Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Space Summits, Communication Networks and the CanadArms Final Resting Place

Here's a short list of items currently being tracked for the Commercial Space blog:
The Canadian Space Summit.
  • The Canadian Space Society expects over 200 space industry professionals and enthusiasts to converge in Calgary, AB from November 23rd - 25th for the 2011 Canadian Space Summit. The theme is "Big Data from Space and Earth: Challenges and Opportunities" which is a reference to how the data collected through GPS, GIS and remote sensing creates data sets so large that they become awkward to work with using traditional database management tools. The whole question of the use of "big data" is also complicated by the many new data sources which include high resolution remotely sensed imagery, synthetic aperture radar, LiDAR, GPS and others. The conference will include technical sessions on various topics including space commercialization, exploration, life science, education, Earth orbit, astronomy and law and policy.

Defence Minister MacKay.
  • As discussed in my January 3rd, 2011 post "Advocating DND & CSA Rockets" there has been recent and strong advocacy from both the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Department of National Defence (DND) to fund a Canadian micro-satellite rocket launcher in support of DND communications and space situational awareness requirements. But now, it looks like at least some of the money needed to fund this sort of program will be going south to contribute to a very similar US program. Even worse, according to the November 21st, 2011 Postmedia News article "Military satellite project sparks secrecy concerns," the possible Canadian participation in the US lead Wideband Global SATCOM system has opposition politicians questioning what the program is intended to accomplish, the secrecy surrounding it and who will ultimately control the communications capabilities and/or "cyber-crime" fighting components derived from the program. The Canadian component, valued initially at $477 million CDN and operating under the title "Global Mercury" was announced by Defence Minister Peter MacKay earlier this month, according to the November 14th, 2011 Postmedia News article "Canada puts up $477 million to foil cyber attacks" which included government statements that the program would focus on countering attempts by foreign governments to penetrate military and other government computer systems. However, the US Air Force Space Command Factsheet on Wideband Global SATCOM defines the program as intending to provide "flexible, high-capacity communications for the Nation's warfighters" and mentions no cyber-crime fighting capabilities. According to Postmedia News "Defence sources say the U.S. will control the satellites but allow Canada to transmit information over the system. The rush to sign on to the satellite program was sparked by an ultimatum given to Canada that if it wanted to be involved, it was required to sign a funding agreement by the end of this year."

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