Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two Years and More of Ongoing Policy Reviews

As originally discussed in my June 29th, 2009 post "UK joins Canada and the US in "Not Knowing Quite What To Do" with their Space Program," it wasn't so long ago that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and even the United Kingdom based British National Space Centre (BNSC) had each embarked on substantive policy reviews of space focused infrastructure.
British astronaut Timothy Peake.
Of the three, only the UK review (which led directly to the formation of the UK Space Agency, which superseded the BNSC on April 1st, 2010) seems to have been successful.

Although some (such as Marc Boucher at Spaceref.ca in his June 10th, 2011 article "Canadian Space Agency Moves Forward with Executing Next Space Plan") would argue that the recent infrastructure and title changes for senior management at the CSA (which are outlined in the annual CSA Reports on Plans and Priorities) are effectively beginning "the execution of the agency's next Long Term Space Plan" an updated long term space plan has simply not been publicly addressed, released or commented on since current CSA president Steve MacLean was appointed in 2008.

The announced Federal government policy (which should supersede any departmental initiative) is to roll issues potentially raised by a revised Canadian long term space plan into several upcoming aerospace and commercialization reviews expected to be undertaken over the next eighteen months as outlined in my May 30th, 2011 post titled "Political Reviews Moving to the Forefront."

Norm Augustine.
As for the US policy review, the Augustine Committee final report (known formally as the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee) was released on October 22nd, 2009 and generated quite a bit of controversy, which has still not subsided. The conclusion that the US space program was on an "unsustainable trajectory" although widely accepted, does not seem to have led to any substantive changes at NASA and simply highlights the current agency political focus on safety and maintaining existing, but mostly obsolete infrastructure, contractor relationships and jobs.

But the British, lacking an existing government infrastructure were left to focus on the private sector with policies designed to encourage economic growth, according to the UK Space Agency website.

They came up with some good stuff, which is even available for review and comment here and includes a draft strategy focused on:
  1. Growth through new opportunities;
  2. Growth from export;
  3. Innovation supporting growth;
  4. Science to enable growth;
  5. Education for growth;
  6. Growth through smarter government.
The UK Space agency is inviting public comments on this draft strategy before the consultation closes on 8 July 2011, when a final report will be issued.

Even subject as it is to last minute revisions, this focus has allowed the UK Space Agency to cultivate a unique series of "breakthrough" space technologies including the Skylon unmanned space plane, on-orbit manufacturing programs, micro-satellite design and manufacturing (through UK based companies ClydeSpace and  Surrey Satellite Technology, which bills itself as an independent British company within EADS Astrium NV) plus a series of international trade missions to promote UK space activities.

The success of the British approach is best typified by the May 25th, 2011 post on the UK Rocketeers blog under the title "Wow, What a Day" which comments on the seeming inability of NASA to cancel what was once known as the Constellation program.

According to the article, "we (the UK) should express our deepest sympathies, and hope and trust that sense comes to prevail in the US space establishment. It would be rude and inconsiderate to our American cousins, not to mention thoroughly unBritish, simply to point and laugh."

Let's hope that no one ends up pointing and laughing at the Canadian space establishment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page