Monday, June 23, 2014

COM DEV Wants Compensation after Sanctions Ground M3MSat

          by Chuck Black

Cambridge, ON, based satellite manufacturer COM DEV International is seeking millions of dollars in compensation after the Federal government scuttled the launch of its Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Micro-satellite (M3MSat) in April, 2014 because it was scheduled to be sent into orbit on a Russian rocket.

It doesn't look like much from Earth, but the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Russian: космодром «Байконур» Baykonur); (Kazakh: Байқоңыр ғарыш айлағы Bayqoñır ğarïş aylağı) is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. RADARSAT-2 and other Canadian satellites, along with more than a few Canadian astronauts, have begun their journey to space from here. Photo c/o Google Earth.

As outlined in the June 20th, 2014 Ottawa Citizen article "Canadian space firm wants compensation after sanctions ground satellite," the decision to cancel the M3MSat launch occurred on April, 2014 as part of the government’s campaign to punish Russia for its actions during the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine.

The article also stated that "industry officials have privately questioned the government’s actions on M3MSat, pointing out the Conservative government did not intervene to stop the launch that same day, June 19, of two smaller Canadian satellites on a Russian rocket. Those satellites and their launch were funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)."

As outlined in the April 28th, 2014 post "M3Msat and the Politics of Dancing in the Crimea," COM DEV originally received an indication that the CSA would support COM DEV's efforts to secure a new launch slot for M3MSat, but that new launch so far hasn't materialized.

However, as outlined in the June 21st, 2014 post "Two More Canadian Satellites Launched on Russian Rocket: Another Scheduled," two other small Canadian satellites, part of the BRITE Constellation of micro-satellites designed and built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTAIS) Space Flight Laboratories (SFL), were launched into orbit on June 19th, 2014 on top of a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

A third Canadian satellite,  the Norwegian owned but Canadian built and operated AISSAT-2, is currently scheduled for launch from the same facility on board another Russian rocket on July 8th.

During a June 5th, 2014 quarterly earnings conference call, officials from COM DEV and M3MSat subcontractor exactEarth LLP told investors that they are in negotiations with the federal government and are seeking compensation for the launch cancellation.

A graphic showing the available facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Graphic c/o NASA.

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