Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Satellite Collisions, Astronauts Grounded, Astronomy Slashed & Canada "Lost in Space"

Here's a quick listing of stories being tracked over the holiday season for future posts in the Commercial Space blog:

Space Debris from Philipp Seiffert on Vimeo.
  • According to the January 2nd, 2012 Postmedia News article "Satellites on a course to collision" the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has needed to fire up the thrusters on Canada's $500-million Radarsat satellites five times over the last year in order to move them out of "harms way" and avoid the possibility of an orbital collision.The article quotes CSA Director General of Space Science and Technology David Kendall as stating "the numbers of near-misses are going up, rather alarmingly." According to the article, "collecting trash may not have the glory of walking on the moon, or rocketing off to the International Space Station, but it is a potential growth industry." The article mentions BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and Ontario based Com Dev International (ComDev) as being firms well positioned to take advantage of this new market who have recently received CSA funding. However, as outlined in my November 2nd, 2011 post "Will US Allow Canada to Bid On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Contracts?" MDA has suspended its related on-orbit satellite servicing program until the company knows whether it will be allowed to bid on upcoming US government contracts, which suggests concerns over  the long-term viability of any Canadian program in this area. For a description of the CSA contracts referenced in the article, it's worth checking out my October 30th, 2011 post "Weather Sats, CSA Contracts, Isle of Mann, New Magellan Facility & John MacDonald."
Canada's "last" astronaut?
  • The December 26th, 2011 Canadian Press article “Canadian Astronauts could be grounded for years after next mission” reports that “Canadian astronauts could be stuck on the ground for years following Chris Hadfield’s space mission scheduled for 2012.” The article quotes CSA Director General of Space Exploration Gilles Leclerc as stating that "according to our agreement on the International Space Station we don't have a flight -- beyond Chris Hadfield -- before the end of the decade." According to the article, "because it helped build the space station using the giant robotic Canadarms, Canada gets "credits" for trips to the space station" but unfortunately, "Canada has no credits left after Hadfield's flight." According to Leclerc, "we're trying to negotiate a flight before 2019, obviously."

    Canadians, eh?
    Taken together, these articles paint a picture of a Canadian space program in crisis. It's certainly reasonable to expect new updates and information to come to light on these topics over the next little while, so stay tuned.

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