Monday, February 18, 2019

Space Could be the Most Perfect Construction Site for the Most Perfect Fiber Optics

          By Chuck Black

According to Mountain View CA based Flawless Photonics President and CEO Chandra (CK) Singla, the real future of manufacturing in space could begin with a small automated, fiber optic fabrication laboratory (the "Fab Lab") currently scheduled to launch in April, 2019 with the next SpaceX Falcon-9 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The December 2018 cover of "Upward Magazine," the official publication of the ISS National Lab explored the increasing efforts to manufacture exotic fiber optics in a micro-gravity environment in the article "Exotic Glass Fibers from Space. The Race to Manufacture ZBLAN." Graphic c/o Upward Magazine.

Singla is currently working with co-founder Rob Loughan, plus a small team of material science, optical fiber and micro-gravity experts to bring a new generation of innovation and creativity to the final frontier.

He spoke about the upcoming mission, and about why optical fibers are an order of magnitude more useful when manufactured in space, with this blog last Friday.

"We've been focusing in this area to understand how to achieve the theoretical promise of several glass compositions to provide a 10 times or greater improvement in performance of optical fibers, by increasing the operational spectrum at far lower attenuation. Our work builds upon the research on the effects of microgravity on ZBLAN optical fibers by NASA materials scientist Dennis Tucker," said Singla. "The upcoming mission is our proof-of-concept."

CK Singla. Photo c/o CK Singla.
Optical fibers are flexible, transparent strands made by drawing glass (silica or fluoride gas) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair.

The strands are used in many industries including telecommunications, aerospace and healthcare because optical information travels over longer distances and at higher bandwidths (data rates) than is possible with electrical information traveling over electrical cables.

But on Earth, gravity influences strand formation by encouraging flaws and crystals to develop within the fibers made from the more promising fluoride glasses during the manufacturing process. Those flaws slow down the transmission of optical information in much the same way as a cloudy window makes it difficult to see through.

According to Singla, as data transmission needs grow exponentially, telecom and data network operators looking for new solutions are closely following our development roadmap due to the possibility of  "sending ten time the data ten times further" using far less infrastructure, provided the influence of gravity is removed from the manufacturing process

The simpler infrastructure will save more than enough money to cover the cost of the added ISS portion of the manufacturing process.

"We're going to use the Fab Lab to test out our theories. If the mission succeeds, it will have a transformative effect on healthcare, telecommunications and other industries," he stated.

The fibers manufactured on board the ISS will be returned to Earth for testing several weeks later on board the Dragon capsule during its return trip.

Flawless Photonics is currently in the midst of plans to raise $20Mln US ($26.5Mln CDN) to commercialize their work.

As outlined on the Mahwah NJ based private equity and venture capital firm Moe Funding LLC undated post, "Space Manufacturing Platform." the technology is
... optimized for the size constraints and the rigors of space travel in order to cost effectively launch our equipment on existing rocket technologies such as those from SpaceX, and can easily be handled and installed by astronauts at the International Space Station’s commercial research lab, 360 miles above the Earth. 
The result is FlawlessFiber™ which has better attenuation and spectrum bandwidth than any fiber made on Earth today. It is composed of a special glass called ZBLAN rather than silica, and its capabilities far exceed the physical properties of silica glass fibers.  So what’s the catch?  ZBLAN optical fibers can only achieve their ideal performance if they are produced in the absence of Earth’s gravity.  Which of course means, we go to space! 
​FlawlessFiber™ will revolutionize many industries that currently use optical fibers while creating entirely new products and markets that do not yet exist because these perfect fibers simply can’t be produced here on Earth.
According to the May 11th, 2018 post, "Making Stuff in Space: Off-Earth Manufacturing Is Just Getting Started," Singla and his team aren't the only people working on the process, although they do seem to be the closest to creating a commercially salable product.
Our plans are to begin quarterly flights to the ISS with enough supplies to create commercial sized quantities of our fibers, just as soon as we complete our proof of concept and complete our fund raising.
It's also worth noting that high-quality ZBLAN fiber optic cables manufactured in the traditional manner on Earth are currently quite pricey, despite being limited by attenuation that is greater than silica.

Any manufacturing process able to increase the performance 10X or more would change the economic equation and the resulting product could end up with significant market share while being very profitable.

Given that, we can reasonably expect to hear more from Flawless Photonics, CK Singla and their partners in the near future.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

A New Generation of 3D Printed Nano-Material Sensor Platforms

          By Brian Orlotti

A NASA team has received a $2Mln US ($2.65Mln CDN) grant to develop a 3D-printed nanomaterial-based sensor platform. The small, low-power, high sensitivity platform could greatly enhance space exploration efforts.

The team, headed by technologist Mahmooda Sultana and located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, will spend the next two years developing the platform.

The platform will be capable of sensing a wide variety of data such as minute concentrations of gases, atmospheric pressure and temperature, then transmitting them wirelessly from a self-contained platform measuring just two-by-three-inches. Such tiny platforms could be deployed on planetary rovers to detect small quantities of water and methane or serve as biological sensors to monitor astronauts’ health.

Key to the effort is a 3D printing system developed by Ahmed Busnina and his group at Northeastern University in Boston. The 3D printing system deposits nanomaterials (such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, molybdenum disulfide and others), layer-by-layer, onto a substrate to create tiny sensors. Each sensor can detect different gas, pressure level or temperature.

Nanomaterials are highly sensitive and stable at extreme conditions. They are also lightweight, radiation-hardened and require less power, making them ideal for space applications.

Under the partnership with Northeastern University, Sultana and her team will design the sensor platform, determining which combination of materials are best for measuring minute, parts-per-billion concentrations of water, ammonia, methane and hydrogen.

Northeastern University will then use its 3D printing system to apply the nano-materials.

The approach differs dramatically from how multi-functional sensor platforms are currently made.

Rather than building one sensor at a time and then integrating it with other components, 3D printing enables the printing of an entire suite of sensors onto one platform, dramatically simplifying integration and packaging. In another innovative twist, Sultana’s team plans to print a wireless antenna and circuitry onto the same silicon wafer as the sensors, further simplifying instrument design and fabrication.

According to Sultana, the project addresses NASA’s need for small, low-power, lightweight, and highly sensitive sensors as an alternative to the mass spectrometers currently used on space missions to detect molecules of interest. Although mass spectrometers can detect a wide variety of molecules, they have difficulty distinguishing between types such as water, methane and ammonia.

A suite of small yet powerful sensors built into a compact package recalls the iconic ‘tricorder’ devices seen in the ‘Star Trek’ franchise. The work done by Sultana’s team reminds us that the science fiction of yesterday can become the science fact of tomorrow.
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, February 15, 2019

And Now for a Moment to Discuss the Upcoming EU Copyright Directive and Small News Outlets

          By Chuck Black

European Union (EU) negotiators have agreed to the wording of Articles 11 and 13 of the infamous EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, known more commonly as the EU copyright directive.

As outlined in the February 13th, 2019 IPPro Magazine post, "EU copyright directive: article 11 and 13 text agreed," the final vote on whether to implement the directives could occur as soon as March 25th - 27th.

As noted in this blog, most recently in the August 20th, 2018 post, "Breaking for Vacation and to Research Issues Relating to Online Press Freedom: Back on September 4th," the legislation will have a substantial effect on freedom of speech on the internet, news coverage in general and the ability to link directly to primary source material for news and commentary.

The BBC has weighed in on the EU copyright directive with its February 13th, 2019 post, "What is Article 13? The EU's copyright directive explained," which noted that  "Google has been particularly vocal about the proposed law, which it says could 'change the web as we know it'" and "Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive states services such as YouTube could be held responsible if their users upload copyright-protected movies and music."

Its worth noting that this blog will also be affected, since it often links to sources and uses tools and services provided by major US based internet giants such as Google, YouTube and others targeted by the EU copyright directive.

Change is almost certainly coming over the next few months, although very few are aware of the specifics of those changes.

We'd better stand by for adventure.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions

Part 5: The Current Liberal Government

          By Chuck Black
This series of posts is attempting to answer some of the questions surrounding the appropriate Canadian response to the recently announced US plan to create an expanded United States Space Force. 
Part one ("The Axworthy Doctrine") focused on how the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's led to a new Canadian focus on aggressive, international peacekeeping missions requiring space focused communication and surveillance capabilities of a type which Canada didn't then possess.
Part two ("The Changing Political Landscape") discussed why Canada never had a military space policy prior to 1998 by going back to the 1960's and the federal liberal party under Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. 
Part three ("Towards Northern Sovereignty") dealt with the changing focus of Canadian foreign policy from international peacekeeping towards northern sovereignty, a policy developed in the 1990's under then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien which also required a substantial space-focused component, and what happened when the Canadian government realized that it still didn't possess those capabilities.
Part four ("Funding an Appropriate Force") outlined Conservative Prime Prime  Minister Stephen Harper's reaction to the policies of the previous Liberal government. It would have been a great strategy, if only the Canadian government didn't keep cutting back on the budget. 
Here is part five of this series. 

PM Trudeau in 2019. Photo c/o CP/ Darryl Dyck.
In the run up to the 2015 Federal Election, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (the eldest son of Canada's fifteenth PM, Pierre Trudeau) instinctively understood that the problem with the Stephen Harper Conservative government (at least when it came to defence policy) was simply that no one could find the funding for the Conservative "Canada First Defence Strategy."

As outlined on the Liberal Party website:
We will maintain current National Defence spending levels, including current planned increases. 
Under Stephen Harper, investments in the Canadian Armed Forces have been erratic, promised increases in funding have been scaled back, and more than $10 billion of approved funding was left unspent. 
This mismanagement has left Canada’s Armed Forces underfunded and ill-equipped, and the courageous members of the Forces unsupported after years of dedicated service.
It sounded good. It's just a shame the new policy took until June 2017, well after the Trudeau government had won the October 15th, 2015 Federal election, to roll out..

As well, the new policy seemed to be more of a reaction to US policy which, under current US President Donald Trump, simply wasn't prepared to let Canada have as much of a free ride as had been true in previous eras.

If Canada could borrow military assets from its allies in order to complete a mission, then it would need to build up its indigenous capabilities.

The current statement of Liberal Defence policy (at least until after the next election, scheduled for October 21st, 2019) is the June 6th, 2017 "Strong, Secure, Engaged – Canada’s Defence Policy."

As outlined by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in his July 7th, 2017 statement in the House of Commons, "Strong, Secure, Engaged" – A new defence policy for Canada," the new plan will:
... recapitalize the Royal Canadian Air Force, with a full fleet of 88 advanced fighter jets to replace the aging CF-18s. This should have been done years ago. 
The previous government planned to purchase just 65 fighters, but didn’t actually purchase any, and didn’t budget adequately even for that inadequate fleet. 88 fighters are required to fully meet our NORAD and NATO obligations simultaneously, not just risk manage them, as the RCAF has had to do for a number of years. 
This plan fully funds, for the first time, the Royal Canadian Navy’s full complement of 15 Canadian Surface Combatant ships necessary to replace the existing frigates and retired destroyers. Fifteen. Not “up to” 15 and not 12. And definitely not six, which is the number the previous government’s plan would have paid for, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported last week.
Minister Sajjan. Photo c/o Chris Wattie/ Reuters.
The minister also promised to "recapitalize much of the Canadian Army’s land combat capabilities and aging vehicle fleets" and made "new commitments to emerging domains, particularly space, cyber and remotely piloted systems" in order to "address current and looming gaps in existing capabilities."

All of which sounds well and good, except when you note that, as outlined in the October 30th, 2018 Defence News post, "Canada to accept bids for new fighter jet in May — here are the potential competitors," Canada hasn't purchased any new fighter jets yet and doesn't even plan on taking bids for the replacement aircraft until May 2019.

As for the ships, it's worth noting that, as outlined in the February 8th, 2019 CBC News post, "Ottawa makes its $60B frigate project official, even as rival's court challenge goes forward," while a contract was awarded, no money seems to have changed hands.

Military procurement is a mess, and not likely to clean itself up anytime soon.

Most importantly, and as outlined in the March 6th, 2018 MacLeans post, "What’s happening to Canada’s defence spending?," no new funding was allocated in the 2018 Federal budget for the military, which kinda suggests that the Liberal defence policy is slowly walking down the same path as the previous Conservative plan.

As for Canada's space capabilities, there has been some movement, as outlined in the February 4th, 2019 post, "UTIAS-SFL and Raytheon Canada Building Military Funded Spy Sats," which noted $46.2Mln CDN for new funding under the Department of National Defence (DND) All Domain Situational Awareness Science & Technology (ADSA S&T) program. 

Also noteworthy were the eight Canadian companies which received multiple contracts totaling $6.7Mln CDN through the Department of National Defence (DND) in late 2018 in order to develop "situational awareness" applications focused around the analysis and assessment of synthetic aperture radar(SAR) data generated through Canada's Radarsat program. 

In this case, it was the funding mechanism, not the military strategy, which was noteworthy.

As outlined in the December 17th, 2018 post, "New Radarsat R&D Funding is Mostly for Software Analytics But Includes Some Interesting Surprises," the DND contracts were structured as public private partnerships with costs split 50-50 between DND and the various private sector participants.

But dropping a few million here or there for a few new programs doesn't amount to much compared to the total Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) annual budget of approximately $25Bln CDN. 

Canada's military space strategy remains mired in ideas generated decades before and still focuses on how to more effectively gain low-cost access to civilian and military US satellite command, control, communications and space situational awareness assets.

Although the strategy remains the same, most would agree that space is a far more complex environment to operate in today, than it was when Lloyd Axworthy held public office.

Is this our only choice in the matter or are there other options? That will be the subject of our final post on this topic.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Last episode: "Funding an Appropriate Force," as part four of "A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions," continues.

Next episode: "Conclusions," as part six of "A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions," finishes up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains Thinks He's Doing a Good Job

          By Henry Stewart

Sometime this week, the Canadian government is expected to release a 100-page report titled "Building a Nation of Innovators."

The report is intended to highlight the various policies, programs, plans and funding mechanisms the Federal department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) has undertaken since 2015 in order to embrace innovative methodologies, digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

But it probably won't mention anything about Canada's space industry, which is a shame since the space industry is one of the drivers of innovation in the Canadian economy.

As outlined in the February 9th, 2019 Financial Post article, "The race to future-proof the economy: Navdeep Bains on the state of innovation in Canada," Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains is already providing a sneak peak at the contents of the report.

According to Bains:’s a report card, because people need to know as a government you made promises, are you living up to those promises? And what does it mean to them, to their communities, for their own prospects and for their kids’ prospects? 
The speed and scope of change is phenomenal, and that creates anxiety and concerns that Canadians have. And we’re dealing with that and saying, look, we want you to succeed.
Front cover. Graphic c/o ISED.
The full interview is available online. The report is also expected to be available online and will likely be referenced at least once or twice during the upcoming Federal election in the fall of 2019.

The Innovation Minister wants to be judged by this report and by how he has succeeded in advocating for Canada's Innovation Agenda.

He's right. We should do this.

The policy was originally outlined on the July 26th, 2016 Federal Government website "Positioning Canada to Lead: An Inclusive Innovation Agenda."
Editors Note: The Federal government has released its report. 
As outlined in the February 12th, 2019 ISED press release, "Canada is building a nation of innovators," the report "presents the Government's progress in laying a solid foundation for Canada to remain competitive and for Canadians to succeed in the global economy." 
But it doesn't say much else. It spends most of its 100 pages talking about preliminary results and what could happen if the Liberals are allowed to carry through with their plans. 
The complete report, under the title Building a Nation of Innovators, is available online so the curious can confirm the content for themselves.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mars One Finally Goes Bankrupt

          By Chuck Black

The plan always seemed more akin to the plot of the 1967 Mel Brooks movie "The Producers," which focused on the down-on-his-luck producer Max Bialystock (played by Zero Mostel), who teamed up with a timid accountant (Gene Wilder) in a get-rich-quick scheme to put on the world's worst show and make off with the production funds.

Be that as it may, Mars One Ventures AG, the commercial arm of the Mars One effort to colonize the red planet, was liquidated on January 15th, 2019 in a case heard in the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, according to a January 16th, 2019 filing (#CHE-375.837.130) by the canton’s commercial register. 

As outlined in the February 11th, 2019 Space News post, "Mars One company goes bankrupt," the filing was first publicized February 10th, 2019 on Reddit.

According to the Space News post, "the filing offered little information about the bankruptcy case or how the company was liquidated. Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, confirmed that the company was bankrupt, but provided few additional details."

As outlined in the post:
Mars One gained headlines several years ago with plans to privately finance human missions to Mars, with those selected to fly on those missions committing to a one-way trip with no prospect of return to Earth. In its 2012 announcement of its plans, Mars One said it expected to have people land on Mars in 2023, a date that it has subsequently delayed to no earlier than 2032. 
Mars One claimed it could pull off the initial mission, through the landing of the first four-person crew on Mars, for $6 billion, a figure the organization offered few details about and one widely criticized in the broader space industry as far too low. Mars One planned to raise the funds for the mission by selling broadcasting rights, citing the large revenues generated for the rights to events like the Olympics and the World Cup.
This blog first noted Mars One and its activities in the March 22nd, 2015 post, "Springtime for Mars One," which noted the similarity to the Mel Brooks movie and predicted the company would eventually fail.

As noted in the December 5th, 2016 post, "Another Call for Federal Assistance in Space, plus Kepler, Clyde Space, ULA & Mars One, Which Can Now Sell Stock," Mars One even attempted a reverse merger of the Swiss based publicly traded Innovative Finance AG (InFin). 

The expectation was that selling shares in a publicly traded company would allow Mars One to raise money. But that plan didn't work out. As outlined in the Space News post:
Mars One has provided few financial updates since it announced in December 2016 that Mars One Ventures had gone public after an acquisition by InFin Innovative Finance AG, a Swiss firm previously working on mobile payment technologies that was already traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. 
The last shareholder update by Mars One Ventures was published in June 2018, according to the investor relations section of its website. At the time trading of the stock had been suspended on the Frankfurt exchange, with hopes of resuming it in August.

A series of intermediary steps, kicked off with great fanfare, also eventually ground to a halt.
Mars One awarded study contracts in 2013 to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to develop an orbiter to serve as a communications relay, and to Lockheed Martin for a Mars lander based on the design for NASA’s Phoenix mission. 
However, activity on those projects ground to a halt by early 2015 after the companies completed their initial studies and did not receive funding for additional work.
Mars One bears uncanny similarities to various businesses being proposed even today which promise great things but don't have any obvious revenue models.

Examples would include the European based Swiss Space Systems (SSS) which, as outlined in the January 24th, 2017 post, "Swiss Court Confirms Swiss Space Systems Bankruptcy But CEO Jaussi Might Buy Assets and Start Over," once attempted to partner with the City of North Bay ON in an attempt to launch a mini-space shuttle and Halifax NS based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) which, as outlined most recently in the April 13th, 2018 post, "Ukrainian Rockets Like the Cyclone 4M Are Too Dangerous an Investment for Western Interests: Kyiv Post," also has a problematic revenue model.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. A man's reach should always exceed his grasp, just so long as the investors do their appropriate due diligence to recognize the difference between shit and shinola. 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Friday, February 08, 2019

The Washington DC Based Wilson Center Begins the Next Phase of Its Campaign for a Renewed Canada/ US Space Partnership

          By Chuck Black

The Washington DC based Wilson Center, the US think-tank which organized the September 7th, 2018 event "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-US Space Cooperation?" which included many US and Canadian senior space focused bureaucrats, has published a February 2019 White Paper on "The Potential for a US-Canadian Spacefaring Partnership: Canada’s Role in The US Return to Space Leadership."

The front cover of the twenty-one page February 2019 Wilson Center position paper on "The Potential for a US-Canadian Spacefaring Partnership: Canada’s Role in The US Return to Space Leadership." Graphic c/o Wilson Center.

As outlined in the position paper:
Canada has a well-developed partnership with NASA that supports space science and exploration, but the changes in US priorities for NASA will require a recalibration of this partnership and open new opportunities for the CSA. Canada’s small but highly regarded commercial space sector will similarly see new business opportunities including the chance to enhance supply chain participation in the US space marketplace. 
But an expanded US space marketplace also implies expanded application of US rules in space and some in Canada may resist the extraterrestrial application of U.S. law in the same way that prior US efforts to apply rules extraterritorially in Earth-bound geopolitics led to strong objections from many Canadians.
To its credit, the paper is a reasonably good inventory of both US and Canadian legislation currently covering each nation's space policy.

The paper is especially good with its mention of the 2008 Canadian Long-Term Space Plan (LTSP), which was commissioned (but never adapted) by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the consequences of the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review, which dealt with space at length in its second volume ("Reaching Higher: Canada's Interests and Future in Space"), but is seldom referenced by most commentators.

In fact, the paper was quite flattering to the Harper government although it was less than complimentary to the current Justin Trudeau Liberal government.

According to the position paper:
The Trudeau government has yet to put its stamp on Canadian space policy, and in particular, it has not taken decisions on major new spending or projects in which the Government of Canada will invest. 
The structures put in place to develop Canadian space policy and priorities are adequate to the task, but decisions must be taken to transform Canadian ambitions for a continued role in the space domain into achievements.
It also argued that a Canada-US partnership could benefit both sides:
First, Canada has been in the position of being one customer among many ever since it developed a space program, and so in contracting, cost-control, and the management of relationships Canada’s experience has value as a model for how US government entities might adapt. 
Second, Canada’s commercial space sector adds to and complements the same sector in the United States.

MDA Group President Mike Greenley is also on the lobbying circuit, a sure sign that, at least as of today, the Federal government has not made a final decision on how to support its space industry. Greenley will be speaking on the topic "Canada in the New Trillion Dollar Space Economy," at a private event sponsored by the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) in Toronto ON on February 15th, 2019. Photo c/o The Empire Club.

The Wilson Center White Paper concludes by stating that:
This review of recent space policy decisions taken in the United States and Canada point to the potential for the two countries to work together. The countries have similar goals, and now the structures necessary in place to facilitate action and partnership. 
With smaller budgets and a smaller space sector, as well as a preference for collaborating with other countries on space related scientific endeavors, Canada’s space policy development has been held back while the United States put its attention and resources elsewhere.  
The renewed US engagement on space provides the missing element for Canada: a set of missions and goals it can consider and even partner with the United States to attain.
But while the call for cooperation between the two nations almost certainly has the approval of many of the senior bureaucrats on both sides, the end result will likely be dependent of the current Justin Trudeau Liberal government and the upcoming 2019 Federal election, currently scheduled for October 2019.

Maybe we'll get some indication when the  2019 Federal Budget is released. Or maybe not.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Honeywell Will Formally Open Its Already Operational Smallsat Tech Incubator in Old COM DEV Facility

          By Henry Stewart

Maybe things are starting to look up for Canada's space industry.

Sometime this month, Charlottesville NC based Honeywell International, will formally open its Space Division’s Greenhouse, a technology and space focused incubator in a facility originally owned by the old Cambridge ON based COM DEV International.

Of course, the Honeywell Greenhouse has unofficially been opened for almost a year. It's been publically referenced as far back as the August 22nd, 2018 Space News post, "Small satellites are at the center of a space industry transformation" and many of its core staff have held their formal titles since June 2018.

Before then, most worked for COM DEV and focused on doing pretty much what they had been doing since Honeywell brought the iconic Canadian space company and spun out its Cambridge ON based exactEarth smallsat subsidiary as a separate company in late 2015.

But a formal announcement, as outlined in the January 7th, 2019 Space News post, "Honeywell to open technology incubator," has just got to come as good news, even if only as an implied commitment that the facility will remain open in some capacity.

According to Space News:
The market for geostationary communications satellites has slowed at a time when companies around the world are beginning to build small satellite constellations. 
Increasingly, customers demand reliable satellite components they can acquire quickly and inexpensively. To meet that demand, Honeywell is “picking technologies it is really good at making and bringing them into this new age,” Mississian said. 
Honeywell has 25 full-time employees working in the Greenhouse established in the Ontario, Canada, facility that was home to COM DEV International before Honeywell acquired the satellite component builder in 2015. The Greenhouse also pulls in expertise from the larger company.
The Greenhouse will work on a variety of projects relating to optical intersatellite links, reaction wheels, optical imagers and technology developed initially by COM DEV for Canadian government contracts.

As outlined in the September 1st, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Cambridge Facility Sees Workforce Reduction of 49% Since Honeywell Acquired Com Dev International," up to 49% of the facilities estimated 550 employees were either laid-off, retired of left the company within two years of it being acquired by Honeywell.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Monday, February 04, 2019

A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions

Part 4: Funding an Appropriate Force

          By Chuck Black
This series of posts is attempting to answer some of the questions surrounding the appropriate Canadian response to the recently announced US plan to create an expanded United States Space Force. 
Part one ("The Axworthy Doctrine") focused on how the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's led to a new Canadian focus on aggressive, international peacekeeping missions requiring space focused communication and surveillance capabilities of a type which Canada did not then possess and had to borrow from the Americans.
The Northwest Passage and its challenges. Graphic c/o World Cultural Pictorial.
Part two ("The Changing Political Landscape") discussed why Canada never had a military space policy prior to 1998 by going back to the 1960's and the federal liberal party under Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau who refused to differentiate between space based military assets for communication/ surveillance and space ‘weaponization’ in order to come across as supporters of the United Nations Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) and the UN Outer Space Treaty (1967).
Part three ("Towards Northern Sovereignty") dealt with the changing focus of Canadian foreign policy from international peacekeeping towards northern sovereignty, a policy developed in the 1990's under Jean Chr├ętien. It's a policy which often places us at odds with traditional allies, such as the US.
Here is part four of this series.

So what tools does the Canadian military need to acquire in order to reliably perform its missions? To answer that question, we need to know the missions.

In 2008 incoming Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper defined those missions in the 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) which mandated the capability to undertake them, either separately or together. 

They included:
  • Supporting a major international event in Canada, such as the 2010 Winter Olympics
  • Responding to a major terrorist attack. 
  • Supporting civilian authorities during a domestic crisis or natural disaster. 
  • Leading and/or conducting a major international operation for an extended period. 
  • Deploying forces in response to crises elsewhere in the world for shorter periods. 
Of course, the Harper government intended to make a series of equipment purchases in order to bolster the DND ability to undertake the above missions.

PM Harper in 2008. Photo c/o Britannica.
The purchases included:
  • New military trucks, land combat vehicles and support systems.
Naturally, when purchases are contemplated a budget is needed and the budget for this program was a big one. It called for an annual increase in DND funding from $18Bln CDN in 2007-2008 to over $30Bln CDN by 2027-2028 and totaled out at around $490Bln CDN over the 20 year period covered by the strategy.

That's a lot of money.

The space component of the package was designed primarily to tie together all the big ticket ships, planes and other equipment to insure that they can communicate with each other and sense what's going on around them.

As the eyes and ears of the future Canadian Forces, the space component might also be the most important part of the program. It was certainly the least expensive.

It was wrapped around a variety of space based systems including RADARSATRADARSAT 2 and the follow-on RADARSAT Constellation project, which used synthetic aperture radars (SAR) designed to obtain a finer spatial resolution than is possible with conventional photography or radar scans, and their associated ground stations.

Also of note was the ship tracking capabilities of Cambridge ON based exactEarth LLP (then a subsidiary of Cambridge ON based ComDev International) and several smaller satellites such as the Sapphire Canadian space surveillance satellite (launched in 2013 and built by MDA) and the Near Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) launched in 2013 ostensibly to track small asteroids near Earth asteroids but partially funded by the Canadian military for its ability to also track orbiting satellites.

These smaller systems allowed Canada to continue doing pretty much what it had been doing since the 1990's, which was to build smaller components which could be plugged into larger systems developed by others to gain access to those systems and help to offset some of the costs of national defence.

Of course, the key to the implementation of the complete plan was consistent policy and long term funding guarantees, a situation that wasn't entirely possible given the lack of consensus over defence spending within the various Canadian political players over the last few decades.

According to the Air Force Association of Canada 2008 position paper titled "Implementing the Canada First Defence Strategy," while it's easy enough to support the CFDS, the 'devil' was always in the details:
Indeed, the Standing Senate Committee on National Defence and Security has been openly critical of the need for the Government to redress the level of the Defence budget to ensure that the CFDS is affordable. 
Concern has also been expressed regarding the ability of DND, working with Public Works and Government Works Canada, to implement the scope of projects identified for prosecution. The involved procurement process for defence projects, coupled with the demands placed on a limited number of program staff, mitigate against timely acquisitions.
Moreover, the political imperative for attractive industrial and regional benefits to offset large offshore purchases further compounds the process and length of time to get to contract. A federal election will also present delays in government approvals or potentially a change in direction if the party in power changes.
Perhaps that's why no one held their breath waiting for the implementation of the CFDP and why no one suffocated when the Harper government failed to allocate sufficient funding to move the program forward.

By 2015, it was time for the Federal Justin Trudeau Liberal government to have a kick at the can. Their plan will be the subject our the next post 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Portions of  this multi-part overview were originally published in the January 16th, 2011 post, "Canada's Military Space Policy: Part 4, Funding an Appropriate Force."

Last episode: "Towards Northern Sovereignty," as part three of "A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions," continues.

Next episode: "The Current Liberal Government," as part five of "A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions," continues.

UTIAS-SFL and Raytheon Canada Building Military Funded Spy Sats

          By Brian Orlotti

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) has announced that it will develop three microsatellites to demonstrate ‘new’ air and maritime surveillance technology for Canada’s North.

As outlined in the February 1st, 2019 University of Toronto Engineering News post, "U of T Engineering researchers to design microsatellites for Arctic monitoring," the project, dubbed Gray Jay Pathfinder (GJP), is a partnership between UTIAS SFL, Woodbridge ON based Raytheon Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND).

Under the partnership, UTIAS SFL will build the GJP microsats while Raytheon Canada develops the onboard electronics.

The program is being funded as part of the DND’s All Domain Situational Awareness Science & Technology (ADSA S&T) program at a total of $46.2Mln CDN, with UTIAS SFL receiving $15Mln and Raytheon Canada getting $31.2Mln. The funding was allocated as part of 2018 Canadian Defence Budget, which provided a 70% increase in funding for Canada's military.

Raytheon Canada’s electronics will demonstrate a distinctly Canadian version of what most modern military knows as over-the-horizon radar (OTH). The Raytheon name for it is "Skywave radar technology" and many of the concepts surrounding it were discussed in the October 2006 Defence R&D Canada Technical Memorandum (TM 2006-285) titled, "A Canadian Perspective on High-Frequency Over-the-Horizon Radar," although the program was active in the 1980's.

Traditional radar systems are line-of-sight, meaning that they cannot detect objects beyond their horizon (typically a few hundred kilometres). Skywave radar overcomes this limitation by bouncing its signals off the ionosphere, increasing range to thousthe ands of kilometres.

OTH radar, first developed in the 1960’s, has been in use for decades by the major powers as well as smaller nations, including the US, Russia, France, China, Australia and Iran.

As outlined in the February 2nd, 2019 Canadian Defence Review post, "Canada Awards Contracts In Support of Arctic Surveillance," the Skywave/OTH radar technology will enable rapid detection and identification of surface and airborne targets, greatly enhancing the Canadian Forces’ situational awareness in the North.

In addition and as outlined in the post, "solutions achieved under the ADSA program will contribute to joint efforts between Canada and the United States to modernize elements of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)."

The need to beef up Canada’s surveillance capabilities has been made more urgent in recent years by several factors;
  • Increased challenges to Canadian sovereignty as Arctic sea lanes see greater international traffic due to climate change-induced melting of polar ice.
  • The increasingly hostile geopolitical environment, including renewed Cold War tensions following the US’ withdrawal from a key nuclear weapons treaty, the US/China trade war, and US belligerence towards Canada during the recent NAFTA renegotiation
Canada must overcome its peaceful complacency if it is to survive in an increasingly unstable world.
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.

Support our Patreon Page