Monday, October 31, 2011

Threatened Museum Receives Smithsonian Support

"Jack" Dailey.
The Canadian Air & Space Museum (CASM), threatened with permanent closure by federal crown corporation and landlord Parc Downsview Park (PDP), which hopes to build a four rink ice complex on the site, has received a letter of support from the director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC.

The October 31st, 2011 Canadian Press article "Threatened Toronto museum gets vote of support from director of Smithsonian" quotes an October 25th, 2011 letter from NASM director John R. "Jack" Dailey to CASM chairman Ian McDougall stating that he was very aware of the lasting contribution of the Toronto museum and the historic value of the building.

The museum is housed in what was once the original factory for de Havilland Aircraft of Canada and the original home of  Spar Aerospace (which started out as the special products applied research division of De Havilland and built the Allouette 1 satellite). The hangar is the oldest surviving aircraft factory building in Canada.

While Dailey did not explicitly call for the Canadian federal government (which directly controls all federal crown corporations) to cancel its plans, he did call for decision-makers to consider the building's historical value.

Unfortunately, in Canada at least, the heritage status of the building is currently in dispute. According to the October 29th, 2011 Toronto Star article "Air and Space Museum heads for demolition amid heritage status confusion" the proof of the building’s heritage status seems to have vanished. According to the article:
Until Oct. 26, the building was listed as “a recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations and its architectural and environmental value” on the Canada Historic Places website.

This has been called an error by Parks Canada, the federal agency that oversees heritage sites. The entry in the official register of the agency’s Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office is gone.

David Soknacki, the chair of Parc Downsview Park, the Crown corporation in charge of the redevelopment, has said the building is not currently a heritage building.
However, the City of Toronto still lists the building on its inventory of heritage properties.

There is also the question of where the exhibits currently housed in the museum will be relocated should the building close. Displays include dozens of reproductions, full sized models and working aircraft from the last hundred years. The estimated cost of moving these items approaches one half million CDN dollars according to CASM estimates.

PDP has offered storage space at 40 Carl Hall Road, just down the street from the present museum but access to the offered storage is through a loading dock with doors which are too small to fit many of the displays and working aircraft.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weather Sats, CSA Contracts, Isle of Mann, New Magellan Facility & John MacDonald

Here's a short list of five items currently being tracked in the Commercial Space blog.
The NPOESS NPP satellite.

  • Speaking of contracts, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has just awarded six small contracts to four organizations for concept studies in areas "related to future space exploration ventures" according to the October 27th, 2011 CSA press release "Canadian Space Agency Invests in Exploration Ideas." The $250,000 CDN contracts were snagged by Macdonald Dettwiler (one, called the "Clear Sky Project," focused on orbital debris clearance and a second for on-orbit automated servicing to demonstrate "critical technologies and techniques required to capture a satellite"), Com Dev International (one contract to demonstrate the techniques for orbital debris elimination and a second for a Canadian-led space telescope smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope, but with wider panoramic views and comparable sharpness), ABB Canada (for a compact fourier transform spectrometer, which seems to be an ABB area of expertise) and the University of Alberta (for a radiation detection system pitched as suitable for use aboard the International Space Station and future Moon and Mars missions). There is very little new here (for example, the MDA contracts seem direct progressions of skill-sets developed using the CanadArm II to dock unmanned modules aboard the ISS, which are in practical use now and certainly developed far beyond the need for a "concept study") but it's nice to see that the CSA doesn't want to be completely left behind as Canadian space system companies begin to roll-out new projects.

Dr. John MacDonald.
  • John MacDonald might currently be the chairman and CEO of Day 4 Energy, a global provider of solar photovoltaic products and might also have just been awarded the Leadership Award in recognition of the contributions he has made to B.C. exports throughout his career as reported in the October 28th, 2011 Vancouver Sun article "BC Export Award winners announced." But a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, MacDonald also co-founded MDA, Canada’s second largest space technology company after Telsat, so it's nice to see that he's still going strong.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Responding to the Jenkins Panel on R&D

    It's been just over a week since the October 17th, 2011 press release on the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development website announced the completion of the Jenkins' panel comprehensive review of federal R&D programs.

    Here's a quick sampling of some of the comments the panel report has so far provoked:
    • The mass media also seems to have strong opinions about what the Jenkins panel review means. According to the October 17th, 2011 Financial Post (FP) article "Canada’s R&D funding system ‘unnecessarily complicated,’ panel finds" the real conclusion is that "Canadian entrepreneurs looking to get federal R&D support had better be comfortable pushing through piles of paperwork." A day later, in the October 18th, 2011 PT editorial comment "Dim-bulb R&D policy" the paper laments that "Jenkins’ mandate never included ­scrapping the whole bad idea" of SH&RD tax credits.

    • According to the October 17th, 2011 post on the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce website under the title “Shaping the Future of Canadian Innovation: The Jenkins Panel Report Deloitte" the accounting firm Deloitte Canada comments the panel "on its consultative approach in developing its recommendations" and applauds "the suggestions to increase the availability of funds to start-up and later stage companies, and increase the government’s procurement." However, the company also found that while "simplifying the SR&ED program is a great objective" it may "create a bias in the program towards labour-intensive sectors at the expense of non-labour intensive industries" and did not "explicitly deal with approaches to making Canada more attractive to foreign investment."
    So far the public statements have been pretty tame. Expect the next round of public statements to be less so.

    This next round will begin in early November, just in time for the 1st Canadian Aerospace Summit (organized by the AIAC), the 2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), the INNOVATION 2011 conference (organized by the Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies) and the 2011 Canadian Space Summit. Each will each bring together enough interested people to revisit R&D innovation issues.

    Then the real sparks will begin to fly.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Abu Dhabi Bullish on Virgin Galactic

    Abu Dhabi based investment company Aabar Investments has boosted its stake in space tourism company Virgin Galactic by an additional $110 million USD to bring it's total equity in the company to 37.8% from 31.8%.

    According to the October 19th, 2011 Wall Street Journal MarketWatch article "Abu Dhabi's Aabar boosts Virgin Galactic stake," Aabar made the additional $110 million investment in Virgin Galactic in July, 2011.

    The original July 2009 investment  included an Aabar commitment of $100 million USD to fund a "small satellite launch capability" plus money for construction of a spaceport in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Other publicly announced Virgin Galactic launch sites include:
    According to the October 20th, 2011 post in the Space Business Blog titled "Investing in Virgin Galactic" there are three possible reasons for this additional investment:
    1. Preparations for new growth ( such as nanosat launch vehicles or other new products).
    2. Paying for the delays in reaching commercial operations for its suborbital product.
    3. Building up a war chest for a rainy day (when money is available sometimes you just take it).
    Cost overruns and schedule delays seem to be a permanent fixture of space programs (check out the May 4th, 2011 post on the Parabolic Arc website titled "A Look at Cost Overuns and Schedule Delays in Major Space Programs" and the follow up October 21st, 2011 article "Is Richard Branson Hearing Footsteps?" if you believe otherwise). It's therefore likely that this additional cash infusion is simply paying for the earlier delays.

    The new  investment information was released as part of a prospectus for a planned bond sale by Aabar's parent, the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Federal R&D Recommendations Submitted

    As outlined in this blog many times (but stated most succinctly in my February 27th 2011 blog post "Two Billion Dollars for the Canadian Space Agency Part 2: What Our Federal Government Thinks!"), the Canadian government considers the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to be a small part of the larger subset of research and development agencies to which it already allocates several billion dollars each year.

    Minister of State for S&T Gary Goodyear.
    These agencies are each governed by the current Industry Canada science & technology strategy as outlined in documents like the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage (May 2007) and the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage Progress Report (June 2009) which focus primarily on supporting business innovation.

    This current system isn't well respected by Canadian space systems companies as outlined in my March 2nd, 2011 article "Top Space Focused Companies Critical of Federal Research and Development Funding."

    But now, according to the October 17th, 2011 press release on the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development website, a comprehensive review of federal programs that support business innovation has called for "a simplified and more focused approach to the $5 billion worth of R&D funding provided by the federal government every year" and formally presented this report to the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear.

    P. Thomas Jenkins.
    The report, chaired by P. Thomas Jenkins, the executive chairman and chief strategy officer of Waterloo based Open Text Corporation (and supported by submissions from 228 organizations including multiple space systems companies), makes six major recommendations as follows:
    • The creation of an Industrial Research and Innovation Council (IRIC) to deliver the federal government's business innovation programs. According to the report, "there are currently more than 60 programs across 17 different government departments. The creation of an arm's-length funding and delivery agency – the Industrial Research and Innovation Council – would begin to streamline the process as the development of a common application portal and service to help businesses find the right programs for their needs."
    • Make "business innovation" one of the core objectives of this new organization.
    • Transform the National Research Council (NRC) into a series of large-scale, collaborative centres involving business, universities and the provinces. According to the report "the NRC can play a unique role, linking its large-scale, long-term research activity with the academic and business communities. The panel recommends evolving NRC institutes, consistent with the current strategic direction, into not-for-profit centres run with stakeholders, and incorporating its public policy research into other departments."
    • Assist high-growth innovative firms to access the risk capital they need through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). According to the report "innovative Canadian companies face real challenges in getting start-up funding and late stage risk capital financing. In many cases, the gap is filled by foreign investors, which means that too many commercial benefits and intellectual property end up leaving the country. Directing the BDC to work with angel investor groups and develop late-stage risk capital/growth equity funds will pay dividends."
    • Establish a clear federal voice for innovation and work with the provinces to improve coordination. According to the report "The Prime Minister should assign responsibility for innovation to a single minister, supported by a whole-of-government Innovation Advisory Committee, evolved from the current Science Technology and Innovation Council (STIC), composed of external stakeholders, who would then work with the provincial and territorial governments to initiate a collaborative dialogue to improve coordination and impact."
    The full report, titled "Innovation Canada: A Call to Action – Expert Panel Report" is available on the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development website.

    Assuming that the Federal government response to this report is positive, it looks like the Canadian space systems industry is finally going to end up having research and development concerns addressed.

    Stay tuned.
    The Confusing Geopolitics of Canadian Space

    Two breaking stories are only the most recent reminders of the internationally confusing geopolitical nature of current Canadian space activities. This situation complicates Canadian space policy and drives up procurement costs for Canadian satellites.

    James Fergusson.
    For example, the October 16th 2011 Canadian Press story "Did Canada punish Russia for 2008 Georgia invasion by moving satellite" quotes Dr. James Fergusson, the Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba on his assessment of a recently leaked US diplomatic cable from Ottawa.

    According  to Fergusson, the Oct. 6th, 2008 cable (classified as secret, but released publicly by the Wikileaks website on August 11th 2011 under the headline: "Canada considering space launch alternatives due to Russia's invasion of Georgia") indicates that "Canada attempted to sanction Russia for its 2008 invasion of Georgia by switching to India for the launch of SAPPHIRE, this country's first military satellite."

    The Surveillance of Space (SAPPHIRE) satellite project, the Canadian contribution to the United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN), was originally expected to be placed into orbit using a Russian spacecraft "in late 2009 or early 2010" but the cable indicated that this would not occur "due to the Russian invasion of Georgia."

    The Indian Polar Satellite Lunch Vehicle (PSLV).
    The cable also asked if the US, "intends to broaden its bilateral safeguards to permit satellite launches from India."

    The Americans must have been OK with that since, according to the March 29th, 2011 article "MDA to Provide Operations and Maintenance Support for DND Sapphire Satellite System," the SAPPHIRE satellite is now scheduled for launch sometime after the second quarter of 2012 aboard the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

    While the stretching out of the launch schedule is certainly going to increase overall project costs, the most interesting part of this story is that the "bilateral safeguards" instituted by the US allowed for the launch of Canadian military satellites in Russia but not India in 2008.

    So Canada needed to ask for permission.

    Of course, this isn't the first time that Wikileaks cables have mentioned the Canadian government and it's confusing international connections. My May 16th, 2011 post "Wikileaks, Defense, Awards, Astronauts, Announcements, Museums and Politics" discussed secret US embassy cables released by Wikileaks which "show nations are racing to "carve up" Arctic resources, oil, gas and even rubies, as the ice retreats" but also indicated that the US government doesn't take Arctic sovereignty pronouncements by the Canadian Federal government seriously.

    This begins to make more sense when you consider that Canada seems to essentially require US permission to launch military satellites. It's quite likely that bilateral agreements are also in place to limit and restrict Canadian sovereignty activities in other areas.

    Which brings us to our second, breaking story.

    According to the October 14th, 2011 Ottawa Citizen post "Thales Wins RADARSAT Contract" the European based Thales Alenia Space Group (Thales) has just won a series of "major contracts worth more than 7 million Euros" to supply S-Band data communications systems for at least two future optical reconnaissance (CSO) satellites for the French Armed Forces and their European partners (as part of the French contribution to the Multinational Space-based Imaging System constellation) and for the three RADARSAT Earth observation satellites scheduled to be constructed as part of the RADARSAT Constellation program by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)."

    S-Band data communications systems were originally developed for the Apollo program by NASA  and operate in the S band portion of the microwave spectrum. According to Wikipedia, the S band "is used by weather radar, surface ship radar, and some communications satellites, especially those used by NASA to communicate with the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station."

    According to the Ottawa Citizen article (which refers to this October 10th, 2011 press release on the Thales website), Thales has:
    ... signed agreements with the companies Astrium SAS (a subsidiary of the European based Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. or EADS) and Bristol Aerospace (the Winnipeg based subsidiary of  Magellan Aerospace) to start the development, manufacture and supply of a total of 10 equipments, (four for the two CSO satellites and six for the three RADARSAT satellites), plus 2 optional equipment for the third possible CSO satellite.

    The Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TTC) data communications equipment to be supplied are the latest generation technology developed by the Spanish company (the Espana division of Thales), with application in Earth observation and science missions, telecommunications and space vehicles; they are currently in operation on board the CryoSat satellite for European Space Agency (ESA) and Aquarius SAC / D satellite for the Argentina Space Agency (CONAE) and NASA.
    Oddly enough, as outlined in my October 10th, 2011 post "SAR Satellite Designers Living in Interesting Times" a different EADS division (the UK based Surrey Satellite Technology or SSTL) has just announced it's intent to "build, insure and launch" the next generation of SAR satellites (of which RADARSAT is an example) for less than 50M euros each, which is less than half the cost overall for most existing SAR satellites.

    The SSTL proposal is 1/3 of the present estimated cost of the Canadian designed and build RADARSAT's so it will be interesting to see if RADARSAT prime contractor MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) is able to shop around for the best price on other components through alternative suppliers like SSTL or if the just announced Thales contract includes a clause that restricts this.

    How's that for confusing and complicated?

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    SAR Satellite Designers Living in Interesting Times

    Representatives at BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), presently under contract with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to construct the next generation RADARSAT Constellation series of three synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites (with an estimated total cost of $600M CDN), have so far turned down a request to comment on the October 3rd, 2011 BBC News article "Surrey to start making radar satellites."

    The article focuses on UK based Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) and it's intent to "build, insure and launch" the next generation of SAR satellites for less than 50M euros each.

    C-Band RADARSAT 2 image.
    The SSTL proposal is 1/3 of the estimated cost of the Canadian designed and build RADARSAT's.

    However, the article provided few details of the new SSTL design or capabilities and included no listing of potential clients or information on how the project would be funded.

    The announcement was made by Luis Gomes, the head of Earth observation at SSTL, during an SSTL presentation at the recently concluded 62nd International Astronautical Congress. According to the BBC article:
    SSTL's decision is fascinating because radar satellites have traditionally been big, power-hungry beasts. It takes a lot of energy to generate the pulses and then to process the echo returns. The problem for SSTL has been in devising a package that is relatively small and inexpensive - the company's trademarks.
    According to Gnomes, "we've addressed this by using new technology - new types of amplifier from commercial terrestrial applications in telecommunications."

    SSTL , a spin-off company of the University of Surrey, rose to prominence by building and operating small, inexpensive micro-satellites utilizing  low cost manufacturing methodologies. These methodologies are today the basis for ongoing satellite design and development activities at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) and other organizations around the world. SSTL is presently a subsidiary of the global pan-European aerospace and defense corporation European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).

    It will be interesting to see if this is simply another power-point pitch by a company interested in outside funding or if maybe, just maybe, SSTL is using the lessons learned from two decades of low cost microsat manufacturing to begin lowering the cost of building useful, commercial satellites.

    Stay tuned.
    Important Space Focused Events this November

    Almost 40 events are being tracked for our October 7th, 2011 Space Conference News listing of "Upcoming Events for the Month of November 2011" and quite a few of these are focused specifically on targeted areas of the Canadian space systems industry. For example:

    • The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will be holding a Canadian Workshop on Composite Structures and Materials for Space Applications in St-Hubert, PQ, from November 14th - 15th. The forum will include presentations on state-of-the-art composite structure technology from Canadian companies, the potential applications in aeronautics and astronautics plus possible uses for the technology in upcoming Canadian space missions. It's one of a series of events the CSA organizes throughout the year and a good introduction to what our space agency does and how private firms and researchers can contribute to space exploration.

      • The 2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) will be held in Ottawa, ON from November 16th - 18th. It bills itself a "multidisciplinary, multi-sector national forum on science, technology and innovation policy in Canada," and has achieved international recognition in only three short years of existence. The focus is on science, politics and culture, enabling private sector innovation and the major issues confronting current Canadian science policy with speakers including Federal Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear plus over 70 other experts on public, academic and private sector issues surrounding science and technology development in Canada.

        • INNOVATION 2011, organized by the Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies (ACCT), an advocacy group focused on "the interface of academic research-industry engagement and research discovery mobilization" will be held in Montreal, PQ from November 20th - 22nd. This is a networking and professional development conference that "draws from the global community of technology transfer and industry engagement practitioners from academia, industry and government as well as venture investors and other managers of Canada’s intellectual assets." This might sound kind of dry, but the documents and presentations from the INNOVATION 2010 conference, are a useful compilation of best practices related to innovation projects, collaboration initiatives and the Canadian Innovation Collaboration Program which makes this years program worth attending. The higher proportion of venture capitalists at this conference are also useful for start-ups looking for funding.
          • The 2011 Canadian Space Summit, focused on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the collection of "Big Data from Space and Earth" will be held in Calgary, Alberta from November 23rd – 25th. I'll be devoting a future post to this event so stay tuned.
          If your event is not on this list and you'd like it to be, please send an e-mail to describing the event and I'll include it in an upcoming blog post.

          The next listing of conferences, covering the December 2011 period, should be ready for publication in Space Conference News around the middle of November.
          Canadians and Norwegians Building Rockets

          As the Canadian student participants of the fourth session of the Canada-Norway Student Rocket Programme (CaNoRock) slowly trickle back into Canada from their October 2nd - 7th field trip to the Andoya Rocket Range (Andoya) in Norway, CaNoRock organizers have issued a call for participation in the fifth session, scheduled for January 16th - 20th, 2012.

          The exchange program is a partnership between the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Oslo and Andoya which provides undergraduate university students a week at Andoya gaining hands-on experience in sounding rocket and payload instrument design. Participants earn course credit for completing the program, which is funded through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the University of Alberta Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund.

          According to the October 7th, 2011 post on the Institute of Space Science, Exploration and Technology (ISSET) at the University of Alberta website titled "CaNoRock 5," the closing date for applications for the upcoming session is October 26th.

          The intent of the program, according to the "Introduction to the CaNaRock Program" course outline, is to motivate undergraduate students to specialize in space focused technologies:
          Most countries in the western world strive to motivate young people to choose natural science and technical studies. A lack of highly educated employers can become a problem if the western countries intend to maintain a leading role in the technical development. The field of space research and space utilization is not an exception.

          Norway and Canada intend to be in the forefront, thus they have invested resources in a program to motivate young students to seek a career within the space research field – the CaNoRock program.
          The program also also includes background information and practical experience with other platforms such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Long Duration Balloons.

          Potential applicants are encouraged to check out the  ISSET website for more information.

          Tuesday, October 04, 2011

          Reality and the 100 Year Starship Symposium

          Campaigning liberal leader Dalton McGuinty.
          It's fascinating to compare the reality of the Canadian space systems industry with the Star Trek "fantasy" driving most space focused media coverage.

          The reality is best typified by the September 29th, 2011 Brampton Guardian article "Tax credit linked to jobs" and the follow-on article "Leaders hit Brampton, Again. Both articles focus on the upcoming Ontario provincial election (scheduled for October 6th) and several recent election stops made by incumbent Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to the MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) Brampton facility.

          Neither article acknowledged the important role MDA plays within the Canadian space systems industry. Nor was there any mention of some of the contracts that MDA has undertaken for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), its ambitious plans for a private on-orbit satellite servicing program in partnership with satellite services provider Intelsat (as outlined in my April 3rd, 2011 post "A Backgrounder for On-Orbit Satellite Servicing") or even of the jobs that these contracts create.

          Instead, the focus of both articles was on provincial liberal party proposals related to generic undefined jobs, generic job creation and the appropriate tax credits needed to ensure that more and more undefined and generic jobs continue to be created.

          This is the reality of the Canadian space systems industry. It's job creation (sometimes assisted by public money) just so long as no one mentions the specific type of job being created.

          Of course, the fantasy of our space future is always far more fun to contemplate and certainly the best example of that has been the recently concluded "100 Year Starship Study Public Symposium," which just finished up two days of public presentations at the Hilton Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

          According to science fiction author David Brin, the focus of the symposium is to identify bottlenecks in future technologies which need to be addressed before interstellar travel can be seriously contemplated.

          Brin also suggests that private funding, supplied by a "new aristocracy" of billionaires such as Elon Musk (who is currently CEO/ CTO of Space Exploration Technologies), Jeff Bezos (who founded the human spaceflight startup company Blue Origin) and others will facilitate the vision outlined by the symposium.

          Which seems fair enough. Government money is drying up and some of "new aristocracy" are funding game changing new space activities now.

          But the media sees things differently. According to the website article "100 Year Starship Symposium Considers Mankind's Next Step" it's simply a question of "whether humans will be traveling to the stars or even living on them in 100 years" which, of course, sounds far more fanciful.

          Living on the stars? That's even better than dancing with them!

          The article, in typical mass media fashion, then goes on to state that "Some may question why it’s worth spending money exploring space at a time when so many are out of work..."

          The answer to that question is obvious.

          As described in my July 25th, 2011 post " Metrics on The Canadian Commercial Space Sector Part 2: The "Three Kings" of Canadian Space Activities," the 140 companies and organizations listed in the Canadian Space Directory as being part of the Canadian commercial space sector are consistently growing faster than the economy as a whole and this growth is also reflected in the higher than average growth of the international space sector.

          Space activities create jobs and someone should mention this over and over again to our mass media representatives and our elected politicians until they get the point or are replaced by those who do.

          Then and only then, will we be in a position to really grow our Canadian space systems industry and it's international equivalents.

          Monday, October 03, 2011

          A Short Canadian Space History Lesson

          It goes without question that the current status of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) leaves much to be desired. Budget cuts are expected in the near future (just as soon as the 2009 stimulus funding winds down), no further CSA astronaut trips have yet been announced to follow-up on Chris Hadfields upcoming stint in 2013 to command the International Space Station (ISS) and more and more CSA project managers seem needed at CSA headquarters in order to supervise fewer and fewer funded space projects.

          Page 8 of the Thursday, August 31st, 1967 issue of the Vancouver Sun.

          It's hard to believe that, within the memory of many alive today, the CSA was thought to be the answer to the continuing advancement of Canadian space science, the key to the further development of the Canadian space industry and the core of the Canadian space strategy planning process.

          Unfortunately, that was then and this is now. 

          These days, the focus of Canadian space activities seems to be on school trips (for example, the September 27th, 2011 CSA media advisory trumpeted Hadfields September 28th morning visit to JL Ilsley High School where he spoke with high school students along with his visit to the Halifax Discovery Centre where he spoke later in the day with grade 5-6 students) and entertainment events such as the 14th annual induction ceremony for Canada’s Walk of Fame (where Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar was inducted, along with actress Sandra Oh, stand-up comedian Russell Peters, rock legend Burton Cummings, tennis star Daniel Nestor and author Mordecai Richler according to the October 2nd, 2011 Postmedia News article "Roberta Bondar Sandra Oh inducted into Walk of Fame").

          Canadian actress Sandra Oh shares top billing with astronaut Roberta Bondar at the 14th annual induction ceremony for Canada’s Walk of Fame. Bondar wore pants.

          At least CSA president Steve MacLean was in Deippe, New Brunswick last week providing details of what he foresees as being Canada's space future, according to the September 23rd, 2011 New Brunswick Business Journal article "Satellite technology holds big potential: Space agency head."

          Unfortunately, these sorts of initiatives seem few and far between when compared to the ongoing opportunities for promoting "entertainment" and encouraging "education."

          The more typical CSA reactions to their declining fortunes seems mostly to revolve around issuing many requests for proposals (RFP's). The most recent RFP is for further study of the Polar Communication and Weather (PCW) satellite project, an already well studied (but until now, mostly unfunded) constellation of two satellites officially and optimistically scheduled for launch in 2017, according to the October 1st, 2011 Montreal Gazette article "Space agency eyes launch of two Arctic satellites."

          Proposed PCW molniya orbit.
          It is expected that this new study will be added to previous studies on the topic (such as the Department of National Defence (DND) September 2008 "Phase 0" study which "proved" that PCW "could provide broadband continuous 24/7 communications services throughout all of the Arctic and improve climate change monitoring and weather forecasting" according to the CSA webpage outlining the PCW mission and the July 2009 CSA contract to the Canadian industrial consortium led by BC based Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) for a 12 month "Phase A Mission Analysis and Concept Definition study").

          Total cost of the PCW project (including the studies) is expected to be $600 million CDN should the project ever receive enough money for something to actually get built.

          Of course, once upon a time, things were different.

          According to the August 31st, 1967, Vancouver Sun article titled "Space Agency for Canada Urged by Science Council" the Science Council of Canada (a Canadian government advisory board which existed from 1966 to 1993 and functioned to bring issues related to science policy to the attention of the Federal government) the creation of a Canadian space agency was once considered necessary for the:
          • Advancement of Canadian capability in the science and technology of the upper atmosphere and space;
          • Furthering development of Canadian Space industry;
          • Planning and implementation of an over-all space program for Canada.
          Unfortunately for the Science Council, Canada had to wait another twenty years, but patient lobbying eventually paid off and in March 1989, the CSA was finally established by the Canadian Space Agency Act.

          And it's hard not to argue that Canadians have been well served by our space agency, at least up until recently.

          But it's also worth noting that the biggest recent Canadian successes in space (the Canadian astronaut corps, the Canadarm and the RADARSAT program) can each trace their gestation and early development back to the period long before the CSA's creation.

          Perhaps the current expertise of the CSA relates more to administration than it does to innovation which would be a shame since what Canada really needs right now is to know is where our future Canadarms, RADARSAT programs and astronaut explorations are going to come from.

          The CSA might need to spend some time thinking about this over the next little while, before the Ottawa budget cutting hatchet is released and the promise once imagined by the Science Council of Canada back in the 1960's is finally silenced.

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