019 Ars Technica post, "Here’s why NASA’s administrator made such a bold move Wednesday," Bridenstine said NASA engineers are already studying how this can be done and a preliminary plan could be available as soon as next week.

This is the second piece of bad news for SLS subcontractors this week. 

As outlined in the March 13th, 2019 Hackaday post, "Proposed NASA Budget Signals Changes to Space Launch System," NASA's proposed 2020 budget, released on Monday, would defer work on the enhanced (Block 1B) version of the SLS with the Exploration Upper Stage intended to replace the lower powered Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (Block 1) in favor of increased funding for NASA's Lunar Gateway.

SLS is derived from the NASA Constellation program, a manned spaceflight program wrapped around another expensive, over-sized American rocket rocket intended to help the US complete construction of the ISS, then return to the Moon by 2020 (?) and finally send a crewed flight to Mars.

Constellation was officially cancelled in 2010 after the release of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee (more commonly known as the Augustine Committee) concluded that the then nine year old program was so far behind schedule and so underfunded and over budget that it would never achieve any of its goals.

But unofficially, at least one component of Constellation, the Orion crew capsule program, was reintegrated into the NASA budget almost immediately. Other components of Constellation also remained in place until Congress would act to overturn the previous mandate according to the January 7th, 2011 Space.com post, "NASA Stuck in Limbo as New Congress Takes Over."


Curiously enough, many of the remaining components of Constellation were re-integrated into the follow-on NASA plan for the SLS which, as announced in the September 14th, 2011 NASA press release, "NASA Announces Design For New Deep Space Exploration System," promised a "a new Space Launch System that will take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts."

According to the press release:
"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, tomorrow's explorers will now dream of one day walking on Mars." 
Maybe SLS did provide well paying jobs, for some of us at least.

But it certainly doesn't seem like the program going to send us back to the Moon, at least not any time soon and not without a lot of help from commercial launch providers.

For example, and as outlined in the September 11th, 2018 NASA Spaceflight.com post, "NASA updates Lunar Gateway plans," at least one SLS Block 1B SLS rocket will be required in 2024 by NASA for the currently scheduled EM-3 crewed Orion mission, which is supposed to mate both the NASA Lunar Gateway ESPRIT and the Utilization Modules to the previously orbited Power and Propulsion Element (PPE).

By pushing SLS Block 1B development into the next budget year, that could open up other opportunities for commercial providers, which might include being used for the 2024 EM-3 and other SLS missions.

Here's hoping. 
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Federal Government Releases 1st Annual Report from Canada's Chief Science Adviser

          By Henry Stewart

Mona Nemer. Photo c/o Gov't of Canada.
On the one hand, very few government employees have ever written reports indicating that their tasks have been accomplished and its time to retire back to the private sector or academia.

On the other hand, Federal government chief science adviser Dr. Mona Nemer has really only held her position for a little over a year and its certainly fair to give a bit more time before expecting to receive a full public accounting of her actions and usefulness.

On Monday, the Federal government released its first "Annual Report of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada," the science advisory's first attempt to to self-assess its successes and accomplishments.

According to its summary, the report "outlines the major activities of the Office of the Chief Science Advisor for Canada over the course of its first full year."

These activities included, "developing the Model Policy on Scientific Integrity, providing principles and insights relevant to science-based decision-making across government, establishing a federal science advisory function, and advising on how to better support quality scientific research within the federal government."

The Report also identified the priority areas of action for the year ahead. They included:
... (the creation of) a road-map for open science, reviewing the impact assessment process for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, advising on how to expand the role of national academies in the Canadian science enterprise, and establishing a Youth Advisory Committee to ensure good communications with the next generation of researchers.
The final section of the report noted that:
Despite recent federal efforts such as the creation of the Deputy Ministers Science Committee, the Deputy Ministers Group on Climate Change and the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, there is still an acute need to better coordinate the various organizational mandates in support of science in Canada. 
The section also argues for enhanced participation of Canada in international research projects and science diplomacy, making the suggestion, among others, that the Canadian scientific diaspora could be mobilized to that end. The section concludes that better data are necessary to properly assess the state of the federal science workforce, as has been requested of the Office.
Perhaps there is but results are not simply assessed by the number of new committees created or suggestions formulated. The report would have benefited by including the criteria which the science advisory is judging itself along with the criteria the Federal government is using to judge the success of the science advisory.

Without knowing these criteria, the science advisory job might never be completed, which might not be a bad thing if its real role is simple job creation, but is probably a bad thing otherwise.


As outlined in the March 11th, 2019 Federal government press release, "Statement from the Minister of Science and Sport on the release of the first annual report of Canada's Chief Science Advisor," there is much to be done by the science officer, especially in the areas of setting up the basic steps needed to build a useful, "inclusive" policy, establish bureaucratic processes to track how that developing policy is successfully integrated into political decision making process and develop the specific steps needed to promote the end result both domestically and internationally.

Here's hoping that at least a few of those issues end up being addressed in time to be included with the 2rd annual report from Canada's chief science adviser.
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Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

New 3D Printed Manufacturing Methodologies for the Space Age

          By Brian Orlotti

A team from Cannes France based Thales Alenia Space (TAS), Bedford UK based Cranfield University and Glascow UK based Glenalmond Technologies has successfully 3d printed a full-scale prototype of a titanium tank to be used in future crewed space exploration missions.


As outlined in the March 8th, 2019 Manufacturing Technology post, "Titanium pressure vessel for space exploration made using additive manufacturing," the tank is made of a titanium alloy deposited using an additive process called Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM). The tank is approximately 1m in height and 8.5kg in mass.

The WAAM process enabled two individual pieces to be integrated into a single part, eliminating the need for long-lead-time forgings and substantially reducing waste material to be removed by machining. If manufactured traditionally, the tank would have required about 30 times more raw material than its final mass.

In WAAM, metal wire is melted using an electric arc and deposited in layers to build an object. WAAM’s precision enables it to produce near-final forms requiring only minimal machining.

WAAM’s high precision places it in the middle ground between accurate, but slower laser-based 3d printers and less accurate, but high-deposition-rate plasma/electron beam-based 3d printers. WAAM’s software and hardware has been in development for over 10 years at Cranfield, leading the university to spin-off a new company, WAAM3D, to commercialize the technology.

The tank was manufactured at Cranfield U, then sent to Glenalmond Technologies to be laser-scanned, machined and inspected using an ultrasonic method.

The final inspection was performed by Bolongna ITaly based Agiometrix using a computerized tomography (CT) scanner as well as an optical scanner for internal quality analysis and an optical scanner, with TAS ensuring that the part met all mechanical requirements and specifications.


Satisfied with the results, the team is now building a second prototype, to fine tune the WAAM process, demonstrate its repeatability and reliability, and push for its implementation into flight hardware.

Pressurized tanks made with traditional methods based on subtractive machining typically suffer from long lead times. WAAM technology greatly reduces this time; from months to days. Such shorter lead times not only speed up part delivery, but also increase design flexibility---even in the late stage of a project.

As shown by this project and other recent projects at Hawthorne CA based SpaceX, Huntington Beach CA based Rocket Lab and Los Angeles CA based Relativity Space, 3d printing promises to finally make the promise of democratizing space exploration a reality.
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.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

If Canada REALLY Wanted to Go To the Moon, We Should Support Bob Richards or Call Elon Musk

          By Chuck Black

The Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at least being honest when talking about Federal motivation to participate in the US Lunar Gateway.

As outlined in the March 6th, 2019 Canadian government press release, "Launching Canada's Space Strategy," the key priority of the strategy is "investing in science, innovation and research" which, according the press release, will unlock "new opportunities for economic growth," create "thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians," and help Canadian's "understand the world we live in and our place in it."


But while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the government's stated motivations, some (in office and elsewhere) have argued that the Moon is now "the central focus of the new space strategy and investments," despite what the press release explicitly states.

Those arguments are obviously in error. The new plan is simply about jobs on Earth.

If Canada really wanted to land Canadian rovers and explore the Moon remotely, we'd provide a few extra tens to millions to Cape Canaveral FL based Moon Express.

As outlined most recently in the November 30th, 2018 post, "Procurement Contracts, Not Science or Engineering, Will Define the Next Generation of Robotics and Planetary Rovers," the company and it's expatriate Canadian founder Robert Richards already possess major Canadian connections and a skill-set widely expected to land rovers on the Moon within the next two years for far, far less than what Canada is spending on the Lunar Gateway.

If our focus is really on the Moon and if we want to land rovers there to explore, we should call Moon Express.


Of course, we might also want to send astronauts to the Moon. In that case, we might want to send a few hundreds of millions of dollars to Elon Musk, the CEO of Hawthorne CA based SpaceX.

That's still hundreds of millions of dollars less than we would be spending under "Canada's New Space Strategy" which, as outlined in the March 7th, 2019 post, "Minister Bains Releases "Canada's New (Sorta) Space Strategy," But No Details or New Funding Announcements," is already expected to cost billions.

And Musk already has rockets. Lots of them They're reusable, better than anything anyone else can field and already dominate the international launch market.

He's also got spaceships.

As outlined in the March 3rd, 2019 post, "Crew Dragon Docks at International Space Station," SpaceX is currently rolling out a human rated rated capsule which could begin ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) within the next year.

Musk, who holds South African, Canadian, and US citizenship but lives in California, has made no secret of his wish to explore space, the Moon and colonize Mars.

As outlined in the February 1st, 2019 Futurism post, "Elon Musk’s New Goal: “Reach the Moon as Fast as Possible,” the entrepreneur has the skill and the knowledge to get there, but is working with a limited, private sector budget.

A few hundred million extra dollars from the Canadian government would certainly solve the cash flow problem and allow Canada to land our astronauts on the Moon at a far lower cost than contributing a next generation Canadarm for the Lunar Gateway and hoping for the best, which is the plan being promoted in Canada's new space strategy.


Of course, calling Musk or Richards won't unlock "new opportunities for economic growth," create "thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians," or even help Canadian's "understand the world we live in and our place in it," at least not as government understands it.

Nor will it help to protect jobs at legacy space companies like Brantford ON based MDA Space Systems, the subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies which builds the iconic Canadarm or the hundreds of Canadian Space Agency (CSA) employees who need to do something to justify their salaries.

As outlined in the March 01, 2019 post, "Maxar Technologies Misses Q4 Revenue Estimates; Will Retain SSL Subsidiary & Drop Dividend to $.01 US per Share," Maxar is hoping for at least one more big sale to save its bacon. Musk and Richards can't help with that.

But then, the object of the new Canadian funding isn't to get to the Moon. It's jobs.

In this, the Canadian plan has much in common with the US Space Launch System (SLS) which, as described in the February 19th, 2019 Ars Technica post, "After nearly $50 billion, NASA’s deep-space plans remain grounded," hasn't really accomplished anything except for acting as a jobs program.

But at least that retained workforce is more likely to vote for the politicians who supported the SLS and saved their jobs. In that way, one could argue that the SLS also saved political jobs.

Expect much the same to happen in Canada over the next few years, as the Lunar Gateway initially seems to move forward and then doesn't.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Minister Bains Releases "Canada's New (Sorta) Space Strategy," But No Details or Funding Breakdowns

          By Chuck Black

It wasn't a bad press conference, if you ignored the fact that it was set up mostly to release documents intended to support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's February 28th, 2019 press conference announcing Canadian support for the US led Lunar Gateway program and funding for the construction of a new $2Bln CDN "Canadarm3."


There was also the question of why the language used by the presenters seemed targeted more at the elementary school children attending the event than at the Canadian taxpayers expected to pay for the program or the scientists, engineers and businessmen expected to build and manage the new Canadarm.

Be that as it may, on March 6th, 2019 Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains formally announced the release of the written copies of "Canada's New Space Strategy," at the Telus "World of Science" Centre in Edmonton AB to an audience of mostly elementary school students.

As outlined in the March 6th, 2019 Canadian government press release, "Launching Canada's Space Strategy," the key priority of the strategy is "investing in science, innovation and research" which, according the press release, will unlock "new opportunities for economic growth," create "thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians," and help Canadian's "understand the world we live in and our place in it."

In essence, the new program seems to be all about jobs, although the specifics of how much those jobs could cost to create and where those jobs might eventually end-up has been (so far at least) left unsaid:
Government will position Canada's space industry to take full advantage of the growing global space economy while ensuring that Canada keeps pace. It will also support innovative space firms through a dedicated investment so that they can scale up and thrive both in Canada and abroad.
Hopefully, the Federal government will provide a little more clarity over the next few weeks. After all, most Canadians aren't going to appreciate having their tax money spent on the creation of new jobs in (for example) Colorado.


The strategy will also place a "priority on harnessing space science and technology to solve important challenges on Earth." These include:
  1. Investing in satellite communications technologies for broadband, including connectivity in rural and remote regions.
  2. Exploring how the delivery of healthcare services in isolated communities can be improved through lessons learned in space. 
  3. Funding the development and demonstration of lunar science and technologies in fields that include AI, robotics and health.
  4. Leveraging the unique data collected from Canada's space-based assets to grow businesses and conduct cutting-edge science, including about the impact of climate change on Earth's atmosphere.
It's interesting that only one item on the above list (Item 3) is currently dealt with directly through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Given that the new space strategy includes a great many areas without direct CSA overview, the new policy is congruent with the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review, which was adapted originally by the previous Steven Harper Conservative government.

As outlined in the December 5th, 2012 post, "What the Space Volume of the Aerospace Review Actually Says," Emerson argued for a narrowing the CSA mandate to the point where it would no longer be a "policy-making body" or "directly involved in designing and manufacturing space assets purchased by the government."

Emerson recommended this specifically because of prime contractor cost overruns in several CSA programs, most notably Canada's Radarsat-2, which was built by what was then known as the Burnaby BC based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).

The new goals are also well within the current CSA mandate which, as outlined on the April 16th, 2018 CSA web page "Raison d'être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do," is focused around coordinating, assisting, promoting and encouraging, rather than controlling.


The press release noted a couple of interesting items related to the larger international space industry.
  • "Canada's space sector currently employs 10,000 highly skilled workers, generates $5.5 billion in Canada's economy annually, and averages $2 billion in export sales." 
The assumption is that this data comes from the CSA "State of the Canadian Space Sector Report 2016," which is the most recent CSA published report on the matter. 
According to the 2016 CSA report: 
  • In 2016, "the space sector contributed $2.3Bln CDN to Canada's GDP and supported a total of 21,654 jobs." 
  • In 2016, "total revenues in the Canadian space sector came to $5.5Bln CDN."  
  • Space generates "lucrative commercial opportunities for our companies. Morgan Stanley expects the global space market to triple in size to $1.1Tln US ($1.5Tln CDN) by 2040." 
The assumption is that this data comes from the November 7th, 2018 Morgan Stanley blog post, "Space: Investing in the Final Frontier," which noted "growing public sector interest" in the area and noted that "the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1Trillion or more in 2040, up from $350Bln US currently." 
But the Morgan Stanley blog also noted that "most significant short- and medium-term opportunities may come from satellite broadband Internet access." Those opportunities are already well funded through the private sector.
  • The Government of Canada "has invested more than $2.5Bln CDN since 2015 in Canada's space sector, extending our participation in the International Space Station, providing funding to the Canadian Space Agency to test technologies in space, and helping Canadian companies scale up through the Strategic Innovation Fund." 
That may be true, but as outlined in the April 22nd, 2015 CBC News post, "Canada's International Space Station support extended to 2024" the Stephen Harper Conservatives were the ones who allocated $379Mln for Canada’s continuation in the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, not the Trudeau Liberals. 
It's very likely that the Conservative party would also join up to contribute to the US Lunar Gateway, if it were in power. Canada possesses a strong bipartisan consensus on how it should be assisting Canada's space industry and that consensus includes contributing to US projects like the Lunar Gateway. 

Documents released or items referenced during the press conference and in the press release include the following:
  • The CSA webpage outlining the Lunar Gateway and Canada's expected contribution to the US program.
  • The CSA overview of Canada's Junior Astronauts program, which is part of CSA educational efforts.
  • The Government of Canada Space Advisory Board (SAB) website, because the new policy is informed by the views and perspectives gathered by the SAB. This is another indication that the new policy is following the new rules announced in the 2012 Aerospace Review.
  • The Government of Canada Strategic Innovation Fund, another indication that at least some of the announced funding will not go through the CSA.
One of the more noteworthy absences in the document was anything substantial relating to the $150Mln CDN over five years promised under the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP), which was supposed to fund the development and demonstration of lunar science and technologies in fields that include AI, robotics and health.

The program was simply noted, but nothing more was said.

But the new policy, even with all the included and anticipated (but still missing) documentation, doesn't have more than the the most vague of fiscal outlines of when the money will become available and how it will be spent. 


All of which makes perfect sense when you note that, as outlined in the March 6th, 2019 Forbes post, "Canada Makes A Risky Bet On A Giant Robot Arm," even the US Congress hasn't yet allocated enough money for a serious start on the Lunar Gateway.

They're also still cautious over the Constellation Program, NASA's last "big budget" attempt to go back to the Moon, which was cancelled in 2010.

Right now the Lunar Gateway is mostly a twinkle in a few farseeing eyes, despite what the fancy graphics and persuasive pundits might be suggesting.

The Liberal government is hoping that the Canadian public will become distracted by the romance of the big plan and forget to ask some of the harder questions, at least until after the next election. 

Just like children, which kinda accounts for the tone of the press conference.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Monday, March 04, 2019

The New Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan Stakes its Claim on the Space Industry

          By Chuck Black

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, (CMMP) the Federal governments "vision" to assist with the strategic direction of the Canadian mining industry, has been released. As expected, the new plan spends much time discussing the need for the adaption of "new and emerging technologies" from a variety of other industries, including Canada's space industry.

NRCan Minister Amarjeet Sohi, at the Canadian Government Booth (#539) on the trade show floor of PDAC 2019 on March 3rd, 2019. Sohi said the new CMMP plan covered the "six key issues" identified during a two-year period of extensive stakeholder engagement. Those issues included competitiveness, the participation of Indigenous Peoples, community benefits, respect for the environment, scientific and technological innovation, and global leadership. The complete CMMP is available online at the Canadian Minerals and Mining Plan website. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

As outlined in the March 3rd, 2019 Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) press release, "Canada's Mines Ministers Unveil the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, A Visionary Plan to Inspire and Shape the Future of Canadian Mining," the announcement was made by Amarjeet Sohi, the Federal government Minister of Natural Resources (NRCan), along with most of his provincial and territorial counterparts, at the 2019 edition of the annual Prospector and Developers Mining Association Convention, which kicked off on Sunday in Toronto, ON.

As outlined in the March 4th, 2019 Mining Magazine post, "Canada launches 'generational' minerals and metals plan," the policy document was endorsed by all Canada's mining ministers except Greg Rickford of Ontario and Bronwyn Eyre of Saskatchewan.
Rickford said that while the two dissenting provinces agreed with certain elements of the plan, he viewed it as a missed opportunity for Canada to address economic and competitiveness challenges and send a strong message to global investors that Canada was prepared to take ‘real action' to support the mining sector.
Others have categorized the plan as the "vision" which will need of an "action plan" in order to move forward.

The current intention of the participants in the process is to reconvene at the next Energy Mines and Ministers Conference, an annual gathering of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for energy and mining portfolios, where they will have a second chance to develop consensus and work out the specifics.

That conference is scheduled for July 2019. The first CMMP formal "action plan" is scheduled for release in 2020.

The timeline for roll-out of the final plan calls for "incentives to support a ”supercluster”-type model for tackling large innovation challenges," and a "pan-Canadian data strategy that reflects transformative technologies is underway" by 2022, plus significant gains in "the commercialization of mining-related technologies and processes, including next generation geoscience tools," by 2025.

Dan King, the VP of strategic space systems ventures at Brampton ON based MDA Space Systems giving a presentation for the "Future of Exploration and Mining; An Interactive Session" track on March 4th, 2019 at PDAC 2019. He argued that there are a variety of technological and business overlaps between the mining and the space industry and MDA has the tools and technologies to assist in both areas. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

One of the more noteworthy areas where the CMMP hopes to source new technology is the space industry. As outlined on page 31, under the title "Case Study: Mining / Space Technology Transfer," the document noted that:
Canada’s space sector has decades of experience in research, development and innovation resulting in spin-offs for commercial applications for mining. Remote sensing and Earth observation satellites, such as Radarsat-2, have been used to map information on mineral, oil and gas deposits. 
In 2008, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd. was hired by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop lunar rover prototypes, including the Juno and Artemis rovers. 
Building on this experience, the company produced a fully amphibious rover for operation on Earth. The ARGO J5 is the first in a family of robotic vehicles used in Canada, Europe, Asia and South America for various applications. For example, it uses 3D underground mapping for inspections of unstable or dangerous mining environments resulting from blasting.
The document also noted that innovation sometimes flows in the other direction, from the mining to the space industry:
Sudbury-based mining and automation robotics firm, Deltion Innovations, is developing technology for the CSA (the Canadian Space Agency) with the potential for use on missions to the Moon and Mars. The Percussive and Rotary Multi-Purpose Tool is described as a “space-age Swiss Army Knife,” which can be installed on the end of a CSA robotic manipulator arm.
According to the CMMP, "adapting new and emerging technologies processes brings opportunities for growth as well as risk."

Dale Boucher, the CEO at Capreol ON based Deltion Innovations giving a presentation for the "Future of Exploration and Mining; An Interactive Session" track on March 4th, 2019 at PDAC 2019. He noted how his company used "fundamental lessons learned from space" to develop a new, low-cost terrestrial mining tool, which automatically collects small core sample from drill sites without the need to send a miner into the drilled hole to collect samples. The new application will save money when drilling since the holes don't need to be shored-up before a sample can be taken. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

While the new report is not a wealth of specific information (that will potentially come later with the "action plan"), it can fairly be considered as indicative of substantial background activity at NRCAN and in other organizations.

After all, and as outlined in the June 8th, 2018 post, "NRCan Explores Space Mining," NRCan has been trying to reach out to the Canadian mining and space mining community for at least the last year.

Whether or not it ends up succeeding in an area currently dominated by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is a question still up in the air. For now, NRCAN has made a good start.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Crew Dragon Docks at International Space Station

          By Brian Orlotti

At 5:51 am EST on March 3rd, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) 27 hours after its launch from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The docking marks a major milestone towards restoring indigenous human spaceflight capability to the US.


The main goal of the mission, named Demo-1, was to prove that the Crew Dragon spacecraft can safely carry NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. SpaceX has been developing Crew Dragon under a $2.6Bln US (#3.4Bln CDN) NASA contract, awarded in 2014. The spacecraft is based on SpaceX’s own robotic Dragon spacecraft, which has flown 16 ISS resupply missions to date under a separate NASA contract.

In a first for SpaceX, the Crew Dragon docked itself at the ISS. The cargo-only version of the Dragon spacecraft requires the ISS’s human-controlled robotic arm to grab and then attach it to the station. Crew Dragon made use of the ISS’ new International Docking Adapter.

At 8:07 am EST on March 3rd, the ISS crew opened the hatch to Crew Dragon for the first time and floated inside, with SpaceX livestreaming views of the craft’s interior. Crew Dragon’s cargo consisted of a life-sized dummy astronaut dubbed ‘Ripley’ and a Celestial Buddies Earth plush toy.

Crew Dragon will spend the next five days docked at the ISS. When its mission is complete, the spacecraft will splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8th.


Should Demo-1 conclude successfully, SpaceX will proceed with a ‘high-altitude abort’ test of the Crew Dragon’s emergency crew escape system. Following this will be the Demo-2 mission, scheduled for July.

A major milestone, this flight will have NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley travel to the ISS. If successful, Demo-2 will see the end of US dependence on Russian spacecraft for human spaceflight, some 8 years after the last humans launched from US soil aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

Such an achievement will prove another jewel in SpaceX’s crown and the beginning of the next chapter of space exploration. Space aficionados everywhere wait with bated breath.
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.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Maxar Technologies Misses Q4 Revenue Estimates; Will Retain SSL Subsidiary & Drop Dividend to $.01 US per Share

          By Chuck Black

Shareholders of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies will be waiting patiently over the next few days to see how the market reacts to Maxar's latest quarterly earning report.

The complete slide deck used for the February 28th, 2019 Maxar Q4 2018 Earnings call is available online here. A transcript of the call was published in the March 1st, 2019 Seeking Alpha post, "Maxar Technologies Inc (MAXR) CEO Dan Jablonsky on Q4 2018 Results - Earnings Call Transcript." Graphic c/o Maxar.

Initial signs are not good. As outlined in the February 28th, 2019 Maxar press release, "Maxar Technologies Reports 2018 Year End Results," the company has reported:
  • Consolidated revenues of $2,141Mln US ($2.813Mln CDN), which was a rough miss on Q4 revenue expectations. Revenues fell 9% due to shortfalls at Maxar's Palo Alta CA based SSL GEO satellite manufacturing facility, which was mitigated somewhat by gains in imagery revenue from the US government.
  • A net loss under US generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) of $1,264Mln US ($1.661Mln CDN) including $1,096Mln US ($1.440Mln CDN) in impairment losses.
  • A net loss under US GAAP of $21.76 US ($28.59 CDN) per share excluding impairment losses of $2.90 per share.
  • An adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) to sales ratio (EBITDA1) of $472Mln US ($620Mln CDN) with an adjusted EBITDA1 margin of 22%.
  • A quarterly dividend reduced from $0.02764 US to $0.01 US per share and an organizational restructuring.
Maxar, which seems to have been unable to sell SSL for any reasonable amount, has decided to continue its operations while "rightsizing the organization to better align its costs with revenue."

As outlined in the February 13th, 2019 Seeking Alpha post, "Maxar Technologies: Betting On Space," most analysts had felt that Maxar needed to cut the quarterly stock dividend plus sell SSL for a reasonable amount of money, perhaps around $500Mln US ($660Mln CDN), in order to turn around the company.

Since new Maxar President and CEO Daniel Jablonsky and recently appointed Executive VP and CFO Biggs Porter were able to only address one of those two issues, the company is still treading on dangerous ground.

Does the new "Maxar" arm use Canadarm technology? As noted previously in this blog, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is a big advocate of Maxar/MDA.  Photo's c/o @JimBridenstine.

On the upside, the organizational restructuring did take note of potential future revenue expected to come from Canada as a result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Thursday announcement that Canada has made a formal commitment to the US led Lunar Gateway

As outlined in the February 28th, 2019 post, "Canada Becomes the First Nation to Formally Commit to the NASA Lunar Gateway Plan," much of the $2Bln CDN allocated to the program over the next 24 years will eventually filter down to Maxar's Brampton ON based MDA Space Systems subsidiary.

But not today.

Canadian's won't likely know the funding details of the new Federal program until after the 2019 Federal Budget is tabled on March 19th, 2019 and won't be able to take advantage of the potential new opportunity until then, or maybe later.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Canada Becomes the First Nation to Formally Commit to the NASA Lunar Gateway Plan

          By Chuck Black

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Canada will become the first international partner to join the US led Lunar Gateway program, a plan promoted and managed by NASA but expected to be partially funded by multinational contributions from countries such as Canada.

Trudeau's announcement is the first formal statement of commitment to the program from another nation.

The NASA Lunar Gateway is intended to serve as a follow-on program to the current International Space Station (ISS) and will serve as a stepping stone for NASA's deep space exploration plans.

NASA's newest best friend. Canadian PM Trudeau explaining that "Canada is stepping up" to build another Canadarm for the US Lunar Gateway and also contribute in other ways. According to Trudeau, the new Canadarm "that will repair and maintain the Lunar Gateway" will be "built in Canada by Canadians," although he didn't say which domestic (or foreign owned) company would build it. As always, space politics (even in Canada) is mostly about jobs, not science. The full press conference is available online under the title, "LIVE NOW – Watch Prime Minister Justin Trudeau make a historic announcement about Canada in space!" on the CSA Facebook page. Screenshot c/o Facebook. 

Although the fiscal specifics are unclear and likely won't be known until after the 2019 Federal Budget is tabled on March 19th, 2019, Trudeau did make a verbal commitment of $2.05Bln CDN over the next twenty-four years to contribute to the NASA program.

That's less than $100Mln CDN a year, which isn't a lot and could certainly end up being far less depending on whether or not this announcement refers to new funding or is simply a reallocation of existing funds.

Trudeau also announced several smaller space focused funding programs, including $150Mln CDN for a CSA administered Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) to assist small and medium Canadian enterprises (SMEs) to develop new AI, robotics, and health technology for use in lunar orbit and for a Junior Astronauts program.

The LEAP program is expected to appeal to the majority of Canadian space focused companies such as Bolton ON based Canadensys Aerospace, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia based Leap Biosystems, Moon Express Canada and others who aren't as politically well connected as Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies.

Although not noted explicitly during the press conference, Maxar's Brampton ON based MDA Space Systems subsidiary will almost certainly receive the lions share of the new funding as the prime contractor for the "3rd generation Canadarm" needed to support the Lunar Gateway.

In response to Trudeau's announcement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued this February 28th, 2019 NASA post, "Canada Commits to Joining NASA at the Moon," which called Canada:
... a vital ally in this lunar journey as they become the first international partner for the Gateway lunar outpost with their 24 year commitment to deep space exploration and collaboration.
Inflammatory twitter comment. Graphic c/o @Canadainspace.
As outlined on the February 28th, 2019 Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada website post, "Historic investments in Canada’s space program to create jobs and new industries," Canada will:
... develop and contribute a smart robotic system – Canadarm3 – that will repair and maintain the Gateway. Canada’s partnership in the Gateway ushers in a new era of Canadian excellence in space, and will be the cornerstone of Canada’s new, ambitious space strategy. 
The Government of Canada will invest $2.05 billion over 24 years for Canada’s space program. This investment will create hundreds of good, well-paying jobs over the next ten years – from scientists and engineers to technicians and computer programmers – and will contribute $100 million annually to Canada’s gross domestic product.
The Canadarm program has historically served as a wedge for Canadian access into other facets of the US space program such as transportation to the ISS for Canadian astronauts and enjoys a wide, bipartisan support across party lines.

But some have already categorized the new funding as a political issue. For example, the February 28th, 2019 SpaceQ post, "Canada is Going to the Moon," categorized the Trudeau governments announcement as being:
... designed to send a message before the budget comes out on March 19. 
The commitment means that come election time, if the Liberals are not re-elected, that a plan and some funding will in place, making it harder to renege on the commitment."
SpaceQ is funded in large part through advertising revenue provided by Canadarm prime contractor  Maxar/ MDA.

With its strong Liberal party connections, it's also evidently in Maxar/MDAs best interest to suggest that politics is at the core of any positive government decision going into the next election. Maybe Spaceq is simply acting in the best interests of its sponsor instead of its readers.


And maybe SpaceQ has a point. As outlined most recently in the January 9th, 2019 post, "Why did Maxar Subsidiary SSL "Terminate" its Participation in the DARPA GEOsynchronous Satellite Servicing Program?," Maxar has been having troubles lately and is looking to the Trudeau government to commit to new funding for the Lunar Gateway program to pull its fat out of the fire.

On the other hand, Canada is now a preferred partner for the NASA program. Canadians can now lobby NASA to ask Canadian companies to contribute to the Lunar Gateway program and be funded by the Canadian government. Several companies have confirmed that NASA will soon begin asking for contributions which are completely independent from Maxar/MDA which relate to unmanned Lunar rovers and in-situ resource utilization.

It's useful to note that Trudeau finished up his Thursday morning press conference without being asked any questions on his space policy. He was instead asked questions relating to the SNC Lavalin affair. Maybe everything is indeed eventually boiled down to politics, especially when an election is expected in the fall.

Has the Trudeau government picked Maxar/MDA as the Canadian lottery winner for Canadian space funding for the foreseeable future?

We'll know more when the 2019 Budget is tabled in Parliament on March 19th.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Graphene Electronics Now One Step Closer

          By Brian Orlotti

European researchers have announced that they have succeeded in carving out graphene to nanoscale dimensions without ruining its electrical properties; a key step towards making practical graphene nano-electronics.

As outlined in the February 19th, 2019 NanoWerk post, "Graphene 'sandwich' key to new electronics," the researchers were operating under the European Union (EU) Graphene Flagship program, a €1 billion EUR ($1.5Bln CDN) initiative launched in 2013 to bring together academic and industrial researchers with a plan to commercialize graphene.

Graphene, first discovered in 2004, is a form of carbon made up of hexagonal atoms that is only a single-atom thick.

Graphene’s unique structure gives it remarkable properties: it is over 100 times stronger than steel, a better electrical conductor than copper, transparent, flexible, and impermeable to most gasses and liquids. Recent research has even shown the possibility of graphene being a room-temperature superconductor, a holy grail of modern science.

Graphene’s properties have led to much hype over the past decade, with promises of a revolution in physics and engineering. However, lack of research and difficulties in mass production have kept its promise unfulfilled.

Scientists have long tried using traditional lithography techniques to produce graphene-based nanoelectronics and photonics. However, since graphene is only one atom thick, all its atoms are exposed to the outside world; even small defects and impurities impede its properties.

Graphene Flagship researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) solved this problem by coating graphene with protective layers of hexagonal boron nitride. The team then used nanolithography to drill nanometre-sized holes into the boron nitride, enabling electrical current to flow through the graphene at 100-1000 times greater rates than previous efforts.

The researchers claim this new technique is a key step towards the building of defect-free graphene nanoelectronic and photonic devices.

The ability to produce defect-free graphene-based devices combined with recent breakthroughs in mass production techniques, may have the next few years finally bring graphene’s promise to life.
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.

Will Australia Become the Third Nation to Encourage Private Sector Space Mining?

          By Chuck Black

Both the United States, with its "Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015," and the Grand Duchy of Luxemboug are well known for recent legislation allowing their citizens and domestically based corporations to claim ownership over space based resources.

Mars (on the left) has more than a little in common with the Australian outback (on the right) according to the December 4th, 2014 ABC News Australia post, "Mars V Australian Outback." As outlined in the June 10th, 2018 VentureBeat post, "The best countries for tech companies: 2018 rankings," the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has named Australia, Singapore and Sweden as "the countries most prepared for technological change, and the most attractive places for tech companies to invest in the next five years." It's a shame that Canada wasn't in the top ten rankings. Photo's c/o NASA and Jane Stapleton.

Those laws are designed specifically to encourage private sector extraterrestrial exploration and resource extraction. Now it looks like a third nation could soon be following along the same path.

As outlined in the February 14th, 2019 the Conversation post, "Australia: well placed to join the Moon mining race … or is it?," there has certainly been a lot of discussion on the topic since the establishment of the Australian Space Agency on July 1st, 2018.

Australia's Space Roadmap. Cover c/o CSIRO.
The article noted that one of the priorities of the new space agency is "developing a strategy to position Australia as an international leader in specialized space capabilities" such as space mining.

It also pointed out that terrestrial mining operations often use autonomous drills, robotic tools optimized for extreme environments and other high-tech tools which could be useful for mining operations on Mars or the asteroids.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research, has noted space resource utilization as a key element of its 2018 Space Road Map, more formally known as "Space: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia."

As outlined in the Space Road Map:
Australian industry has a unique opportunity to leverage the nation's strengths and advantages to increase its role in the international space sector by providing strategic contributions to global value chains that result in economic return and improve the lives of Australians. 
These include:
  • Growing the ecosystem and downstream utilisation of space-derived data and services, such as Earth Observation, positioning navigation and timing, and satellite communications.
  • Building an Australian industry to track space objects to ensure the continued availability of space assets.
  • Leveraging Australia's research and industrial strengths to develop cutting edge technology for global space exploration and utilization.

The Wilde Project is named after Oscar Wilde (it's a long story), and includes Australian researchers from multiple schools and faculties organized through the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. It plans to design a space mission to "process water from the permanently shadowed craters at moon’s poles" to demonstrate the feasibility of a variety of tools and methodologies to the mining community since "both the (Australian) space agency and CSIRO now have it as a priority." Screen shot c/o UNSW Engineering.

But while Australia has (so far at least) not moved forward with the necessary legal regulations needed for citizens and domestically based corporations to claim ownership over space based resources, the national news outlets have starting to notice the local mining expertise and how that skill-set is applicable to the space industry.

According to the February 22nd, 2016 Huffington Post Australia article, "Australia Will Lead The Way In Space Mining Because We're Used To Operating In Isolated, Extreme Environments."

As outlined in the December 4th, 2017 WA Today post, "Gold, water and platinum: Australians lead the way towards asteroid mining boom," Australia "will have asteroid mining before we have people living on Mars," because "there is money involved."

It's odd that no one in Canada has figured this out.

Mining in Australia, much like mining in Canada, is a significant primary industry and contributor to the domestic economy.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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