Here's a couple of quick updates on interesting commercial space focused stories from Canada and around the world.
- An academic research report on Space Tourism in India, conducted by students and faculty members of the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) in Dehradun, India in association with the Institute of Air & Space Law at McGill University in Montreal and released on March 31st, 2011, states that "Space Tourism is one area where India can play a vital role with its affordable yet reliable solution. With the growth in the economy and the rapidly increasing middle and upper class, it is expected that a new industry on space tourism will evolve." The abstract for the report is available for download online by clicking on this link.
- While Canadian specific academic research in the area of space tourism is limited, it's worth noting that several Calgarians have so far plunked down $20,000 deposits on $200,000 tickets for short rides on the British based Virgin Galactic suborbital Spaceship Two, according to Michael Broadhurst, Vision 2000 Travel manager and prairie accredited sales agent (ASA) for Virgin Galactic who is quoted in the March 31st, 2011 Calgary Herald article "Calgarians sign up for space flights." According to his partner, Stephanie Anevich, the Toronto based executive vice-president of Vision 2000, (who I spoke with over the phone today) the company is very excited to be part of the original Virgin Galactic ASA team in Canada. Vision 2000 now has 6 ASA’s and advisers who focus on space travel.
- But if you're going into space and expect to get thirsty during your trip, then Australian beer company Thirsty Swagman might just have a second, more palatable alternative. According to the April 4th, 2011 press release "First Beer in Space Tour Set for 2012/2013" the company is offering passengers purchasing Virgin Galactic tickets through its online website (called Beer in Space) the option of chugging down a cold one at 300,000 feet in zero gravity. According to the company founder Kenneth Hart, “beer is the nectar of the gods, and soon you can touch the heavens to drink it."
- According to the April 4th, 2011 Wired Web Press Canada press release "Carlton University Students to Compete in Canada's First Satellite Design Challenge" a team of engineering students from Carlton University have registered to compete in Canada’s first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). The contest, organized by BC based Geocentrix Technologies, is open to teams of university students who design and build an operational small-satellite, based on commercially-available, "off-the-shelf" components. The satellites will undergo full launch and space environment qualification with the ultimate goal of launching the winning satellite into orbit and conducting science research. The Carlton entry brings the total number of competitors for the challenge to thirteen including Carlton, Concordia University (Montreal, QC), Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS), the University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) and the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC).
- Meanwhile, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is attempting to increase its capacity, at least according to the April 1st, 2011 SpaceRef.ca article "Canadian Space Agency Ramps up Capacity Building Efforts." The article comments that the CSA plan is designed to support "the continuing development of a critical mass of researchers and highly qualified people in Canada in strategic areas." These areas include atmospheric measurements using space-borne Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), carbon cycle science with space-borne data assimilation and modeling, soil moisture measurement and applications with space-borne data plus quite a few other highly targeted and very specific areas. Of course, any preselected and highly targeted list of activities strongly suggests a government agency that already pretty much knows where it expects to spend the $2.25 million allocated to the project over the next three years.
- Speaking of needing extra capacity, Canadian space powerhouse MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) seems to be having the latest in an ongoing series of great weeks with the April 4th, 2011 Canada News Wire announcement that "MDA to provide advanced technology solution to Boeing for communications satellites." This latest "multimillion dollar agreement," comes on the heels of a contract from the Department of National Defence (DND) to operate and maintain the DND Surveillance of Space (Sapphire) system (as outlined in the March 29th, 2011 SpaceRef.ca article "MDA to Provide Operations and Maintenance for DND Sapphire Satellite System") and an agreement with satellite operator Intelsat to provide on-orbit satellite refueling and services (as outlined in my March 15th, 2011 post "MacDonald Dettwiler gets "Anchor Customer" for Brampton Robotics Plant"). It's starting to look more and more like Canada's space future will be decided and defined by private industry and not by government long term space planning.
The article seems to have encouraged others to come forward with competing designs. Here's a sample of some of the ideas being discussed, in this case from the Russian Republic.