Monday, February 22, 2016

CSA's Space Technology Development Program Designed to Prepare Canada for Global Opportunities with Other Space Agencies

          By Chuck Black

Jean-Claude Piedboeuf. Photo c/o Linked-In.
According to Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) director general of space science and technology, the real purpose of the Space Technology Development Program (STDP) is to "prepare the space sector in Canada for upcoming global opportunities."

Piedboeuf made the comments during a recent interview with the Commercial Space blog, which says more than anything else about the recent federal transfer of power from the conservatives to the liberals.

Perhaps, as outlined in the the November 6th, 2015 Huffington Post article, "Liberals Unmuzzle Canadian Scientists, Promise They Can Now 'Speak Freely,'" Piedboeuf was simply following through on a Liberal party campaign promise to allow government scientists and experts to comment on their work to the media and the public.

But Piedboeuf, who started out as an assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering at the Ecole de Technologie Superieure before moving on to become a post doctoral fellow at the Technische Universität München, then on to an assistant professorship at the Royal Military College of Canada before joining the CSA in 1996, would prefer to remain on point. 

He says the core of the STDP program stretches back to the founding of the CSA in the late 1980's, and was designed to support Canadian missions and international collaboration:
We're responding to the needs of our clients, our partners such as NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), the government of Canada and Canadian scientists working on studies related to climate change and other areas of importance... 
The core of the program is an assessment of the technology readiness level of any Canadian technology needed for a specific program. 

CSA technology readiness levels, as outlined in the June 8th, 2015 CSA announcement of opportunity on the "Space Technology Development Program Industrial Capability-Building Contribution: STDP AO3." Screenshot c/o CSA.

"Our costs escalate when the tech isn't ready," according to Piedboeuf, who is quite familiar with situations where the technology required is only at the concept or formulation stage (TRL-2) but needs to be quickly brought up to the point where hardware has been validated in either a laboratory (TRL-4) or in the actual, operational environment (TRL-5).

"We need to know what needs to be done to make an idea into an operational tool, which we can use," said Piedboeuf. 

He mentioned the testing which went into the Neptec Tridar, which started out under a rigorous Earth based testing regime before being tested on three space shuttle flights and eventually getting picked up for the Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) Cygnus spacecraft, as outlined in the January 3rd, 2013 post, "What's Next for Neptec?"

Chuck Black.
According to Piedboeuf, the CSA doesn't develop technology under the STDP unless it has good potential for a mission.

For a useful list of upcoming CSA missions, check out the CSA Announcements of Opportunity web page.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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