While the mass media wraps itself around the latest Chris Hadfield exploit in preparation for what looks to be the last Canadian astronaut trip until at least 2014 (when Winnipeg natives Rob Bendall and Vince Jandrisch are scheduled to begin ferrying tourists to the edge of space in their new capacity as Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilots), its easy to forget some of the smaller Canadian companies contributing to space activities.
Here are five of them, listed below in alphabetical order:
- Cimetrix Solutions - It's hard to believe that a company focused almost entirely on reselling rapid prototyping solutions developed by others could contribute in a substantive way to Canadian space exploration. But rumour has it that the company contributed several thousand dollars and a custom built 3D manufactured nose cone to the Waterloo Rocketry Team for its entry into the 2012 Intercollegiate Rocketry Engineering Competition, held last weekend in Green River, Utah. In essence, companies like Cimetrix provide the practical tools needed for the rapid prototyping methodologies required by newspace firms as described in my February 7th, 2012 post "Our Next Industrial Revolution Could be Off-World."
- exactEarth Ltd. - This data services company, jointly owned by COM DEV International and Madrid based HISDESAT Servicios Estratégicos S.A. is focused on using advanced microsatellite technology to monitor international ship traffic (under the exactAIS banner). The company is growing, consistently profitable and the only Canadian concern able to launch anything into orbit in 2011 (as outlined in my August 23rd, 2011 post "Political Passing, Antarctic Mapping, Grounded Russians, JWST Increases and exactEarth Launches"). As outlined in my June 5th, 2012 post "State Politics Delays exactEarth Baikonur Launch" the company currently has two more micro-satellites awaiting launch.
- MapleSoft, a Cybernet Group Company -This is a Canadian subsidiary of a larger international company (the Japanese based Cybernet Systems, which acquired Maplesoft in 2009) which has had great success selling high-performance software tools for engineering, science and mathematics to organizations like the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and others. As is the case with most Canadian high technology companies, Maplesoft maintains close working relationships with a specific university faculty, which in this case is the University of Waterloo (U of W) Symbolic Computation Group.
- UrtheCast - As per the company website, this firm is "launching the world's first ever high definition, streaming video platform of planet Earth." Using partnerships with Russian aerospace giant RSC Energia, Canadian space icon Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) and quite a number of other firms, the company has built two HD cameras for the Russian module of the International Space Station (ISS) which are expected to be installed on the ISS next year. The company advocates an open source model of the development of applications for the geographic or spatially referenced information which the cameras will collect.
- Xiphos Technologies - The company builds low cost flight processors for on-board spacecraft, aircraft and other platforms requiring protection from harsh environments and high radiation. In many ways the most successful in terms of employees and revenue, this company is also one of the most low profile. Xiphos has been serving space and UAV markets for 15 years and has a flight heritage on a dozen different satellite missions.