Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Another Canadian Company Putting Together a Satellite Constellation

          By Henry Stewart

Montreal, PQ. based NorStar Space Data Inc. (NSDI) isn't waiting for the winners of the upcoming federal election on October 19th to revise, review and/or reconfirm Canada's role in space.

Last Thursday, the company announced new partnerships with both IBM and Boeing to help build and operate the proposed NorthStar constellation of 40 Earth imaging satellites, which the company intends to place in low Earth orbit (LEO) over the next few years. The company might even have funding for the project.

Talbot Jaeger, the chief technologist at Orange County, California based  Novawurks, which is expected to build the satellites for NSDI. As outlined in the April 2nd, 2014 You-Tube video "NovaWurks' Hyper-Integrated Satlet - HISat (New Version)," the company intends to build a series of modular and mass producible satellites. Screen shot c/o NovaWurks.

As outlined in the September 17th, 2015 Satellite Today article, "NorStar Space Data Inc Gains IBM, Boeing as Partners," the two new Norstar partners "will help handle the ground segment and analytics for the satellite network, which is split between Earth observation (EO) and space situational awareness (SSA) data."

NSDI CEO Stewart Bain. Photo c/o NSDI.
The article also quoted NSDI CEO Stewart Bain as stating that his company hoped to line up additional partnerships during the remainder of 2015, which is pretty fast work for a project that was essentially unknown as recently as a few months ago. According to Bain:
By the end of this year we would like to have all of our partner organizations for the preliminary phase of the program signed up, to be officially launching that part of the work, and to have all of our partner organizations in the tent to get this project off the ground
The idea for the constellation "stemmed from conversations between the United States Department of Defense (DOD) special operations leadership" and KinetX Aerospace, a Tempe, Arizona based engineering design firm which first gained fame from its contribution towards designing ground station components and software for the IRIDIUM satellite constellation.

The first public announcement of the project was in April, 2015, when NSDI issued a public statement that it was working on "a revolutionary privately-owned satellite information system designed to manage Earth's natural resources, and track space debris accumulating around the planet."

Charles Sirios. Photo c/o Telesystem.ca.
As outlined in the April 15th, 2015 Businesswire press release, "NorStar Space Information System Aims to Change How We See Our World," the company initially received support from various Canadian university and research institutes including the Leading Operational Observations and Knowledge for the North (LOOKNorth) and the Visual Analytics Research and Development Consortium of Canada (VARDEC), plus several private firms, including ABB Ltd., satellite designer NovaWurks, and the Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc. (NSSI) which provides sealift carriage and related services to northern Arctic communities.

NSDI’s leadership team includes Charles Sirois, the ex-chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and the founder, controlling shareholder, chairman and CEO of Telesystem Ltd., a Canadian private equity company. In the 1990's, Sirois put together financing for Orbcomm (which eventually ended up filing for Chapter 11 protection, in September 2000) and for TRW’s proposed non-geostationary orbit (NSGO) constellation called Odyssey, which was shelved in 1998.

The cost of the program is estimated at approximately $3.5Bln  CDN and if funding is forthcoming, it will likely arrive through Sirois. After all, he's done it before. 

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