Monday, October 06, 2014

Short Canadian Perspectives on IAC 2014

          by Chuck Black

Here are some short, Canadian perspectives on the recently concluded 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2104), which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014.

Members of the AstroNuts Kids Space Club at the Orlan Space Suit display on the trade show floor of IAC 2014. From left to right are AstroNuts Ray Bielecki, Tim Fowler (wearing a blue shirt in back), Jack Fallows (wearing the orange jumpsuit in front), Brett Bielecki, Jessica Hunter, Jacob Fowler (wearing the Orlon Soviet space suit), Josiah Harris, Brandon Palos and Tom Harris.  Photo c/o author.

On Wednesday, Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Micro-Satellite (M3MSat) prime contractor COM DEV International (COM DEV) announced that Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), would launch the Canadian built M3M satellite on an upcoming ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from India sometime in 2015. As outlined in the  October 1st, 2014 Canadian NewsWire (CNW) press release, "COM DEV Announces New Launch Contract for exactEarth™ M3M Satellite," the ceremony formalizing the agreement was signed at IAC 2014 and witnessed by both Dr. V.S. Hegde, the chairman and managing director of Antrix, and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Walter Natynczyk.

The announcement was a follow-on to the April 2014 announcement that the Federal government "has decided not to proceed" with the original June 2014 launch of M3MSat from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the subsequent Russian allegations of the M3Msat's possible "military" uses.  As outlined in the April 28th, 2014 post "M3Msat and the Politics of Dancing in the Crimea," the action was widely considered to be an escalation of Canadian sanctions against Russia over the ongoing situation in the Ukraine and Crimea.

The Canadian federal government also continued to dial up the pressure on Russian delegates to the IAC. The September 30th, 2014 Canadian Press article "Russia upset over space conference visa denials," quoted an official with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) who said that only two of its 10-strong delegation expected to attend the IAC actually received Canadian visas and were able to enter Canada. The "failure to obtain visas for Russians is clearly politically motivated," the official told the Interfax news agency.

Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black presenting a paper on the topic of "100 years of Aerospace History in Canada. From McCurdy to Hadfield," written by Apogee Books publisher Robert Godwin and the late Canadian aerospace icon Phil Lapp for IAC 2014. It's estimated that almost 1800 of the 3100 registered attendees took part in the presentations or served on one or more of the many panel discussions. Photo c/o author. 

Plucky satellite image reseller UrtheCast has announced that it will soon select a provider for the latest optical and radar instruments it plans to install on a US module attached to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as 2017, according to the October 1st, 2014 Space News article "65th International Astronautical Congress | UrtheCast To Select Providers of ISS Cameras Soon."

The BC based company, which already operates two camera on the Russian Zvezda module of the ISS, is in the final stages of evaluating proposals for the additional systems. 

We will be announcing the contractor team in two to three weeks,” said UrtheCast CEO Wade Larson at a press conference held at the 65th IAC. According to the Space News article, one of the new instruments in the system will be a camera capable of taking images and video at visible wavelengths at resolutions as sharp as 0.5 meters. The other "is a synthetic aperture radar that can operate at L- and X-band wavelengths simultaneously."

A quiet Chinese booth on the final day of IAC 2014. According to the September 29th, 2014 Space News article, "65th International Astronautical Congress | Visa Issues Keep Russian, Chinese Engineers Away from IAC 2014, multiple Russian and Chinese delegates "failed to obtain visas to attend the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here this year, an absence that undermined space agency arguments that space cooperation should not be subject to short-term political issues." According to conference organizers, the IAF "wanted everyone to attend but wasn't able to anticipate what the Federal government wanted."  Photo c/o author.

It wasn't just the conference attendees who were up on Canadian contributions to space. US based Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the "science guy"), took time out of his busy schedule to celebrate the True North's strong contribution to human space exploration, just down the street from IAC 2014 at the University of Toronto. 

As outlined in the October 2nd, 2014 Weather Network post "Bill Nye and the Planetary Society highlight Canada's top achievements in space exploration," Nye, along with Planetary Society's online podcast host Mat Kaplan, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, Western University professor Gordon "Oz" Osinski, and Canadian science writer Elizabeth Howell, discussed what our great nation has contributed to the space sciences over the years.

"Chris Hadfield, Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques ... these guys have inspired people," Nye said in an interview with The Weather Network, mentioning just the most recent astronauts to have served with the CSA. "That may not be a discovery, but it may lead to a discovery, by inspiring people."

Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne and the Ukraine share trade show floor space at IAC 2014. The final day of IAC 2014 was "public day," where admission to the trade show floor was waived.  Photo c/o author.

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