Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Next Breakthrough Space Technologies for Canada

There are a lot of robots aboard the International Space Station (ISS) these days but only one of them is our iconic and Canadian built CanadArm.
Image of the European robotic arm on the ISS.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has the JEM RMS and the Small Fine Arm (SFA) while the European Space Agency (ESA) makes do with the European Robotic Arm (ERA) and the Russian’s use Strela, a manually operated robotic device. Even General Motors has Robonaut, built in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under an agreement to develop “robotic assistants” for both astronauts and GM manufacturing plant employees.

Given the above, does Canada still enjoy that historic lead in robotics we once used as leverage for Canadian astronaut trips aboard 13 NASA and two Soyuz manned missions over the last two decades?

Some of my colleagues over at the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) think that perhaps it's time to assess this changing landscape and get a grip on the evolving opportunities for Canadian businesses looking to leverage their space focused technical expertise on the world stage.

The VASIMR electric propulsion system.
We're looking to begin this discussion at the 2011 CSCA conference and annual general meeting focused on “The Next Breakthrough Space Technologies for Canada” which is being held on Friday, March 18th, in the MaRS Development District in Toronto, Ontario.

All are welcome to attend and speakers and registration information will be posted on the CSCA website over the next few days.

Some of the questions we're looking to discuss include:
  • What are the next “breakthrough” technologies that will allow Canadian companies to continue “punching above our weight” in the international arena?
  • Should we be looking at Martian rovers, or electrical propulsion technology, or  or a next generation Canadarm (perhaps optimized for in-orbit servicing) or new devices for measurement and detection?
  • Does Canada need the capability to launch small orbital payloads to defend our arctic sovereignty?
  • How will the budgetary challenges and confusion occurring at NASA affect the capabilities and our ability to partner with our largest traditional space partner.
  • Where are the next domestic and international space focused commercial opportunities going to come from?
Or is there perhaps even something else on the horizon that we should be aware of?

To find out for sure, you're just going to have to attend the conference. I look forward to seeing you there.

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