Monday, November 25, 2013

UrtheCast Cameras Launch to International Space Station

The UrtheCast plan. Image c/o Focus.

Two high definition cameras designed to stream detailed views of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) blasted off into space today.

One still and one video camera, each designed and built by BC based UrtheCast launched at 3:52 p.m. ET from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan, aboard an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft poised atop a Soyuz rocket.

UrtheCast COO Wade Larson.
As outlined in the November 25th, 2013 UrtheCast press release "UrtheCast Successfully Launches its Cameras into Space," the two cameras are scheduled to arrive at the ISS on November 29th.

According to the November 25th, 2013 CBC News article, "Space cameras from B.C. firm UrtheCast blast off," the camera's will then be attached to a platform on the underside of the space station. As outlined in the article:
The cameras will be able to view a large band of the Earth between the latitudes of 51 degrees north (which passes through Calgary) and 51 degrees south, a little bit north of the southern tip of Chile and Argentina.
UrtheCast CEO Scott Larson.
The video camera is pointable, and customers will be able to use it to look at a particular spot on Earth for a fee. The company expects customers to include governments, non-governmental organizations and corporations that would like particular types of live and archival images for purposes such as monitoring the environment.
As outlined in the June 10th, 2013 blog post "UrtheCast Proceeds with Takeover and Funding for ISS Camera's" the road to space for the scrappy start-up has been paved with creative funding and innovative business decisions. The company went public in June 2013 using a unique reverse takeover of Canadian mining company Longford Energy. As well, the cameras are being transported to the ISS by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, in exchange for free access to expected Urthecast images.

Once the cameras are aboard the ISS, the challenge becomes one of validating the business model.

Will customers pay to obtain UrtheCast images? That question will be answered over the next few months so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Inspiration Mars Now Less Inspirational

          by Brian Orlotti

"What me worry?"
Millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito has flip-flopped on his plans for a privately-funded flyby mission to Mars in 2018 and is now asking NASA to fund it.

On February 27th of this year, Tito announced the formation of Inspiration Mars (IM), a non-profit group dedicated to launching a space mission that would send a middle-aged couple on 501-day flyby of Mars and back. Initially, Tito had said that the mission would cost just under $1Bln USD and that he would finance the first two years of the program with roughly $300Mln USD from his own pocket. The remaining $700Mln USD was to have been raised via crowdsourcing and corporate sponsorships.

From the outset, there was skepticism of the mission on several grounds. Some scientists said that the spacecraft design lacked adequate radiation shielding, posing dire risks for the crew. Others pointed out that the mission being limited to a flyby (precluding any serious science or commercial activity) would scare away investors.

But on Nov 20th, during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space in Washington, DC., and available online at, Tito stated:
We propose to do this in collaboration with NASA, as a partner in a NASA mission, in the name of America, and for the good of humanity. The endeavor is not motivated by business desires, but to inspire Americans in a bold adventure in space that reinvigorates US space exploration. In fact, the capabilities developed through private funding will belong to NASA for this and future missions.

This partnership is a new model for a space mission. It is not the model of traditional contracts or subsidies for vehicle developments, although those models are imbedded in the NASA programs to be leveraged for this unique mission. It is a philanthropic partnership with government to augment resources and achieve even greater goals than is possible otherwise.
Tito’s testimony was essentially a re-branding exercise in which Inspiration Mars was transformed from a purely private venture into a public-private partnership. In making his case for government support of the mission, Tito recycled many of the same shop-worn arguments used by space advocates (with noticeable lack of success) over the past 40 years. These arguments included a plea “for the good of humanity,” motivation for youth to study STEM subjects and a dire warning that the US risked being left behind by other nations.

These arguments, in a time of shrinking NASA budgets and great economic hardship, predictably rang hollow with both committee members and NASA. After the meeting, a NASA spokesman stated that:
The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. However, we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop.
In a media conference call after his hearing, Tito and IM’s CTO Rick MacCallum clarified their reason for requesting US government support. In essence, Tito admitted that IM’s mission costs would be higher than he had anticipated, even using private launchers.

Brian Orlotti.
Dennis Tito’s flip-flop reiterates a simple, brutal truth to other would-be space pioneers that good intentions alone do not launch rockets. The Inspiration Mars approach is simply too large a leap given our current social and economic climate. The true path to space will involve an incremental buildup of infrastructure by private firms seeking to satisfy interested markets. When space becomes its own economy, the “good of humanity” will not be the initial driver, but the end result.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

Kennedy Administration Shapes Current Space Activities

Wernher von Braun and John  Kennedy in 1962. Photo c/o NASA.

          by Sarah Manea

It's worth noting on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, that the 35th president of the United States chose to have his country go to the moon, and to this day, will always be remembered as one of the biggest political supporters of the American space program.

Even before John. F. Kennedy worked in the oval office he had toiled for the creation of NASA as a senator, proposing space related programs to congress, his boldest plan being to land an American safely on the moon. It was with this dream, and from increasing Russian pressures, that Kennedy could justify the expenditure and resources invested in such a remarkable and challenging task.

The space race had begun during Eisenhower’s time in office, and picked up after Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first person in space, in 1961. With this giant Russian leap forward in space exploration and technology, America could not stand to be left behind. It was Kennedy, in 1962, who claimed that this was a matter of prestige and status for America, whereby justifying the huge expenditure, which was close to $5.2Bln USD's at its peak in 1965, and $24Bln USD's for the overall Apollo project (1966-1972).

"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish," he said, during a speech to a joint session of Congress in May 25th, 1961.

Thanks to Kennedy’s space initiative, jobs in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and California flourished. Scientists across the nation became involved and comfortably employed, and in the early days of the project, in 1966, there were over 400,000 people working for, or alongside, NASA.

Even though Kennedy did all he could to push his country ahead in space science and to a scientifically superior nation, today, 44 years after the space race has been won by the USA, the infrastructure, jobs, and administration at NASA have not changed very much. The substructure used to launch man to the moon has still not been fully dismantled, and was never intended to be used for anything else, resulting in wasted resources and funds. On top of this, the funding, and political support for NASA has faltered through the years, even though the aerospace industry is still dominant in the southern economy.

The first men on the Moon. Astronaut Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, photographed by astronaut Neil Armstrong in July 1969. Photo c/o NASA.
Many people believe that certain aspects of Kennedy’s space initiative seem to consist of political tactics used by his Democratic party to gather exceptional support during elections. From the year 1960 and onward, it’s been observed that NASA initially set up shop in traditional republican areas, and the newly created jobs encouraged NASA employees to vote for the Democratic party. This method of targeting republican voters helped democratic candidates get elected through the promise of job security.

Subsequent administrations have preserved these jobs, which added an extra layer of NASA bureaucracy over time, in order not to alienate voters. Because of these extra positions, the cost for NASA to launch rockets today is much higher than it should be, as there is more expenditure in salaries throughout the agency.
Sarah Manea.

Kennedy did not get to see the moon landing, as it happened 6 years after his assassination, but all his efforts and big dreams shaped one of the most advanced space programs the world has ever seen. 

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Space Leaders in Ottawa: The 2013 Canadian Space Summit

Bill Gerstenmeier.

          by Brian Orlotti

On November 14th and 15th , individuals from across academia, business, government and the military gathered in Ottawa to connect with each other and help shape the future of the Canadian space sector.

The 2013 Canadian Space Summit, skillfully executed by the Canadian Space Society (CSS), was organized into two main tracks (Space Commerce/Law/Policy and Earth Orbit/Space Exploration). The session tracks were complimented by keynote speakers such as NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William (Bill) Gerstenmeier and new CSA President Walter Natyncyk, as well as discussion panels and the Canadian Space leaders’ Roundtable.

Highlights from the Space Commerce/Law/Policy track included:
  • Thomas DeWolf of the Canada Commercial Corporation (CCC), who spoke about the crown corporation’s role as an intermediary between Canadian exporters and foreign governments and outlined the extensive contractual advisory services offered by the CCC to space/aerospace firms.
  • Chuck Black of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), who spoke about current Canadian grant programs favouring large, established space firms rather than fostering the growth of small and medium sized ones. Black also discussed the Canadian Space Commerce Association’s role of enabling relationships between scientists/engineers and investors.
Wilfred So.
  • Wilfred So of law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, who discussed the differences between trade secrets and patents, their pros and cons, and how they can be utilized by newspace startups
  • Jean Yves Fiset of Systèmes Humains-Machines Inc. (Shumac), who talked about his company’s human factors software which models and predicts human behaviour in situations as diverse as automobile accidents and space missions.
  • Dale Armstrong of Carleton University, who spoke about his research into US and Soviet/Russian anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) development and policies through the Cold War up to the present day. Armstrong made the argument that anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons haven’t seen wider adoption not due to moral restraint but because of the disastrous consequences of their use.
  • Ottawa city councillor Maria McRae, who outlined Ottawa politicians’ plans to hold events where space professionals can talk directly to the public on the importance of space to Canada’s economy.
    Wade Larson.
  • Urthecast’s Wade Larson,  who outlined his company’s successful raising of $40 million in investment and a fascinating demo of a website that will give the public access to realtime HD video from cameras that will soon be placed on the International Space Station (ISS).
But the most memorable moments at the Summit however, could be found during the keynote speeches.

For example, a subtly revealing moment came during Bill Gerstenmaier’s speech.

During his talk, Gerstenmaier had repeatedly stressed NASA’s role in providing research and development services for Newspace firms. An audience member had posed the question of what NASA’s role would be in a SpaceX-led private mission to Mars (a goal repeatedly stated by Elon Musk himself). Gerstenmeier replied that he didn’t know what NASA’s role would be in such a mission or if SpaceX was even capable of doing it. Gerstenmeier then quipped, “they think they are,” which was followed by a considerable (and palpably indignant) silence from the audience. Sensing this sudden shift in mood, Gerstenmeier back pedaled, hastily adding, “and they may.” The gaffe was a subtle, but powerful, reminder of the bitterness no doubt felt by many at the decline of NASA and the rise of NewSpace.
Walt Natynczyk.

The star attraction, however, was retired general Walt Natynczyk in his first public appearance as president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Within minutes, the former general made a massive impression on his audience. Natynczyk, in his thunderous (yet clear) voice, told a story about how he had decided to come out of retirement to lead the CSA after an epithany on a freezing February morning while walking three family member’s dogs. In a quote that will surely take its place in Canadian space lore, he stated:
As I’m stooping over to pick up another pile of doggie doo, a neighbor--that I love--sticks her head out the door and says, ‘Hello. How the mighty have fallen’”. Think about it. That’s when I thought it was time to do something different.
After the audience’s long laughter died down, Natynczyk spoke of how unfamiliar he was with the vocabulary of the space industry and would need the help of those in the space sector (while pointing to the audience) to help educate him. He related how he had been baffled when speaking to quantum researchers in Waterloo, Ontario:
The point at which you start losing me is like talking to my puppy; when I start doing this,” (tilts head to one side) “you’re losing me.
After talking about being fascinated with the micro and nanosatellites he saw in development at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), Natynczyk cracked more jokes, comparing nanosatellites and microsatellites to “milk cartons” and “milk jugs.

Natynczyk then stated that one of his main goals is to make space comprehensible to the typical Canadian standing in line at Tim Horton’s. He made few concrete policy statements, other than to say that space research and development should continue to be done via universities with government funding rather than by government itself. Natynczyk also stated that the CSA is in discussions with various government ministries to implement his recommendations. What his specific recommendations are remains unknown. The space sector eagerly awaits more.
Brian Orlotti.

The 2013 Canadian Space Summit can be seen as a watershed moment. For the first time, the Canadian space sector is attracting significant levels of both investment and interest. A small space company like Urthecast raising $40 million in funding or a city council planning promotional events for the space industry would have been unheard of even five years ago. At last, we space enthusiasts have put the fringe behind us and come into our own.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The 2013 Canadian Space Summit Media Panel

          by Sarah Manea

Globe and Mail science reporter Ivan Semeniuk, Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black and space/ business journalist Elizabeth Howell talked about their profession and the challenges of writing about space during a public media panel at this year’s Canadian Space Summit.

As outlined by Canadian Space Society (CSS) president Wayne Ellis, who chaired the panel discussion, the media today is technically reliant on space and telecommunications technology as a medium to get their stories and messages out to the Canadian public, as well as to people around the world.

Ivan Semeniuk.
According to Semeniuk, the media’s responsibility is to reflect what is significant for the interests of the public, and that “we need a scientifically literate media.

He also went on to discuss the benefits of the story format used by journalists to convey messages, as well as the increasingly visual and moving picture media. However, he made sure to mention that he felt the media was lacking in scientific substance, and that Canadian space is not getting the public coverage it deserves.

According  to Semeniuk, "Chris Hadfield was a great success for Canadian and international space and media, but not that great because it did not fully publicize the rest of what Canadian space does.

Chuck Black
Black agreed with Semeniuk’s definition of the media’s responsibility, but went on to speak of the categorization of media stories, and the fact that he writes for a different audience.

Black specified three different types of stories: inspirational, which generally appeals to a broad audience; science stories, which focus on describing the how and why of science and technology; and business stories, which focus on economic and business issues.

Elizabeth Howell.
Howell said that journalism used to be the main channel of information, but this has changed because of social media and the internet.

She discussed three personal problems she's seen in Canadian media.

Firstly, it is difficult to find the important and significant news, and difficult to sort through what is to be given to the audience. Secondly, the lack of funding and inability to get the media and writers to important events greatly impacts the coverage of certain necessary topics. Finally, she felt that “Canadian news is not fully known internationally, and we need to make sure that something significant in Canada is appropriately explained to the rest of the world.”

The floor was then opened to audience questions.

When asked about the effectiveness of a single news source to provide Canadians with the important space stories, Black mentioned that there are a number of independently funded news sources in the US already doing this and Canadian coverage will likely follow down this path over time.

Seneniuk felt that change was necessary to open hidden science facilities to everyone. He also felt that Canadian scientists and science facilities must work to become less fearful of the public’s interests in their work. He said that “Canada is very clamped down, and not a healthy democracy or open society. Scientists can’t talk to the public or media directly, and they think there is nothing to be gained from science talking to the press.”

The final audience question was about the effectiveness of a lot of coverage in order to accomplish scientific goals in Canada, to which Howell replied “if you shine more light, yes you get more attention.

Overall, the theme was that Canadian space science and technology is very isolated from the public, making it difficult to gauge the interest of the general public and share information on all the great new advances seen at this year’s Canadian Space Summit.
Sarah Manea.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Monday, November 11, 2013

MDA Denied Export Permits for Russian Satellites

          by Brian Orlotti

As outlined in the November 4th, 2013 MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) Q3 investors conference call, the Canadian government has denied the iconic Canadian company permission to participate in an international competition to provide radar Earth observation satellites to Russia.
Dan Friedmann.

According to November 6th, 2013  SpaceNews article "Canada Blocks MDA Corp. from Russian Radar Satellite Competition," the Russian government had been soliciting prospective bidders on a radar Earth observation system for the past year. MDA is currently under contract to the Canadian government to develop the three-satellite Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM), and so was considered a likely bidder for the Russian work.

But in response to an investor’s question during the conference call, MDA CEO Dan Friedmann stated:
Sure. Russia is very active. They have an RFP for a communications satellite on the street right now due January, which we're bidding, and they have an RFI for two other communications satellites that may be purchased in the first quarter. So they're going through three procurements in the communications area at this point. We have been unable to obtain any export permits approvals to supply them with their radar RCM-type needs, so we're out of that game.
The Canadian’s government’s decision will likely limit the Russian competition to European firms. EADS Astrium has shown interest in the contract as a chance to expand its existing constellation of radar imaging satellites (TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X) co-developed with the German Space Agency (DLR). DLR officials have also publicly expressed support for an Astrium bid.

Despite the radar satellite setback, Friedmann emphasized that MDA Corp. has other irons in the fire, both with Russia and other nations. MDA is responding to a Russian RFP for a communications satellite due in January and will respond to an RFI for two more commsats expected in the coming weeks. Friedmann also said that MDA is seeking to collaborate with Russia on space robotics projects. Aside from Russia, Friedmann stated that “bidding activity (for communications satellites) continues at a high level” with MDA winning five telecom satellite contracts thus far in 2013.

Although the Canadian government’s reasons for obstructing the MDA radar satellite bid are unclear, the move appears out of sync with recent policy changes aimed at increasing Canada’s competitiveness (as outlined in the November 7th, 2013 Space News article "Canada Revamps Satellite Regulations To Make Industry More Competitive."
Brian Orlotti.

If national security issues were the driver behind the government’s decision, one is tempted to ask why the German government isn’t taking a similar stance. Is Canada unnecessarily denying itself an opportunity? It remains to be seen if future Canadian attempts to expand into international markets will not be so hampered.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

The Growing Potential and Power of NewSpace Start-ups

          by Sarah Manea

A small New York based firm tracking the commercial space sector and capital markets, has investment lessons for all of us.

As outlined by co-founder and CEO Richard David during the first hour of the November 7th, 2013 edition of "The Space Show with Dr.  David Livingston," his company, NewSpace Global (NSG) is looking for investors interested in innovative companies like Space-X, Orbital Sciences, Virgin Galactic, Nanoracks, ClydeSpace, UrtheCast and others who are building viable businesses outside of the traditional investment areas such as software, pharmaceuticals and social media. 

Topics discussed during the program include the process of commercial space business evaluation, why NewSpace is no longer the place where "money goes to die," and the recently concluded NewSpace Investor Conference, held on November 5th, in Menlo Park California. 
Richard David with Franklin Moore at Mohave in April 2013. Photo c/o

The full interview is available online at and is indicative of the growing industry expertise in this area.

It's well worth listening to so check it out.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The 65th International Astronautical Congress: September 29th - October 3rd, 2014 in Toronto According to Geoffrey Languedoc, the executive director of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI), his organization "is bringing the global space industry to Canada in 2014, starting with the heads of the major space agencies including NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), but also with commercial interests beginning with industry anchor sponsor Lockheed Martin Corporation, performances by space tourist Guy Laliberte's Cirque du Soleil and much, much more."

The intent is to create an international stage to show off domestic aerospace and space experts, businesses and scientists in order to promote their activities, build international connections and develop revenue generating business relationships.

Geoff Languedoc.
Languedoc knows what he's talking about. CASI is the local hosting organization for what is generally perceived to be the world's largest professional space conference, the upcoming International Astronautical Congress (IAC2014), which will be held next year in Toronto, Ontario at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, from September 29th - October 3rd.

IAC2014 is anticipating that 3500 delegates from around the world will attend the event and present upwards of 2000 papers in 18 parallel sessions and 300 interactive sessions on a wide range of topics related to space science, engineering and commercial activities. Dozens of other organizations will also participate through exhibits and sponsorships. The program for IAC 2014 will begin with the opening ceremony, which will feature a performance by the Cirque de Soleil, followed by a plenary panel with the heads of international space agencies presenting their programs for the future.

During a recent phone interview, Languedoc, who has taken on the role of general manager for the event, explained that his strategy is to "beat the bushes" to drive normally shy and reticent Canadian space organizations "out of the woodwork" and into the public limelight, at least for a few days next fall, so that the world can see the true Canadian strengths in this area.

Interested organizations may participate in the IAC2014 "Canada Pavilion," intended to convey the "full breadth and diversity of the Canadian space industry."

According to Languedoc, "space missions nowadays are almost always an international collaboration. the world is coming to Canada and space and aerospace have always been an international collaboration. There will be no better place next fall than Toronto to build these international connections. We must insure that our expertise is well represented and that Canadian space interests in academia, industry and government take full advantage of this opportunity."

According to Languedoc, developing new opportunities for private firms is especially important now that the market is in flux with traditional space agency budgets stagnating but new opportunities developing through non-traditional private firms like Space-X and Virgin Galactic. The signing up of Lockheed Martin in the unprecedented role of IAC "industry anchor partner" is an explicit recognition of the new importance of industry in this area.

Of  course, the IAC has always been an international event with IAC2013 recently wrapped up in Beijing, China and IAC2012 held in Naples, Italy. The last Canadian IAC was in Vancouver, BC in 2004 and was also organized by CASI, as was the first IAC ever held in Canada, in Montreal in 1991.

Those looking for more information, speaker updates or to participate in the upcoming IAC 2014 Canada Pavilion should connect with the CASI executive director at or call 613-591-8787.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Polar Communications and Weather Project Inches Slowly Forward

One satellite of a possible constellation. Photo c/o CSA.

           by Brian Orlotti

On Nov 1st, the Canadian government released a Request for Information (RFI) for the Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) project, the polar-orbiting communications and weather satellite system considered crucial to maintaining Canada's arctic sovereignty in the coming decades.

The decision is a follow-on to the February 2013 Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announcement that it was seeking partners (including other Canadian government agencies as well as international partners) to help finance the system, expected to cost roughly $600Mln CDN.

But although the RFI is generally perceived of as moving PCW a step forward, there are many hurdles still to be overcome. As outlined in the June 25th, 2013 post, "Will the Polar Communications and Weather Mission (PCW) Receive New Funding?" the current funding for the program is essentially limited to a $4.3Mln contract awarded to PCW prime contractor MacDonald Dettwiler for the preliminary phase "A" mission design in 2009 and a $5.7Mln CDN contract to ABB Canada to develop a multi-spectral imager for the PCW as part of the Space Technologies Development Program (STDP) in 2011.

Curiously enough, the ABB contract was awarded just after an October, 2011 incident in which a bad software update on Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite caused a 16-hour outage across 56 northern communities. During the outage, hundreds of people lost internet and long-distance phone service, 1000 First Air passengers were stranded over the Thanksgiving long weekend by delayed or cancelled flights, and the RCMP lost field radio communications. Although Telesat quickly notified its customers and eventually restored service, the incident was a potent reminder of how critical satellite communications are to northern Canadians.

PCW is envisioned as a constellation of at least two (and perhaps more) satellites in molniya orbits, a type of highly elliptical orbit named after the Soviet/Russian Molniya (Russian for "Lightning") communications satellites which have used it since the mid-1960s.

Satellites in a molinya orbit, due to their high altitude at apogee (the point at which they are closest to Earth) can cover parts of northern Canadian territory inaccessible to geostationary satellites. A northern ground station will link the PCW constellation to communications satellites in geostationary orbit as well as other segments of Canada’s telecom infrastructure. The lifespan of each satellite is estimated at 15 years.

Typical molniya orbit. Graphic c/o Wikipedia.
PCW is being designed to facilitate Canadian operations in the north and support Canadian arctic sovereignty by:
  • Providing high data rate communications services for both military and commercial use.
  • Providing advanced weather monitoring capability to support global weather and sea ice forecasting.
  • Providing space weather monitoring capability (i.e. tracking of space debris and solar storms) The RFI has been taken as a sign of the Canadian government’s willingness to proceed with the project which, though first announced in 2009, has languished for years under a fog of political and fiscal uncertainty.
The government will hold the first Industry Day on Monday, November 25, 2013 at a to-be-determined location. The closing date for the RFI is January 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm EST. Should the PCW Project move forward, its estimated start date would be November 2016.

The complete RFI with requirements and initial system details is available for download at the Public Works Canada website.

In the coming decades, as the Arctic ice shrinks and the northern frontier provides greater opportunities for shipping and resource extraction, issues of sovereignty will increasingly take centre stage. The Canadian government, after years of paying lip service to these issues, now appears to be moving to address them. Space will continue to be the key to Canada’s north, enabling us to understand, exploit and protect it.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The 2013 Canadian Space Summit: November 14th - 15th in Ottawa

          by Sarah Manea

One of Canada’s most important general interest space conferences takes place in Ottawa from November 14th - 15th.

At the Canadian Space Society’s (CSS) annual Space Summit, the nation comes together to discuss all that is new, revolutionary, and important in Canadian space sciences.
Walter Natynczuk. Photo c/o DND.

With two full days of speakers and keynote presentations focused on "the economics of space," the 2013 Summit program will attempt to merge the financial, and political sides of the industry, with the technological and research aspects.

Speaker tracks focusing on low/near-Earth orbit, planetary exploration, law & policy, education & outreach, as well as space commercialization will all be covered during the event with a variety of knowledgeable  speakers including:
  • Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Walter Natynczyk. Previously Canada's chief of defence staff from 2008-2012, Natnczyk has dealt with events such as the Afghanistan mission, Iraq war, humanitarian support to Haiti and the NATO mission over Libya before taking over his current portfolio.
William Gerstenmaier. Photo c/o NASA
  • William H. Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for human exploration and operations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Gerstenmaier currently provides direction for all of NASA's human exploration of space and space communications/launch vehicles.
  • Paul Bush, the senior vice president of corporate and business development at Telesat. The Telesat state-of-the-art fleet consists of 14 satellites plus the Canadian payload on ViaSat-1 with another satellite under construction. Telesat also manages the operations of additional satellites for third parties.
  • Steven Staples, a Canadian policy analyst and president of Public Response, a digital agency that services non-profit organizations and trade unions in the fields of online engagement and government relations. Staples also leads the Rideau Institute, an advocacy group which specializes in defence and foreign affairs policy.
  • Wade Larson, the president of UrtheCast, whose company will be putting HD cameras on the International Space Station, allowing for easily accessible images of the Earth to the general public.

Many other amazing presentations will be given, all of which can be found on the summit agenda at

Overall, it looks like it will be an incredibly informative and important meeting of Canadian space leaders, working to propel our country’s space program forward into a bright future.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Paul Goodman, Moral Ambiguity, Corporate Science & Cost Plus Procurement Contracts

          By Chuck Black

Paul Goodman in 1959. Photo c/o Wikipedia.
Back in 1966, when the "mass media" sometimes tackled important topics in a deliberative and contemplative manner, a man once described by William F. Buckley Jr. as being "a pacifist, a bi-sexualist, a poverty cultist, an anarchist and a few other distracting things," was still considered to be a suitable contributor to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) prestigious Massey Lecture series on the topic of "The Moral Ambiguity of America."

William F. Buckley Jr. in 1968.
What he said, especially in the third part of his presentation on science and technology, contains lessons applicable to even the current generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Of course, author Paul Goodman wasn't just known for waxing poetic on morality and science for a Canadian audience.

The author of dozens of books, including Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society and Compulsary Education: The Community of Scholars, Goodman was a well known and often referenced US based political pundit and 60's activist. He's also recognized as a therapist and credited with being a co-founder of gestalt therapy (an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy).

But it's the comments on science which should most concern us here. According to Goodman, modern science is a "submissive" technology answering to the requirements of societal "efficiency," and under the political, military and economic control of various elites who use scientific methodologies to further narrow self interests.

These various elites are not normally receptive to the "open dialogue with surprise," which Goodman considered to be the core of the scientific method. Instead, mostly bureaucratic methodologies have been grafted on to scientific pursuits in order to methodically evaluate projects, profile gifted experts deserving financial support and systematically uncover relevant university courses to develop the next generation of expertise.

Even better, all this was done mostly in secret in order to preserve perceived advantages over a whole slew of potential competitors.

To listen to author Paul Goodman discuss modern scientific thinking, click on the graphic above and go to part three of the presentation on "The Moral Ambiguity of America."

According to Goodman, modern scientific thinking:
... must be able to be parceled out  for efficient division of labor, and
discoveries must appear on schedule: basic research, application, development, shaping up for production. With enough capital, one can mount a crash program and break through.
To be serviceable, excellent scientists become administrators. Grant-getters, who are clever about the forms become scientists. Corporations become impresarios for scientists. Scientific brains from other countries are brought up to work in the American style on American problems, seriously impoverishing their own peoples and precluding the development of various schools of thought.
In the end, unless a hypothesis involves big cash, its author cannot  afford to pursue it, although he used to love it...
Novum Organum by Francis Bacon.
Of course, the above only really serves as a reminder of how little things have changed since the 1960's.

But Goodman went further by stating that modern science also required big capital and big organizations to go with both the Moon shots and cyclotrons of his day and the giant new NASA Space Launch Systems and James Webb Space Telescope equivalencies of today:
... bypassing the experience of nearly four  hundred years, the method of observation, analysis, deduction, and crucial experiment, we have amazingly come back full circle to the bureaucratic system of (Francis) Bacon's Novum Organum, a dragnet of facts, stored, retrieved and computed (but with few original or new insights and requiring a substantial institutional framework with permanent state funding to sustain it).
Goodman also suggested that any "market check" on science has slowly weakened over the years because of "subsidies, cost plus contracts, monopolies, price fixing, advertizing and the ignorance of consumers."

That's not all he said in his 1966 presentation, but perhaps the best way to understand Goodman is to listen to his original lectures. According to the cover of the 2007 book, the Lost Massey Lectures, his presentation (along with lectures from John Kenneth Galbraith, Jane Jacobs, Eric W. Kierans and Martin Luther King Jr.) is one of a series of "recovered classics from five great thinkers."

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