Monday, November 07, 2016

MacDonald Dettwiler, Chinese Rockets, SpaceX, the X-37B and the EmDrive

          By Henry Stewart

Here are a few of the stories currently being tracked by the Commercial Space Blog:

MDA HQ in Richmond, BC. Photo c/o T-Net.
  • New Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) CEO Howard Lance is evidently off to a slow start, but it's not his fault. As outlined in the November 2nd, 2016 Space News post, "Canada’s MDA says commercial satellite market shows unexpected softness," the Canadian satellite builder and geospatial-services provider has "pulled back from earlier optimistic assessments of the global commercial telecommunications satellite business," saying strong customer interest in new satellites was not translating into contracts. According to Lance, 2016 will end with no more than around 16 orders, similar to 2015, but well down from the historical average of around 20 satellites. 
Lance made the comments during the quarterly investor conference call on November 1st, 2016. Consolidated revenues for the quarter were down slightly to $495.9Mln CDN compared to $515.4Mln CDN for the same period of 2015. The decrease reflected lower revenues from communications business line, partially offset by higher revenues from the surveillance and intelligence business lines.
Of course, things aren't all bad. As outlined in the November 1st, 2016 MDA press release, "MDA reports third quarter 2016 results, declares quarterly dividend," MDA continued to make "substantive progress to obtain facility security clearance for its operations in California, through which the Company can effectively pursue and execute the broad range of U.S. government contracts including defence and intelligence work. In addition to investments in organizational and required regulatory structure, the Company has also started building out a government business development and management team."
MDA has also "declared a quarterly dividend of $0.37 per common share payable on December 30, 2016 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 15th, 2016."
According to the article, "the CZ-5 belongs to a new generation of rockets that will be used in China’s future space projects," including lunar and Martian exploration programmes.
The Long March 5 is planned to roughly match the capabilities of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV heavy rocket.
The company currently has a backlog of about 70 missions, worth more than $10Bln USD ($13.4Bln CDN). 
  • The International Business Times is reporting that the US Air Force is currently testing out a version of the EmDrive electromagnetic microwave thruster on the X-37B unmanned military space plane, while the Chinese government has made sure to include the EmDrive on its orbital space laboratory Tiangong-2. 
As outlined in the November 7th, 2016 International Business Times post, "Space race revealed: US and China test futuristic EmDrive on Tiangong-2 and mysterious X-37B plane," China and the US both have a vested interest in the EmDrive.
In a separate report, the results of NASA's earlier tests on the EmDrive have been leaked, and they seem to reveal that the controversial propulsion system really does work.
As outlined in the November 7th, 2016 Science Alert post, "Leaked NASA paper shows the 'impossible' EM Drive really does work," the drive "is capable of generating impressive thrust in a vacuum (without fuel), even after error measurements have been accounted for."
The full paper is now available online under the title, "Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio Frequency Cavity in Vacuum."
The EmDrive, also known as the Cannae drive, was last profiled in the September 6th, 2016 post, "'Impossible' Cannae Drive Will Sink or Swim on Proposed Demonstration Flight." 
For more, check out upcoming editions of the Commercial Space blog.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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