Monday, March 09, 2015

Magellan & U of Manitoba Open New Satellite Manufacturing Facility

          By Brian Orlotti

On March 4th, Mississauga, Ontario based Magellan Aerospace and the University of Manitoba (UofM) unveiled a new joint venture: the Advanced Satellite Integration Facility (ASIF) in Winnipeg, MB. The new facility will support research, development, construction and testing of satellites and their components.

The Member of Parliament for Elmwood—Transcona Lawrence Toet, with UofM Engineering Dean Jonathan Beddoes, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification Michelle Rempel, Magellan Aerospace VP and general manager Don Boitson and UofM vice-chancellor David Barnard. The five came together on May 20th, 2014  in Winnipeg, MB. for the initial announcement that the ASIF was funded and would be built. Photo c/o WEDC.

The move comes in the wake of another major satellite builder's effective exit from Canada and could be seen as filling a power vacuum. As outlined in the March 2nd, 2015 post, "Will the Last MDA Employee Leaving the Country, Please Turn out the Lights," Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) is benefiting from a "surging" international demand for Earth observation satellites and data, but none of that business is coming from Canada and the company is currently transferring resources out of the country to follow the market.

Oddly enough, the genesis of the ASIF goes back to a previous satellite contract from MDA.

As outlined in the September 20th, 2013 post, "Was the Magellan Contract for RADARSAT Constellation a "National Policy," the Canadian government seemed to have gone to great lengths to insure that a $110Mln CDN contract from MDA to build the three satellite buses required for the RADARSAT Constellation mission (RCM) would be built in a Canadian based manufacturing facility.

The the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) CAscade, SmallSat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer (CASSIOPE) satellite. which uses a Magellan MAC-200 satellite bus, similar to the design expected to be used on RCM. The existing design will be upgraded to accommodate the large, deployable C band surface aperture radar (SAR) and increased power subsystem capacity as required by RCM, plus new GPS and propulsion subsystems to support the precision orbit maintenance requirements and improved avionics to support the seven year mission lifetime. Image c/o CSA.

The ASIF was built within an existing 6,000-sq.ft Magellan facility in Winnipeg and is large enough to accommodate up to three satellites in various stages of assembly. The facility is an ISO Class 8 clean room facility built to satisfy the requirements of any expected current and future satellite programs likely to be initiated by the  Canadian government.

ASIF's construction was funded by an investment of $2.4Mln CDN from Western Economic Diversification Canada (a Federal department focused on business and economic development in Western Canada) and $1.5Mln CDN from Magellan. Of Magellan's contribution, $625,000 has been earmarked for the creation of an Industrial Research Chair in the Faculty of Engineering at UofM, with the remainder being used for the construction of the ASIF, a multi-year R&D program and educational funding.

Comparisons can be made between ASIF and the Microsatellite Science and Technology Center (MSTC) at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratories (SFL). Like the ASIF, The MSTC is a new (opened in 2012) satellite integration facility funded by both the public and private sector with the stated goals of advancing satellite research and increasing manufacturing capacity.

The construction of ASIF is doubtless predicated on the notion that the Canadian government will continue, or even increase, the tempo of its space projects.

Brian Orlotti.
Perhaps Magellan Aerospace's move can be seen as a "passing of the torch"--- a sign that Canada's space industry is in transition rather than decline. Much will depend on how the Federal government chooses to proceed. Greater clarity will likely come after the next federal election.

And the saga continues.

Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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