Monday, July 02, 2012

Three Short Stories from our Canadian Space Sector

The June 26th, 2012 announcement by BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) of the intent to acquire 100% of US based Space Systems/Loral (SSL) for US$875 million in order to open up the US commercial market and provide new markets for its Canadarm and DEXTRE derived on-orbit satellite servicing technology, essentially ends the firms current reliance on government contracts.

From now on, MDA will focus more on the international business environment and less on trying to get the attention of the Canadian government through a variety of private and public activities as outlined most recently in my May 27th, 2012 post "Federal Government says "Yippee Ki Yay" to MDA."

Here are three other short, anecdotal stories from those with Canadian connections who have decided not to bet their futures on the current Canadian business environment for space focused companies:
    James Cameron.
  • The April 24th, 2012 announcement by Planetary Resources Incorporated, a US based mining company backed by major financiers such as Canadian film director James Cameron, of a multi-year plan to inventory and eventually mine asteroid resources suggests strongly that others already recognize the natural synergy and business cycle similarities between the space and mining industries. Investors in the company also include Google co-founder Larry Paige, executive chairman Eric Schmidt and investor and board member Kavitark Ram Shriram, internet entrepreneur/ astronaut Charles Simonyi and Henry Ross Perot, Jr., the chairman of the board of Perot Systems. Of course, individual Canadian investors like Cameron and his international colleagues who understand the concepts behind these new types of businesses are currently investing where the business environment supports their business activities.
Elon Musk.
  • Given the recent successes of US based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) with the independent private development of a whole series of orbital launch vehicles (as described in the Falcon rocket family Wikipedia entry) for far less cost than typical for wholly government funded projects, it’s important to note that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is South African born; his mother is Canadian and he is a naturalized US citizen who could certainly have located his businesses in Canada (or anywhere else in the world), given the appropriate local support and business environment. 

Hopefully, the Aerospace Review (which just finished up its call for public submissions on June 30th) will have a few suggestions for  addressing some of the concerns surrounding the organizations and people discussed above who have opted into going somewhere else in order to build their space company.

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