Monday, October 29, 2012

The CSA offers up a Variation in Funding

The recent Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announcement of opportunity (AO), focused on "Industrial Capacity- Building Contributions in the Area of Spacecraft Platforms" is unusual is several respects:

  • As outlined in section 1, the intent of the program is to "support Industrial Capacity Building related to the development of industrial capabilities which could range from developing novel concepts and /or products/services to improving industrial processes related to spacecraft platforms." This seems to be almost an open ended request for ideas, which the CSA could use in a variety of upcoming activities rather than a more specific request for the rovers or the next generation Canadarms which are more typical of  recent CSA procurement initiatives. 
  • Even better, as outlined in section 4.1, the theme of the AO is "to support the strengthening of industrial capabilities relating to the development of spacecraft platforms." A variety of systems are listed as being eligible for funding under the program but the key to this section is its open ended nature. According to this section, "there are no restrictions with respect to the size of the platform for which the technologies and related processes are being supported under this AO."
  • But best of all, as outlined in section 5, eligible recipients of the program are limited to "for-profit organizations established and operating in Canada." Other CSA grant or contribution initiatives have typically targeted universities or other non-profit institutions.
The program is funded for $1 million CDN to be divided up into increments of up to $100,000 CDN per project and the applications deadline was noon on October 22, 2012.

It's too early to tell whether or not this new variation on a very old procurement process will become a trend but it will certainly be interesting to see which projects end up getting funded.

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy & Space Based Earth Imaging

The obvious best "human" view of Hurricane Sandy, the growing storm which has just caused the mayor of New York City to order mandatory evacuations (as outlined in the October 28th, 2012 CBC News article "Hurricane Sandy prompts mass evacuation in New York City") is aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

But the best collectors of useful data on storms like Sandy are a series of crucial, but aging and unmanned weather satellites due for replacement over the next few years.

However, at least according to the October 26th, 2012 New York Times article "U.S. Satellite Plans Falter, Imperiling Data on Storms," their replacements may not come soon enough to prevent a "looming gap" in coverage. As outlined in the article, this:
...looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts view as almost certain within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the East Coast early next week.
The article blames rising costs for replacement satellites and poor project management for delays which have pushed back scheduled launch dates for replacements to a point where gaps in coverage are likely to occur.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).

Just weeks ago, the September 28th, 2012 for New York article "Replacement Weather Satellite for GOES East" discussed the recent failure of the GOES-13 satellite, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its temporary replacement by the GOES-14 satellite, which occurred just in time to provide coverage of Hurricane Sandy.

While GOES-13 has since returned to service, its quite likely that more aging weather satellites will require replacement over the next few years.

Whether or not Hurricane Sandy ever turns into the "perfect storm" predicted by forecasters, lets hope the US gets it act together before any serious gaps in weather coverage occur.

Monday, October 22, 2012

CSA Grants Students Big Opportunities at IAC

     By Farnaz Ghadaki

Ever since 2004, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has been part of a program called the International Space Education Board (ISEB) through which it has been organizing a student program in collaboration with other space agencies as part of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). To date, CSA has subsidized a total of 209 Canadian students to attend and participate in IAC, an annual conference organized by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).

Students attending the Human Space Exploration panel session at the International Student Zone at the IAC2012 in Naples, Italy. Photo courtesy of CSA.

This year, the IAC2012 was held in Naples, Italy, from Oct 1st - 5th and attracted a record-breaking 4,000 attendees, about a third of which consisted of students and young professionals. The ISEB member agencies sponsored 80 undergraduate and graduate students to attend IAC2012, 19 of whom were given grants by the CSA. These 19 Canadian students were selected among 39 applicants, and represented about a dozen universities.

ISEB’s purpose, according to the IAF website, is “a twofold objective of (1) increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] literacy achievement in connection with space and, (2) supporting the future workforce needs of space programmes.”

ISEB, was founded in 2005 as a voluntary membership board by the CSA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA). Its membership was expanded to include the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) in 2006, Australia’s Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in 2009, plus the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in 2012.

Leadership of the ISEB is on an annual rotating basis to a new member, and this year Canada led the program with Marilyn Steinberg (CSA Academic Development) as Chair.

The 80 students funded by the International Space Education Board to attend the IAC benefit from the opportunity to present and defend their research on a global stage as well as learn from and develop collaborations with seasoned academic, industrial and government representatives as well as their peers”, commented Steinberg.

The benefits to students were well reflected in the rich, and, as Dr. Steve MacLean put it, “outstanding student development programme”, which included orientation activities, Heads of Agency Q & A, and several Panel Sessions on topics such as Human Exploration and Space Applications.

Four of the 25 students who were involved with the Outreach Presentation at IAC2012: Marianne Mader, Canada; Stephen Indyk, USA; Marc Costa Sitjà, Spain; Jack Yeh, Australia

Each of the 19 Canadian students presented a talk (or more in a few cases) at IAC, spanning 20 technical sessions and variety of topics including space life sciences, microgravity, space exploration, space debris, human space endeavours, space operations, astrodynamics, materials and structures, space systems, space education and outreach, and business innovation.

The students had a lot of interesting things to share including some of the latest research being done at Canadian universities.

Laura Drudi.
For example, Laura Drudi of McGill University researched women’s health issues in spaceflight and concluded that more understanding of sex-based differences is required, especially as commercial spaceflight opportunities become available.

Melissa Battler of the University of Western Ontario (UWO) presented analysis and lessons learned from analogue lunar missions led by UWO, in evaluating communication protocols between mission control and astronauts. She concluded that a new communication protocol seems to be most effective and efficient for scientific investigation, but needs further research.

Matthew Cross from Carleton University presented a novel approach to regolith parameter extraction, using the Canadian micro rover, Kapvic and an innovative artificial neural network approach which may have useful applications with the Opportunity rover and in unsupervised learning.

Another example of student talks involved the University of Alberta High-Altitude Balloon (UA-HAB) project, presented by Cory Hodgson. This project, which demonstrated a low-cost suborbital platform, involved students designing, manufacturing, testing and launching a payload on-board NASA’s High-Altitude Student Platform (HASP) which was launched in September 2011.

Aaron Persad.
CSA also organized a networking breakfast, which the students found extremely beneficial. “I think the most important student IAC event was the CSA breakfast”, commented Aaron Persad from the University of Toronto, who also added “I believe Marilyn Steinberg and her team did a great job this year of making sure students networked with space leaders.”

Another ISEB activity was having 25 of the ISEB-sponsored students present their perspectives on how to improve outreach activities with the Heads of Education during IAC2012. "The ISEB outreach presentation was a wonderful opportunity to gain an international perspective on space education and outreach,” stated Marianne Mader of the University of Western Ontario. “This experience was one of my major highlights of the IAC conference,” added Mader.

The CSA, and other members of the ISEB have been providing great opportunities for students over the past seven years, and hope to continue their support for many more students in the years to come, including in 2014 when the International Astronautical Congress will be held in Toronto, Canada.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MacDonald Dettwiler Key Supplier for DARPA Satellite Servicing Demonstration

It was easy to miss the October 18th, 2012 press release on the MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) website titled "MDA to be key supplier in satellite servicing demonstration for US Government" amid all the promotion by the Federal government this week for the expected December 12th launch of the Department of National Defence (DND) Surveillance of Space (Sapphire) satellite and the Friday display of various Canadian designed and funded Moon and Mars rovers from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

But the MDA announcement was by far the most important. As outlined in the press release:
Assuming the program proceeds as planned, the overall multi-year program represents a significant opportunity for MDA and a significant step forward for demonstrating certain aspects of on-orbit servicing.

A core element of the program is two primary robotic manipulator arms. MDA is working with the Naval Research Laboratory via DARPA (
the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ) to provide those arms. Assuming all phases of the program are funded, the total scope for that element of the program, which is sole-sourced from MDA, is expected to not exceed $27.2 million.
Most of these "certain aspects of on-orbit servicing" will utilize technology developed by MDA in its role as prime contractor for the Canadarm and Canadarm 2 programs. In essence, the real "next generation Canadarms" as outlined in the September 27th, 2012 article "Next Generation Canadarms Unveiled at MacDonald Dettwiler Facility in Brampton" are being developed by MDA for DARPA.

The Next-Gen Small Canadarm. Photo c/o CSA.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As outlined in the June 27th 2012 Commercial Space blog post "MacDonald Dettwiler buys Space Systems Loral for $875M" this series of DARPA contracts has been coveted publicly by MDA for some time. The final deal was only made possible through the recent acquisition of Space Systems Loral (SSL) which included a 1.3 million sq. ft state of the art satellite facility in Palo Alto, California. This US based facility is considered suitable (and necessary) for the final assembly of any DARPA contracted satellites or systems.

The ability to sell Canadian developed and Canadarm based technology on the international market is also a vindication of longstanding Federal government policies as outlined in the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage report (May 2007) and the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Progress Report (June 2009).

According to the MDA press release:
The goal of the DARPA Phoenix Program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively repurpose valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. The mission will use a robotic on-orbit servicer, and components launched alongside commercial satellites.

The program also hopes to transition its developing technologies into sustainable commercial applications, that in turn support U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) needs in the future, and MDA is under contract from DARPA to assist with defining this commercialization plan as well.
So this is a reasonable and sensible business direction for MDA. The company can now grow its business, develop new international markets for Canadian technology and even remain in compliance with both the specific letter and the overall intent of Canadian government science and technology regulations.

That's why this is the most important Canadian space focused announcement last week. It's odd that the Federal government, the CSA and  even the mass media have chosen to focus on different things.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lots and Lots of Rovers Looking for Missions

The October 20th, 2012 Canadian Press article "Canadian Space Agency's prototype space rovers unveiled" which covered the Canadian government  press conference promoting a fleet of about a half-dozen prototype space rovers described as "the forerunners of vehicles that may one day explore the moon or Mars," might be exaggerating the importance of both the press conference and the Canadian rovers.

After all, these rovers currently have no buyers and no mission. One or two may even have been unveiled before.

There are also a lot of rover prototypes being developed in a great many places around the world these days. Any major space agency with a real, funded mission needing to utilize rover technology has it's pick of these prototypes and many rover programs are even privately funded.

In essence, Canadians have a great deal of competition in the area.

Take, for example, this October 8th, 2012 WTAE Action News report on the Carnegie Mellon Robotocs Institute entrant in the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP).

According to the news report "this is a robot developed right here in Pittsburgh and the plan is to send it to the Moon" to compete against 24 other "privately funded" teams attempting to do the same.

The Polaris Lunar Rover, designed to prospect for  ice on the Moon.

According to the news report, the Carnegie Mellon entrant (competing under the Astrobotics banner and called the Polaris Lunar Rover) is about seven feet long and eight feet wide, which is about the size of the largest Canadian design. As outlined in the October 10th, 2012 Red Orbit article "Polaris Lunar Rover Sets Its Sights On Google X Prize" the expected launch date is October 2015, which is substantially sooner than any of the Canadian rovers.

And this is only one of two dozen possible competitors for the $30 million USD available from the GLXP prize.

Even better from a fiscal viewpoint is that the eventual GLXP contest winners will receive their prize only after they've successfully completed the mission. The GLXP doesn't need to spend any money until someone lands an actual working rover on the Moon.

This is sightly different from the Canadian approach to funding.

The Artemis Jr. lunar rover, built by Ontario based Provectus Robotics Solutions, the Neptec Design Group and others to meet the requirements of NASA's Regolith & Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) project and unveiled to Canadian's on Friday. It's also designed to hunt for water, ice and other lunar resources.

Funding for the Canadian rover program was part of the 2009 Economic Action Plan, which allocated $110 million CDN over three years to the CSA for development of the next generation Canadarm (which received $53.1 million) and for Canadian rovers (which received most of the rest). As outlined in the December 5th, 2011 Commercial Space blog post "Canadian Space Rovers on the Chopping Block," the CSA funding for the Canadian rovers ran out on March 31st, 2012.

Of course, there are also other rover designs openly available for the smart shopper.

The September 13th, 2012 IEEE Spectrum article "Huskies on Mars? University of Toronto Developing Planetary Rover" mentions yet another Canadian alternative while the August 22nd Moon Daily article "Chinese firm to send Spanish rover to moon in 2014" suggests that the skill-set required to build rovers is widely available internationally.

It will be interesting to see which rovers end up on missions to the Moon and Mars over the next few years. After all, the competition is heating up.

The complete NASA Resolve lunar rover with an Artemis Jr. chassis and payload as described in the June 13th,  2012 CollectSPACE article "NASA's RESOLVE: Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction." Evidently, this specific rover was also unveiled in June 2012.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Three Upcoming Space and Science Conferences for Canadians

Three distinct conferences, one focused on Canadian science policy, one focused on space science activities and one focused on commercializing the innovations derived from those activities, are taking place within the next two months.

First up is the 4th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), being held in Calgary, Alberta from November 5th - 7th. Focused on "Building Bridges for the Future of Science Policy" speakers and organizers include Preston Manning, the President and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy; Gary Goodyear, the Minister of State for Science and Technology; and Eric Newell, the Chancellor Emeritus at the University of Alberta and the former CEO of Syncrude Canada. A full list of speakers is downloadable as part of the CSPC conference plan.

Preston Manning.
According to the CSPC website:
The CSPC has always placed a strong focus on enabling members of the science policy community to connect and collaborate on ideas and initiatives. With participation from multiple sectors and disciplines within government, academia and the business sector, the conference atmosphere encourages depth of insight and collaboration between participants in all stages of their political, professional or scientific careers
Second up is the 2012 Canadian Space Summit, the 14th annual conference of the Canadian Space Society (CSS), which will be held in the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in London ON, from November 14th - 16th. 

As outlined in the August 27th, 2012 blog post on this topic, keynote speakers include Dr. John "Jack" Mustard from Brown University (the deputy principal investigator of the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), a visible-infrared spectrometer aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter); Perry Edmundson (the product marketing manager for Canadian space systems company COM DEV International); Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, the founder and president of Let’s Talk Science (one of Canada's largest charitable organizations dedicated to improving science literacy); and Dr. David Beaty, the chief scientist for the Mars exploration directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Pete Worden.
But the most interesting presentations (at least from the outlines in the Canadian Space Summit Advanced Program) look to be part of the Friday morning sessions focused around "Space Exploration on a Shoestring Budget." Included are presentations from Pete Worden, the Director of the NASA Ames Research Center; Henry Spencer, the well known Canadian computer programmer and space enthusiast; and Kieran A Carroll, one of the founding directors of the CSS who also acted as chief engineer for the Microvariability and Oscillations of STars telescope (MOST) and is currently developing new technologies for the mining industry at Gedex.

The final event is the 2012 Canadian Aerospace Summit (CAS) being held in Ottawa, Ontario from December 5th - 6th. Organized by the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada (AIAC), and focused on "Bold Steps for an Exceptional Future" this event is the last chance to buttonhole AIAC executives before the Aerospace Review presents its report outlining "concrete, fiscally-neutral recommendations on how federal policies and programs can help maximize the competitiveness of Canada's aerospace and space sectors" to the Federal industry minister.

Eva Jane Lark.
Speakers include Eva-Jane Lark, a VP with BMO Nesbitt Burns, who will moderate a panel discussion on Canada-US perspectives relating to major transformation in the space community; Kevin Michaels, a VP with ICF International who will give a presentation on the competitive dynamics of aerospace; and Terry Wohlers, the President of Wohlers Associates, who will moderate a panel discussion on “Smart Transformation.

As can been discerned from these quick overviews, the CSPC is focused on science policy, the CSS has decided to concentrate on specific space science experiments and the knowledge gained from those experiments and the CAS has decided to focus on the commercialization of technology and knowledge (when they're not talking about the aviation industry).

Hopefully, at least a few people are attending each of these conferences, in order to obtain a complete picture of the real challenges facing the space systems industry.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

COM DEV Corrects "The Last Days of the Current CSA President"

Gary Calhoun, the Chief Financial Officer of Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International (COM DEV) has responded to the October 6th, 2012 Commercial Space blog post on “The Last Days of the Current CSA President” with the following e-mail:
RADARSAT Constellation.
The restructuring announcement on Tuesday (October 2nd, 2012) reflects our expectations for future business available to our Canadian government division.
To clarify, we expect to work on the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM), so the restructuring is unaffected by Dr. MacLean’s announcement (as outlined in the October 1st, 2012 article "Canada Poised To Award RADARSAT Constellation Contract”).
We have expressed concern with respect to the uncertainty around continuation of the current development funding and the progression to a reasonable Phase D manufacturing contract for RCM. Delays in this regard would lead to further job losses, as we highlighted in our press release, so Dr. MacLean’s comments are welcome.
The Commercial Space blog article quoted the October 2nd, 2012 Canadian Business article "Satellite component maker Com Dev cutting 31 jobs in restructuring," which stated that COM DEV had laid off 31 employees working on RCM and "reassigned" ten more to other duties.

Based on the above email from COM DEV, the blog article was incorrect about the cause of the layoffs.

The e-mail from Mr. Calhoun states unequivocally that COM DEV staffing levels for RCM were unaffected by the restructuring although this could certainly change without “the progression to a reasonable Phase D manufacturing contract” and “lead to further job losses.”

According to the CSA website, RADARSAT Constellation is the evolution of the RADARSAT program with the objective of ensuring data continuity, improved operational use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and improved system reliability.

It’s always helpful when an executive at the center of a decision responds to correct any errors and omissions in published reports and this is certainly no exception. The Commercial Space blog appreciates the e-mail from Mr. Calhoun.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Meanwhile, Back at the Dawn of the New Space Age...

While national governments and the space agencies that represent them continue to micromanage and act as "project supervisors" rather than the "customers" they actually are, the real stories of our next great space age slowly flow across the internet.

Here are three of the more indicative from SpaceX, Reaction Engines and Virgin Galactic:

  • Of course, the US isn't alone in developing new and innovative ways of getting to space. But while the Americans at SpaceX used innovative procurement methodologies to drive down the cost of a traditional rocket launcher, the Brits at Reaction Engines seem to be in the midst of creating a real revolution in technology. According to the October 8th, 2012 article on the UK based Engineer website titled "Skylon and SABRE: your questions answered," the company is testing (not just building) a combined cycle, air breathing rocket/jet engine which they think is capable of reaching Earth orbit in a single stage, then returning to land like an airplane. With a genesis going back to the 1980's (when the original design was known as HOTOL or HOrizontal Take-Off and Landing) the current design is starting to show promise, at least according to the October 4th, 2012 Parabolic Arc article "Skylon Update: Big Bucks, Buck Rogers."

  • Of course, some companies are well past the development stage and even almost through the testing stage. Once those stages are taken care of, all you really need is the proper corporate structure and this seems to be the story behind the October 8th, 2012 article on the Space Travel website titled "Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company." According to the article, the "completion of the acquisition comes as Virgin Galactic and Scaled (Composites) begin to plan the handover of the SS2 (Space Ship 2) development program to Virgin Galactic." The article gives no indication of when commercial operations will begin, although the flight test program "is well under way" along a path which will lead to "commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico."

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Last Days of the Current CSA President

The public (and likely unintentional) dismissal of comments made by Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Steve MacLean, the day after he announced a continued Canadian government interest in the RADARSAT Constellation mission (RCM), could not have come at a better time for the Canadian government, or at a worse time for our current CSA president.

Steve MacLean.
It began with the October 1st, 2012 article "Canada Poised To Award RADARSAT Constellation Contract," which quoted Dr. MacLean as stating, "there has always been a plan to build (RCM), it just hasn’t been officially announced." MacLean was also quoted as expecting "a formal announcement soon," because “we have a commitment from the ministry, and a plan to proceed.”

Whatever that plan was, it seems to have fallen apart.

As outlined in the October 2nd, 2012 Canadian Business article "Satellite component maker Com Dev cutting 31 jobs in restructuring," RCM subcontractor COM DEV International (COM DEV) almost immediately laid off 31 employees working on RCM and "reassigned" ten more to other duties. In essence, COM DEV executives simply didn't believe the CSA president.

There are good reasons for that.

The article cited "uncertainty about the future of the Radarsat Constellation project" and quoted COM DEV CEO Mike Pley that "the funding situation on the CSA's Radarsat Constellation mission is still uncertain and, if not resolved in the near future, will result in further job losses once development funding runs out later this year."

  The original RCM timeline in 2004. CSA finally awarded the phase A contracts in March 2006. Phase D funding has not yet been announced. Chart c/o eoPortal Directory and CSA.

COM DEV follows along the same well worn path traveled by another RCM subcontractor, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), which expressed concerns over long-term RCM funding in the March 30th, 2012 company release titled "RADARSAT Constellation Mission update." According to the press release, MDA had "concluded that the (FY2012 federal) budget does not include the funds required to continue the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) as currently envisioned." 

As outlined in the May 14th, 2012 blog post "MDA & RADARSAT Constellation's War of the Words," a series of MDA layoffs, related specifically to a lack of RCM funding, began shortly afterwards.

RADARSAT Constellation. If built, it will consist of three satellites, each with a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensor integrated into an Automated Identification System (AIS). The SAR payload is a 2-panel deployable antenna of approximately 7 meters.

At this point, it is unclear how quickly the RCM program can be brought back up to speed, even should funding become available. As outlined in the May 23rd, 2011 blog post "Nothing to See Here! Move Along Now" government funding delays generally drive up  the overall cost of a project since new (and often untrained) people have to be hired to replace the original, experienced staff. The current cost of the RCM program is estimated at over $1billion CDN, which is double the original estimates.

Of course, the federal government can plausibly deny that this is their fault since they've taken steps to engage an Aerospace Review (under former Minister David Emerson) to figure out what's going on and lay out a series of public recommendations for improvements, which will be presented to the federal Industry Minister in December 2012. At the very least, nothing needs to be done until then.

Which is perfect for the federal government, soon to begin the search for the next CSA president for when the current five year mandate expires in August 2013.

But it's a shame that our beleaguered current CSA boss is entering the final year of his five year mandate with very little to show for his efforts at persuading the Federal government to fund CSA programs in a timely and adequate fashion. Unlike the government, Dr. MacLean needs to start asking the money questions now, before the results of the upcoming aerospace review are publicly released, the government begins to act on the review and anticipation over the next, hopefully more successful CSA president, begins to take hold.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Concordia Wins Canadian Satellite Design Challenge

Space Concordia, a student run astronomical engineering group from Concordia University has won the first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). Concordia beat out eleven other university student teams from across Canada in an effort to design, build and test a low-cost operational small satellite within a two year period.

The Space Concordia team accepting their prize on September 29th.

As outlined on the Space Concordia website, the award announcement was made on September 29th:
... during the Canada-On-Orbit Gala, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Alouette-1, Canada's first satellite. Many of the original Alouette-1 satellite designers were present, along with industry members from such groups as MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and it was humbling to see three generations of Canadian satellite builders in the same room.
Concordia beat out teams from Carleton University, Dalhousie University, Queen's University, the Royal Military College of Canada, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Victoria, the University of Waterloo and York University.

According to the October 1st, 2012 press release "Concordia University wins Canadian Satellite Design Challenge," the winning Concordia satellite includes "a gas analyser to detect trace gasses, as well as an instrument to measure the temperature and density of plasma." The winning satellite is intended to be launched into orbit in order to conduct scientific research although no launch berth has yet been announced.

The contest was organized by Geocentrix Technologies and sponsored by ABB Canada, AGI Software, AppSpace Solutions, the Canadian Astronautics and Space Institute (CASI), the Canadian Space Society (CSS), Defense Research & Development Canada, MDA, the HR MacMillan Space Centre, Magellan Aerospace, the Manitoba Aerospace Association, MAYA Simulation Technologies, Microsat Systems Canada Inc (MSCI), MITACS, NEi Software, the Neptec Design Group, SED a division of Calian Ltd. and Solidworks.

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