Thursday, August 27, 2015

Part 7 of The Empire Strikes Out - Canada's Defence & The Commonwealth Space Program

Canada Rejects the Commonwealth Space Program

!960 newspapers article on BlueStreak.
By Robert Godwin
The general confusion during the late 1950s about the merits of missile defence led to several questionable strategic decisions made by the Governments of Canada and the United Kingdom. 
The possibility of a third contestant in the Space Race, in the form of a Commonwealth space program hinged on the sharing of technology and financing amongst the various invested nations, but more significantly on the political choices made regarding the future defensive postures of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
On September 26th 1960 The British Aviation Minister, Peter Thorneycroft, arrived in Ottawa to solicit Canada's support.[1] The Diefenbaker government reversed their position of a year earlier and made it known that they were not interested in participating in a Commonwealth space program.[2]

With the Bomarc issue still hanging in the air Canada's government expressed little interest in telling the Canadian public that they might be considering financing yet another missile program, regardless of what it was for; especially since they had already committed to Black Brant. This was clearly the moment when the plans for a Commonwealth space program died.

The dream had lasted barely two years.

In some respects this was one of the critical moments when Britain ceased to be the mother of Empire and reluctantly became part of Europe. The choices remaining to Westminster were to concede space to the USA and the Soviet Union, or make a deal with Germany and France.

In early 1961 discussions continued briefly between Canada, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Holland, Norway and Switzerland for a joint Commonwealth/Europe space launcher. Delegates from these countries were taken to see the Blue Streak facilities but the Canadian government, when it was paying any attention to space at all, would continue to look at the bigger opportunity offered by its southern neighbor. Rather than commit to a Commonwealth/ European space program Canada's government chose to sit on the sidelines with observer status.

A formal agreement was undertaken by the UK, France and the United States to investigate the benefits of trans-Atlantic satellite communications. Canada was to be kept "fully informed" of their progress. The already scheduled Canadian Alouette satellite would, once launched, perhaps provide some insights into the problems associated with long-range satellite communications.[3]

Now resettled in England James C. Floyd was leading a team at Hawker Siddeley to design a solar powered communications satellite to be launched by Blue Streak or the newly proposed European launcher...

To Continue Reading Part 7 of 
"The Empire Strikes Out - Canada's Defence & The Commonwealth Space Program"

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Robert Godwin.
Robert Godwin is the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books. He is also the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum

He has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series "The NASA Mission Reports" and appeared on dozens of radio and television programs in Canada, the USA and England as an expert not only on space exploration but also on music. 

His books have been discussed on CNN, the CBC, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes. He produced the first ever virtual reality panoramas of the Apollo lunar surface photography and the first multi-camera angle movie of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. His latest book was written with the late Frederick I Ordway III and is called "2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey" about the history of spaceflight at the movies.


1. Toronto Star Sept 26 1960
2. Globe and Mail Sep 28 1960
3. Globe and Mail May 27 1961

Last Week: "BOMARC; the Blue Streak; the Blue Steel or the Douglas Skybolt and Woomera," in part six of "The Empire Strikes Out - Canada's Defence & The Commonwealth Space Program."

Next Week: "The Diefenbaker Government Collapses," as part eight of "The Empire Strikes Out - Canada's Defence & The Commonwealth Space Program" continues!

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