Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Swiss Space Systems: Just "Fugget About It!"

          By Brian Orlotti

In a story reminiscent of HBO’s ‘The Sopranos,’ Swiss Space Systems (S3), a European space company that had partnered with the City of North Bay, ON to launch a mini-space shuttle, has gone bankrupt beneath a shroud of mystery.

A photo of "our Airbus A340 in its black livery," as posted on the S3 twitter feed (@swissspace) on October 14th, 2016. The plane was to be used as both a "vomit comet" zero-G astronaut training vehicle and as the first stage of the two stage SOAR reusable, suborbital spaceplane. Photo c/o @swissspace.

As outlined in the December 17th, 2016 Bay Today post, "Swiss Space Systems declared bankrupt," S3 was "trying to make space more accessible by creating low-cost, reusable satellite launchers and it also intended to offer zero-gravity flights from North Bay to the general public in 2017."

As outlined in the December 18th, 2016 Nugget.ca post, "S3 bankruptcy 'a surprise'" a court in the Swiss canton of Vaud had declared the company bankrupt last week. S3 has until December 23rd, 2016 to contest the judgement in court.

Here's what we know.

In 2014, S3 entered into a partnership with the City of North Bay and Canadore College which, as outlined in the June 30th, 2014 post, "Canadore College Testing New European Space Plane Design," was brokered by then North Bay Conservative MP Jay Aspin and Federal Industry Minister James Moore. The intent was to launch satellites and conduct zero-gravity tourism and suborbital cargo flights aboard the S3 designed SOAR spaceplane by 2017.

A reusable vehicle, SOAR was to have been launched from an Airbus A300 carrier aircraft and deploy micro and nano-satellites weighing up to 250 kg. SOAR was also to have been capable of both autonomous and crewed flight.

A series of drop tests of a SOAR mock-up at North Bay’s Jack Garland Airport in the same year had gone well, but the company has been silent ever since.

S3 CEO Jaussi in 2014. As outlined in the September 5th, 2016 Bilan Odyssee post, "Le patron de S3 sauvagement agressé," the local police were investigating his August 2016 assault, which likely occurred as a result of "industrial questions." Photo c/o Jean-Paul Guinnard.

Founded in Switzerland in 2012, S3 had shown an impressive pedigree, with over 50 employees drawn from industry, academia, and the military as well as an impressive global network of partners including Breitling, Thales Alenia Space, Dassault Aviation, Space Florida, the European Space Agency and Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

Signs of trouble first appeared in February 2016, when Canadore College announced that the SOAR’s zero-gravity flights would be postponed as S3 was facing financial issues.

Things then took a bizarre turn last August when S3’s CEO, Paul Jaussi was kidnapped by armed assailants and forced to drive into a Swiss forest. He was then beaten unconscious, doused in a flammable liquid, strangled and finally set on fire. Although Jaussi managed to regain consciousness and snuff out the flames, he still suffered severe burns to over 25 per cent of his body.

The coup de grace came on December 14th when a Swiss court declared S3 bankrupt.

The S3 debacle illustrates the risks inherent in a nation being dependent on foreign interests for space access.

Given Canada’s abundance of scientific and engineering talent and the rise of new space powers (such as India) who have developed their own space launch capabilities with far fewer resources than us, why has Canadian industry not risen to the challenge? Will Canadians continue living in the past while government space programs fade into history and companies like MDA exit Canada for new homes in the south?

Perhaps some Canadians need a Tony Soprano-style beating of their own to rouse from their stupor.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016: The Year in Space for Canada

          By Chuck Black

Much like our retired snowbirds, Canada's space sector spent large portions of the year fantasizing about better times while attempting to relocate to balmier climes and taking photos of family get-togethers.

Unfortunately, while we were busy enjoying those fantasies, any government incentives to help us actually do something have been drying up amid Federal promises to "form committees" which "assess the situation."

But back in the real world, historians have at least uncovered intermittent reminders of our once impressive past accomplishments, and small Canadian businesses with private funding led the way towards a potential future. Maybe it will be enough.

With that in mind, here are some of the high and low points for the Canadian space sector in 2016.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen (left) seems to be encouraging the cautious, but curious Minister Bains to pull his finger during a presentation at CSA headquarters in St-Hubert, Que. As outlined in the January 7th, 2016 Canadian Press post, "Canada awards contract to build vision system for space station," both were on hand to announce "that a $1.7-million design contract has been awarded to an Ottawa firm to develop the monitoring system made up of lasers and cutting-edge cameras." Photo c/o  Paul Chaisson/ Canadian Press.

The year began on a high note, with the announcement by Navdeep Bains, the newly minted Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) had allocated $1.7Mln CDN to Kanata, Ontario based Neptec Design Group for the creation of a new damage detection system for close-up surface inspection on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS).

Unfortunately, as outlined in the January 10th, 2016 post, "Innovation Minister's Latest Announcement a Rehash of November 2015 Announcement," that announcement had been made at least once before, in November 2015, and the origins of the contract go back even further, to the previous Stephen Harper conservative government.

Which probably didn't assist the new liberal government's intent to create the impression that they care about science and space.

According to Julie Simard, the CSA's acting manager for strategic communications, the initial November 25th, 2015 announcement that Neptec was awarded the contract was not intended to be an "announcement," but was intended instead to be a "routine administrative procedure," which no one was expected to notice.

Out with the old and in with the new. A  screen-shot  of COM DEV's website on February 8th, 2016 beside a second screen-shot of the same website taken on December 9th, 2016. Screen-shots c/o Honeywell COM DEV. 

In February common shares of Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International were de-listed from the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) as the iconic Canadian company finished up its final task of becoming a subsidiary of New Jersey based Honeywell International

To commemorate, this blog commissioned a five part series covering the short history of COM DEV, beginning with the February 8th, 2016 post on "Part 1: John Hansen, Samuel Singer and Michael Valentine O'Donovan," 

Not all of our fellow journalists were as charitable.

Some even pointed fingers at the newly installed Justin Trudeau government, which decided not to review the sale, even though it may have been legally obligated to do so. For an example of this viewpoint, check out the February 29th, 2016 Space News post, "Why didn’t Canada put up a fight for Com Dev?"

In the final analysis, it's worth noting that the COM DEV sale was, as quoted from our short history of COM DEV cited above, "not not the only recent sale of an iconic and militarily significant Canadian company to the US" nor was it the only Canadian company "built on the back of no small amount of government largesse."

exactEarth Ltd. (XCT) CEO Peter Mabson (center, at the podium) joined Rob Peterman, the director of global business development for the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and quite a number of others, to open the market on February 11th, 2016. The company was first listed on the TSX only two days earlier, on February 9th. Photo c/o CNW Group/TMX Group Limited.

As outlined in the November 7th, 2015 post, "Should the proposed COM DEV sale to US based Honeywell trigger the Investment Canada Act?," the COM DEV sale was not, initially at least, considered an unmitigated disaster for Canada. 

COM DEV spun out its exactEarth subsidiary into a separate, Canadian owned public company, in order to keep the total value of the sale under the amount that triggers an automatic Federal government review under the Investment Canada Act (ICA). The spin-off also gave Canada another hi-tech space-focused company to root for.

But almost immediately, and as outlined in the February 14th, 2016 post, "Newborn exactEarth Faces its First Battle for the Worm," the new firm found itself in direct competition with New Jersey based Orbcomm for the renewal of a "key Canadian satellite-AIS contract."

That contract was originally worth $19Mln CDN when last won by exactEarth, back when it was a subsidiary of COM DEV. However, the dollar amount ended up shrinking substantially by the time the new contract was finally awarded.

As outlined in the May 7th, 2016 post, "Orbcomm, Skywave, exactEarth, CSA Rovers, High School Robotics, MDA, Emerson, Magellan, Honeywell & UrtheCast," the new contract was now only worth $116,000 CDN in total. For exactEarth, this represented an approximately $600,000 CDN reduction in revenue for each month the contract was in force, which was a big hit to take given that the firm only booked $26.6Mln CDN in total revenue for the twelve month period ending October 31st, 2015. 

At this rate, exactEarth will never get the chance to become one of those iconic space companies "built on the back of no small amount of government largesse," like its COM DEV parent.

While Federal ministers were attempting to avoid providing any new funding for space, they seemed to have no problem being associated with the photo opportunities which naturally flow from a space program. Top Left: CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques, CSA president Sylvain Laporte and Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG) space and robotics manager Peter Visscher discuss Canada's newest (and, so far at least, missionless) rovers with Innovation Minister Bains at CSA headquarters on May 5th, 2016. Top Right: Innovation Minister Bains at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) with astronaut David Saint-Jacques and surrounded by students from Marc Garneau Elementary School plus the So-What Youth for Science Program on May 16th, 2016, making the announcement that Saint-Jacques would visit the ISS in 2018. Bottom Left: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, announcing a $48.5Mln CDN upgrade of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Polar Epsilon 2 program on June 17th, 2016. As outlined in the July 17th, 2016 post, "That 2013 "Fixed Pricing" Contract for RCM Might Not be Entirely Fixed," the Polar Epsilon project was an add-on to the original RADARSAT Constellation mission (RCM), which also originated with the previous government. Bottom Right: Minister Bains at CASM again, this time on June 17th, 2016, when he announced an open call for two new Canadian astronauts. Photo's c/o CSA, Adrian Wyld/ Canadian Press & MDA.

By March, it was becoming apparent that many of the hopes placed in the palms of the new liberal government by Canadian space advocates might just possibly be misplaced.

As outlined in the March 13th, 2016 post, "Waiting for Garneau," ex-astronaut and veteran liberal MP Marc Garneau, was too busy with the transport portfolio even to begin to focus on the space industry.

And, as outlined in the March 27th, 2016 post, "No Puppies Falling from the Heavens With Space Funding in this Federal Budget," the March 2016 Federal budget didn't help much either. 

It instead predicted large deficits over the next five years (beginning with $29.4Bln CDN in the first year), which would be used to finance tax-free monthly child benefits, more money for First Nations, infrastructure spending and extended employment insurance benefits to hard-hit regions.

But not space...

And the "big announcement," that the government has committed up to $379Mln CDN over eight years (beginning in 2017), to maintain Canada's commitment to its International Space Station (ISS) partners, is something the government always knew it had to do in order to preserve slots for Canadian astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen to travel to the ISS in 2019 and 2021.

However, those travel commitments were made well before the current government took office, much like that award to Neptec in January 2016, which was discussed earlier in this post.

Science minister Duncan at the at the 8th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC2016) in Ottawa on November 10th, 2016. As outlined in the November 10th, 2016 transcript of her speech under the title, "Minister Duncan Reflections: One Year as Minister of Science," much work has occurred over the past year "to rebuild the government’s respect for and trust in our scientists," but much remained to be done. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

By June, as outlined in the June 13th, 2016 post, "Government Announces Comprehensive Review of Canadian Science," the Federal government felt uncomfortable enough with its performance to announce a "comprehensive review" of just about all Federal funding for science and academics as part of "Canada's Innovation Agenda."

It included the activities of the National Research Council (NRC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), as well as programs like the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the various Canada Research Chairs, Genome Canada and others.

The committee was originally expected to present to Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan before the end of the year. As of December 19th, it hasn't. Twelve presenting days left till the end of the year!

Later in the year, as outlined in the October 18th, 2016 post, "A Quick Update to 'Iconic Macdonald Dettwiler is now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company'," there was a second government announcement that "the Government of Canada is seeking candidates for a Space Advisory Board that is inclusive, forward-thinking and positioned to drive innovation and science in Canada, and that will help identify future opportunities for economic growth that will benefit all Canadians."

Even more recently, as announced in the December 12th, 2016 post, "exactEarth, Lybid-1, the CSA (which Needs more Committees) and the Upcoming 2017 Earth Observation Summit," the CSA organized three more committees tasked with providing "independent advice to the CSA on Space Utilization science priorities and (to) provide feedback on CSA programs and initiatives."

We're hopeful that, in 2017, at least one of those committees will issue some sort of report, announcing something. Frankly, almost any announcement which doesn't involve forming another committee would be an improvement over 2016.

CSA international partnerships with other space agencies also seem to have been less successful in 2016 than in the past.

For example, as outlined in the March 28th, 2016 post, "Japanese Hitomi (ASTRO-H) Satellite Suffers Major Malfunction," noted the failure of the The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hitomi (ASTRO-H) X-ray astronomy satellite, which was launched on February 17th, 2016.

Hitomi carried the Canadian built Astro-H Metrology System (CAMS), a laser alignment system used to measure the distortions in the extendable optical platform which the Hitomi satellite uses for image correction. The CAMS system was built by the Ottawa based Neptec Design Group, in consultation with Canadian researchers.

Also of note was the October 2016 crash of the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, with Canadian participation.

As outlined in the October 24th, 2016 post, "Schiaparelli Goes Splat!," the lander, the first of the two part exobiology on Mars (ExoMars) astrobiology project designed to search for evidence of Martian life, ceased communicating with ESA mission control approximately one minute before its planned touchdown on October 19th.

It wasn't an altogether disastrous year for the CSA.  Canada's Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat) was launched successfully by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), from Sriharikota, India, along with another Canadian satellite owned by Montreal based GHGSat Inc. on June 21st, 2016. As outlined in the June 22nd, 2016 CSA press release, "Canada's M3MSat Successful Launch - Advancing Canada's capabilities to monitor maritime traffic from space," the M3MSat mission "will improve ship detection and marine traffic management in Canadian waters." Photo c/o You-Tube.

In April, this blog focused on the first of two examples of well funded CSA studies which failed to turn into successful programs.

As outlined in the April 22nd, 2016 post, "2009 Canadian Space Agency Report on Indigenous Canadian Launcher said "Yes!" But CSA Didn't Move Forward," the CSA had the option to build and support a small domestic launcher, but chose not to.

And, as outlined in the September 26th, 2016 post, "The REAL Reason Why Canada Won't Be Participating in the NASA Resolve Mission Anytime Soon, Probably!," the CSA really, really wanted to contribute a rover to the NASA Resolve mission, but seems to have messed that up as well.

Once the headquarters of Canada's preeminent space company, MDA HQ in Richmond, BC is now just another regional office for a Canadian subsidiary of a giant US multinational. Photo c/o T-Net.

One Canadian company which seemingly understood better than the rest the need to "get the hell out of Dodge," was Burnaby, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA).

As outlined in the October 7th, 2016 post, "Iconic MacDonald Dettwiler is Now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company with a Canadian Subsidiary," only "eight years after the Federal government rejected its sale to US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) because it was not of "net benefit" to the country, BC based Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) has quietly turned into a Delaware holding company, changed its name, added several new US based board members and moved its corporate headquarters to San Francisco."

Best of all;
... those actions seem to have been undertaken without triggering a formal review under the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the Canadian Federal law governing large, foreign direct investment in Canada, which was used as the legal basis for rejecting the 2008 sale (of MDA to ATK, as outlined in the April 10th, 2008 CBC post, "Federal government blocks sale of MDA space division")
That perception was reflected in both the October 17th, 2016 National Post article "U.S. firm stages ‘stealth takeover’ of Canada’s largest space tech company," and the October 18th, 2016 National Post follow-up article, "EDC financing satellite construction in California because of ‘direct benefit’ to Canada."

Maybe ICA reviews are like the Star Trek prime directive, which seems notable only for being ignored.

Of course, MDA begged to differ. As outlined in the December 16th, 2016 post, "MDA says No Sale of Canadarm Technology to the US Government in NASA RESTORE-L, DARPA RSGS or "Any Other" Project," it claimed, at least as outlined by MDA communications manager Wendy Keyzer, to have never left the country or sold any Canadian technology to the US.

At this point, the real resolution to this difference of opinion appears destined for our "top stories of 2017" coverage.

But perhaps the most important space story of 2016 is how the activities of the space sector are being driven by the private sector, and not the public sector.

As outlined in both the October 3rd, 2016 post, "Sixteen Organizations Currently Developing Small-Sat Launchers," and its follow-up October 12th, 2016 post, "Sixteen More Organizations Currently Developing Small-Sat Launchers," almost three dozen privately funded rocket companies are currently in operation.

And, as outlined in the November 20th, 2016 post, "SpaceX, Telesat & Kepler Just Three of the Dozen Satellite Constellations Currently on the FCC Table," more satellites are expected to launch into orbit over the next few years than have been launched since our current space age began in 1958. 

Most of those new satellites will be privately funded.

Toronto based Kepler Communications, as last profiled in the August 16th, 2016 post, "Kepler Communications Raises $5Mln in Venture Funding," is certainly one of the rising stars of the Canadian space industry, but there are others such as Montreal, PQ based GHGSat which, as outlined in the December 9th, 2016 GHGSat press release, "Claire Makes 500th Measurement!," is slowly turning its small emissions tracking satellite into a major revenue stream.

And maybe that's the real future of Canada's space industry, as private sector companies competing for market share and profits rather than as supplicants of a government funded program with no defined goal.

Author Robert Godwin with Colleen Lapp at the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) Toronto branch meeting at the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) on November 24th, 2016. Godwin was in town to speak on the topic of "The Empire Strikes Out - The Commonwealth Space Program," and to promote his latest books. According to Godwin, Phil Lapp "embodied Canadian Space achievement" and even "put the space in CASI." Among other things, Lapp helped to found the Canadian Astronautical Society (CAS) in 1957, and then helped it merge with the Canadian Aeronautical Institute (CAI) to become the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) in 1962. Photo c/o Chuck Black. Graphic c/o CG Publishing.

It's also noteworthy that two books focused on Canadian aerospace and space pioneers were published this year.

This blog covered those books in the November 27th, 2016 post, "Apogee Publishes New Book on 'The Father of Canadian Astronautics'," and the September 12th, 2016 post on "William Leitch: Presbyterian Scientist & the Concept of Rocket Spaceflight 1854-64."

So what's going to happen next year in space for Canada? Find out, when the Commercial Space blog returns with all new stories beginning January 3rd, 2017.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Friday, December 16, 2016

MDA says No Sale of Canadarm Technology to the US Government in NASA RESTORE-L, DARPA RSGS or "Any Other" Project

          By Chuck Black

A spokesperson for Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) has stated unequivocally that no Canadarm derived technology is included as part of the recently awarded $127Mln USD ($167Mln CDN) contract to supply the chassis, hardware and various other services for the NASA Restore-L space robotic servicing mission, or as part of "any other" project awarded to MDA.

The April 11th, 2016 US Naval Research Laboratory post, "NRL Engineers to Lead Payload Development for Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites," referenced by Wendy Keyer to support her statement that "DARPA’s RSGS program utilizes a robotic payload built by the Naval Research Labs" and not MDA. She goes on to state that, "there has been no “sale of Canadarm technology to the US government” in NASA RESTORE-L, DARPA RSGS or any other project." However, as outlined in the November 20th, 2013 MDA press release, "MDA awarded further work in satellite servicing demonstration for US Government," MDA has received at least one contract, which included "additional robotics work" under the DARPA Phoenix satellite servicing program which could possibly include CanadArm derived technology. This blog has requested clarification from Ms. Keyser and will update this post as additional information becomes available. Graphic c/o NRL

The Restore-L contract, as described in the December 12th, 2016 post, "Will the New Space Systems Loral $127Mln NASA Space Robotic Servicing Contract Help Canada?," was awarded by NASA earlier in the month to Space Systems Loral (SSL) a subsidiary of SSL MDA Holdings, a Delaware incorporated company, which also owns MDA.

In response to the December 12th article, MDA communications manager Wendy Keyzer sent the following e-mail to the Commercial Space blog and requested that it be posted. As outlined in her e-mail:
MDA would like to submit the following corrections to this article: 
  • The NASA contract to SSL is for a spacecraft bus – there is no robotics-related work scope in the contract 
  • The SSL proposal utilizes SSL’s heritage 1300 bus. There is absolutely no ‘technology derived from the iconic Canadian developed Canadarm’ involved in providing the heritage 1300 spacecraft bus for this NASA mission 
  • The robotics payload for the RESTORE-L mission is being built by NASA’s Goddard facility. None of MDA’s Canadian robotics technology is involved in the RESTORE-L payload. 
  • MDA’s 2011 SIS project did not ‘morph into’ RESTORE-L or any other US Government program: RESTORE-L is a NASA program to re-fuel NASA’s Landsat-7 spacecraft and is developed by NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division which continues NASA’s satellite servicing heritage from the 1990s on (See https://sspd.gsfc.nasa.gov/about.html).
What is DARPA RSGS? As outlined in this March 28th, 2016 via Satellite post "DARPA Seeking Private Partners for In-Orbit Servicing Program," the program is "a public-private partnership," using DARPA developed tools "to create a commercially owned and operated Robotic Servicing Vehicle (RSV)." DARPA would contribute "the robotics technology, such as the previously developed Front End Robotic Enabling Near-Term Demonstration (FREND) robotic arm, expertise, and a government-provided launch." The commercial partner would contribute "the satellite to carry the robotic payload, integration of the payload, and the mission operations center and staff." Screenshot c/o via Satellite.
  • There has been no “sale of Canadarm technology to the US government” in NASA RESTORE-L, DARPA RSGS or any other project.
  • SSL MDA Holdings Inc., which is based in San Francisco, California, is a 100% subsidiary of the Canadian public company, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. 
  • SSL MDA Holdings Inc. is simply incorporated in Delaware. There are no operations or employees in Delaware.
As announced by MDA in the October 3rd, 2016 press release, "MDA announces board and senior executive appointments to enable US Access Plan implementation," the peculiar SSL MDA corporate structure was designed specifically to implement MDA's "previously announced U.S. Access Plan strategy."

This blog has requested clarification from Ms. Keyser and others on a number of the items above and will update this post as new information becomes available.
Editors Note: On December 19th 2016, Ms. Keyser sent an e-mail to this blog, stating only that, "I do not have further clarifications to my earlier clarifications."
She may not, but several of her statements seem questionable based on the publicly available evidence. Some of that evidence is detailed above.
Given that, we're not at all sure Keyser is doing a service to the SSL MDA Canadian business unit by letting her statements stand. This blog will continue trying to give MDA and others an opportunity for fair comment. 
No doubt, there will be more on this story in 2017.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

India Strides ahead

          By Brian Orlotti

Cover art c/o Astropolitics.
The December 2nd, 2016 issue of "Astropolitics, The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy," examines India’s national space program from various perspectives.

The analysis come at a time of increasing ambition and prominence for Indian space activities and includes lessons which smaller space powers, particularly Canada, could learn much from.

The articles include:
  • An editorial on the Development of National Space Law for India, by Kumar Abhijeet - Acoording the article, "so long as space activities were completely in the governmental domain, there was not a preference for national space legislation." But with private actor participation, legislation becomes necessary since "even though the activities are private, liability is always public." The article discusses the political will for the development of legislation of this type in India and the logical consequences.
  • Power Dynamics of India’s Space Program by Ajey Lele - "Space power is a relatively nascent discourse that is gaining importance globally," according to Lele. His article examines India’s space program within the global context in order to understand the shifting power balances in the space arena.
  • Space, War, and Deterrence: A Strategy for India by S. Chandrashekar - According to Chandrashekar "India must accept and deal with the reality that conflicts and wars in today’s world will be driven by the increasing interdependence between conventional, nuclear, and space war." The tools for these 21st century wars will be "space-based command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) assets, complemented by other ground- and space-based space situational awareness (SSA) components." According to Chandrashekar, India requires "at a minimum, a four-fold increase in capability to launch satellites into various orbits every year," in order to properly defend itself.

The Centres of the Indian Space programme. Graphic c/o 2013-2014 Annual report of the Government of India, Department of Space

Many of the insights reflected in these analyses are now being acted upon. Two examples include:
  • India and Israel, which are pursuing multiple collaborations in space research. As outlined in the December 9th, 2016 Hindustan Times post, "India, Israel to jointly work in space research and cybersecurity," the announcement was made by the ISRO during a four-day visit by the director of the Israel Space Agency. India and Israel will work together on  projects in cyber security, healthcare data analytics, rocket propulsion,  agriculture, biotech, nanotech, robotics and solar energy.
India’s path towards space is now taking a similar course to that of other space powers. Beginning as a tool of national prestige and technical prowess, India’s space program is becoming an economic multiplier, the cradle of a new private space sector and a means to enhance its relationships with other nations.

A rising tide truly does lift all boats.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, December 12, 2016

exactEarth, Lybid-1, the CSA (which Needs more Committees) and the Upcoming 2017 Earth Observation Summit

          By Henry Stewart

Peter Mabson. Photo c/o NSG.
Here's some of the stories we're currently tracking for the Commercial Space blog:
  • New Space Global (NSG) senior editor David Bulloch has posted an interesting interview with Cambridge, Ontario based exactEarth CEO Peter Mabson, on the New Space Global website
As outlined in the December 12th, 2016 NewSpace Watch post, "10 Questions for Peter Mabson CEO of exactEarth," Mabson is bullish on his firm's prospects since "the global market right now for satellite (automatic identification system) AIS and data services and related products is (only about) $40Mln annually (but its growing). We have somewhat over 40% of that. We are the market share leader. I think we have more than double the revenue of our nearest competitor in the overall space."
According to Mabson, the "next big step for us" was last years announcement of "a major alliance with the Harris Corporation in the US, under which Harris is building 58 hosted payloads for the maritime services that are being integrated with the IridiumNEXT constellation, which is due to start launching in the next few months."
As outlined in the June 8th, 2015 exactEarth press release, "exactEarth and Harris Corporation Form Strategic Alliance to Provide Real-Time Global Maritime Tracking and Information Solutions," the new service will "provide customers with the fastest, most accurate vessel information available."
The full article is available online for a small fee. Journalists all gotta eat, so check it out. 
The 1845 kg Lybid-1 communications satellite. Graphic c/o Kyiv Post.
  • Anyone remember the Lybid-1? 
As outlined on Gunter's Space page, the Lybid-1 is a Ukrainian communications satellite built by Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) under contract to the State Space Agency of the Ukraine (SSAU), but never launched because the 2014 Ukrainian crisis heated up and Russia occupied the Crimea. 
However, at least according to the December 9th, 2016 Interfax Ukraine post, "SSAU seeks to prepare for launch of first Ukrainian satellite Lybid in 2017," the SSAU is looking to rectify that oversight. 
As outlined in the article, Export Development Canada (EDC), provided a $254.6Mln CDN loan under "Ukrainian government guarantees to finance the project in the summer of 2009. Initially it was planned to put the Ukrainian satellite into orbit in 2012, later it was postponed to 2013 and then to April 2014."
The post goes on to state that the completed satellite is currently being stored at Reshetnev in Krasnoyarsk (Russia), while the "Canadian partner is holding talks with Russia to get guarantees to launch the satellite" sometime in 2017. 
Screenshot of the CSA webpage outlining the requirements of the new committee's. Screenshot c/o CSA.
  • It looks as if the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), unlike most other Federal departments, doesn't have enough committees. 
The solution, at least as outlined in the December 8th, 2016 CSA web page titled, "The CSA is establishing three new science advisory committees," is to organize three new ones. They include a Solar-Terrestrial Science Advisory Committee (STSAC), an Atmospheric Science Advisory Committee (ASAC) and an Earth System Science Advisory Committee (ESSAC). 
The new committees will be tasked with providing "independent advice to the CSA on Space Utilization science priorities and provide feedback on CSA programs and initiatives."
Of course, this isn't the first time the Trudeau government has asked for "independent advice" on science. As outlined in the June 13th, 2016 post, "Government Announces Comprehensive Review of Canadian Science," the federal government initially announced an independent review of federal funding for science and academics in June 2016. That review is still ongoing. 
And, in October 2016, the Innovation Ministry announced that "the Government of Canada is seeking candidates for a Space Advisory Board that is inclusive, forward-thinking and positioned to drive innovation and science in Canada, and that will help identify future opportunities for economic growth that will benefit all Canadians." 
That "new" space advisory board replaced an older one, which was first discussed in the November 9th, 2014 post, "Industry Minister Moore Announces Space Advisory Board Members." It was composed of illustrious and well known space experts, including retired astronaut Chris Hadfield and retired general and former CSA president Walt Natynczyk, but never publicly issued a report.
Here's hoping for better luck with the three new committees. 
Promotion graphic for 2017 EO Summit. Graphic c/o EO Summit.
The summit is expected to be the largest Canadian focused Earth observation (EO) event in 2017. 
Organizers expect upwards of 400 participants and more than 100 speakers to discuss various EO applications in 40 thematic sessions including climatic changes, disaster management, ocean and coastal, the North, agriculture, resources management, sustainable development, atmosphere, forestry, mining, advanced SAR innovation and many others.
For more information on the event, please check out the 2017 Earth Observation website, at https://crss-sct.ca/conferences/csrs2017
For more stories on the Canadian and international space industry, check out upcoming editions of the Commercial Space blog. 

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

Will the New Space Systems Loral $127Mln NASA Space Robotic Servicing Contract Help Canada?

          By Chuck Black

Using technology derived from the iconic Canadian developed Canadarm, Palo Alto, CA based Space Systems Loral (SSL) has received a $127Mln USD ($167Mln CDN) contract to supply the chassis, hardware and various other services for the NASA Restore-L space robotic servicing mission.

Page three of an undated power-point presentation on "Restore-L Mission Information; Package for NASA Solicitation #NNH15HEOMD001 Spacecraft Bus Concepts To Support The Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission And In Space Robotic Servicing." As outlined in the June 23rd, 2016 NASA post, "NASA’s Restore-L Mission to Refuel Landsat 7, Demonstrate Crosscutting Technologies," the program will launch a robotic spacecraft in 2020 to demonstrate on-orbit satellite servicing and refueling, using a "carefully curated suite of satellite-servicing technologies." Graphic c/o Ron Ticker/NASA.

The new contract could help nudge SSL, as the present US reseller of this technology, into developing its own satellite servicing business. But whether Canada stands to benefit is another question entirely.

As outlined in the December 6th, 2016 Space News post, "NASA’s Restore-L contract nudges SSL closer to in-orbit servicing," SSL, a part of Delaware based SSL-MDA Holding, which also includes Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), has "been actively entertaining the notion of launching a commercial in-orbit servicing business, one that would combine MDA’s past experience from the almost-launched Space Infrastructure Services (SIS) system in the early 2010s with SSL’s knowledge of satellite manufacturing."

Landsat 7 status as of 2014. Graphic c/o USGS/ EO Portal.
According to the post, "Restore-L is intended for launch in 2020, after which NASA will direct the spacecraft to dock with Landsat-7 in low Earth orbit for a test flight. Landsat-7 launched in 1999 aboard a Delta 2 rocket, and will have been in orbit for more than two decades based on current mission timelines."

As discussed in the January 15th, 2012 post, "MDA Satellite Servicing Agreement with Intelsat Expires," the SIS derived from a March, 2011 agreement between MDA and Luxemberg based Intelsat, to resell technology developed originally in the 1970's by DSMA Atcon (which developed a robot to load fuel into CANDU nuclear reactors) and Spar Aerospace (which was eventually purchased by MDA), using Canadian government funding.

That technology eventually became the Canadarm used to deploy, maneuver and capture payloads for the US space shuttle fleet; the mobile servicing system (MSS) which is used for much the same role on board the International Space Station (ISS); and the special purpose dexterous manipulator (SPDM), which is also known as DEXTRE and is also on board the ISS.

Given 30 years of operational history, there was certainly no problem with Canadarm technology.

Any robotic servicing satellite able to repair or refuel another satellite can also inspect and disable it. That makes it a potential weapon. That's also why, as outlined in the August 9th, 2016 post, "An Overview of the SSL/DARPA On-Orbit Satellite Assembly Program," at least some of the funding for SSL technology development has been coming from US military programs, which prefer to fund US owned companies with their manufacturing, research and development facilities located on US soil. This makes it difficult to create Canadian jobs using US military contracts, although national governments have been known to negotiate custom agreements when it suits their purpose. Graphic c/o DARPA.

However, as outlined in the November 1st, 2011 Space News post, "MDA Puts Sat Servicing on Hold; Core Businesses Doing Well," the real problem had to do with US government reticence towards funding a non-US based program. As outlined in the article:
NASA and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are expected to release requests for bids for a satellite servicing test project in the coming weeks. But whether MDA, as a Canadian company, will be permitted to bid on the work remains unclear. MDA has increased the U.S. content — and thus the development cost — of the system in an attempt to get U.S. regulatory approval.
(Then MDA CEO Dan) Friedmann said MDA has all but put the project on hold while waiting to see how NASA and DARPA proceed.  
"It is not prudent for us to proceed without getting clarity from the government and clarity on our participation in those programs,” Friedmann said. “We have an excellent customer, Intelsat. They do not have infinite patience, but they are patient."
Intelsat eventually ran out of patience. The deal fell through in January 2012 after the partners determined that they were unable to interest the US government in their program.

That satellite services project eventually morphed into Resolve-L and several other US government programs which continue to this day.

In 2012, MDA created a second opportunity to bid on US contracts, through its purchase of SSL. As outlined in the  June 27th, 2012 post, "MacDonald Dettwiler buys Space Systems Loral for $875M," the acquisition turned the company "into a global communications player." It also opened the door "for MDA to begin subcontracting US space projects like those for on-orbit satellite servicing through the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)."

But the door still needed to open just a little bit wider. It took MDA another four years to put the final pieces into place to facilitate sales to the US government.

A high level overview in an MD advertisement on page 27 of the November 28th, 2016 edition of the Hill Times, an Ottawa based "influential must-read for the savvy political and government insider." MDA and SSL are currently walking a fine line in fulfilling both the Canadian government requirements needed for bids on contracts such as the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) and the US government requirements to bid on contracts like the NASA Restore-L. Graphic c/o Hill Times.

Those included the creation of a San Francisco, California based holding company (SSL MDA Holdings) to serve as the operating entity for "all MDA businesses, including both the US and Canada," and the separation of SSL and MDA into unique and separate subsidiaries of the larger operating entity.

As outlined in the October 7th, 2016 post "Iconic MacDonald Dettwiler is Now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company with a Canadian Subsidiary," and its October 18th, 2016 update, "A Quick Update to "Iconic Macdonald Dettwiler is now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company," those steps were put into place within the last few months, which dovetails well with the recent NASA Restore-L award.

All of which provides no clear answer to the question of whether Canadians benefit from the sale of this technology to the US.

MDA executives seems to understand this situation, at least off the record, and have embarked on a campaign to address it, by running advertisements in various publications and giving presentations at industry specific public events such as the recent Canadian Aerospace Summit.

But MDA may need more than a PR campaign if they really want to convince Canadians that the sale of Canadarm technology to the US government is good for Canada, at least under the current constraints.

Here's hoping they try something soon.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Una Mano Lava L’altra: One Hand Washes the Other

          By Brian Orlotti

The European Space Agency (ESA), despite rising costs and the recent loss of the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), has approved additional funding for a variety of programs, including the second phase of Europe’s ExoMars program, currently scheduled for launch in 2020.

Nice room. European Union and ESA bureaucrats, PR flacks and scientists gather for the 2016 Ministerial Council, which was held in Lucerne, Switzerland on December 1st - 2nd. As outlined in the December 2nd, 2016 ESA press release, "ESA Ministers Ready ESA for a United States in Europe in the Era of Space 4.0," the increased funding allocated by ESA members during the meeting, "demonstrates once more that ESA’s Member States consider space as a strategic and attractive investment with a particularly high socio-economic value." For more on the ESA's vision, check out the undated ESA web page on "What is Space 4.0." Photo c/o ESA & C. Diener.

At a December 2nd, 2016 ESA Council meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, ESA member states agreed to cough up an additional €440Mln EUR ($626Mln CDN) to fund the launch of the ExoMars Rover.

ESA DG Wörner. Photo c/o DLR.
As outlined in the December 2nd, 2016 New Scientist post "ESA approves 2020 ExoMars rover despite crash earlier this year," this rover, the second stage of the €1.3Bln EUR ($1.85Bln CDN) ExoMars program is scheduled to land on the Red Planet in 2021 and drill into the Martian soil to search for traces of microbial life.

Despite the approved increase, ESA’s Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner emphasized that the ExoMars program is not receiving a ‘blank cheque’ from its members. ExoMars will consume a 1% increase in ESA’s science budget, also agreed to at the meeting.

ESA’s science budget increase dovetails with other funding increases announced at the same meeting:
  • ESA’s 22 member states approved €960 million EUR ($1.367Bln CDN) to extend European participation in the International Space Station (ISS) to 2024. 
Nice building. ESA HQ in Paris, France. Established in 1975 and currently with 22 member states (Canada is an associate member) the ESA has a worldwide staff of about 2,000 and an annual budget of about €5.25Bln Euros ($7.48Bln CDN). Photo c/o Jan Woener's blog.

The recent ESA Council meeting also highlights the ‘tit-for-tat’ nature of government space funding.

In this case, ESA member nations have agreed to prop up the ExoMars program with the expectation that they will receive national contracts in kind for future ESA projects (such as in the ARTES program), in amounts roughly equivalent to the money they've committed.

This is a well understood policy which has served as the core of ESA procurement since its formation in 1975. As outlined on the September 26th, 2007 ESA webpage on "ESA Industry Portal on Industrial Policy and Geographical Distribution," the ESA plan is as follows:
From the outset, the ESA (and its preceding organisations) applied a principle of 'fair return' which has been constantly evolving. 
The main rule adopted by the Agency since its Council at Ministerial level in March 1997 is that the ratio between the share of a country in the weighted value of contracts, and its share in the contribution paid to the Agency, must be of X per cent (e.g 0,98%) by the end of a given period. 
That ratio is called the industrial return coefficient.
The recent Schiaparelli fiasco, if nothing else, proves the old Italian proverb: ‘One hand washes the other.’
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Another Call for Federal Assistance in Space, plus Kepler, Clyde Space, ULA & Mars One, Which Can Now Sell Stock

          By Henry Stewart

This publication has always felt that bankers, businessmen and bureaucrats were more important to our conquest of space than scientists or engineers.

With that in mind, here are a few of the items we're currently tracking for the Commercial Space blog:

Canada isn't the only country with ongoing discussions and differences of opinion over "space policy." Shown above is a May 24th, 2015 recording of Dr. Scott Pace, a professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, speaking on "U'S Space Policy Choices." Canadian policy discussions are usually more limited on scope (reflecting our smaller capabilities) and more circumspect. Canadian space activities are more likely to depend on government funding and subcontract work to larger, international firms and no subcontractor or collaborating university wants to come out in public opposition to a well paying client. Screenshot c/o You-Tube.
  • Another person has come out in favor of using Federal government resources to assist at least the government supported components of our Canadian space industry.
The December 5th, 2016 SpaceRef.ca post, "Op Ed - The Government Should Support Canada Becoming a Small Satellite Manufacturing Hub," begins with a partial list of privately owned companies (including two Canadian) which have recently made requests to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch large constellations of satellites into a variety of Earth orbits for a variety of reasons.
The article suggests that, since this satellite market is growing and seems to be bypassing Canada, the Federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has "an opportunity in the small satellite sector to make an impact that will foster innovation, create more high tech jobs, keep them in Canada, and it should act now" by offering up "more support" to organizations like the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, a competition for teams of Canadian university students to design and build small "cube-sats."
Not that there's anything wrong with that.  
It's just that organizing student run contests to build small, custom satellites for scientific use is a far cry from funding, building and delivering the large numbers of standardized, commercial satellite constellations expected to go into orbit within the next few years. 
For the complete list of FCC applications, and some business context as to why this is happening, check out the November 20th, 2016 post, "SpaceX, Telesat & Kepler Just Three of the Dozen Satellite Constellations Currently on the FCC Table."
An October 2016 discussion on "The Resurgence of Constellations – Small & Large," from the Asia Pacific Satellite Communications Council (APSCC) 2016 Satellite Conference and Exhibition, which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from October 4th - 6th, 2016.  Screenshot c/o You-Tube.
It's also worth noting that the author of the piece, SpaceRef CEO Marc Boucher has also been active in the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), where he helped craft the March 7th, 2016 CSCA press release, "2016 Canadian Budget Needs to Recognize Canada’s Space Program as a National Priority" and the August 4th, 2015 CSCA press release, "The Canadian Space Commerce Association Calls on all Federal Parties to Commit to a Long-Term Space Plan."
Of course, Boucher isn't the only individual or organization advocating for assistance to Canadian space activities. As outlined in the November 28th, 2016 post, "An ESA Event, SEDS Objects, the CSA Budget Shrinks, the JWST & the Downsview Aerospace Hub," the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space Canada (SEDS-Canada) have also recently released an editorial critical of Liberal government performance in this area.
But, as outlined in the November 25th, 2016 post, "Another Op'nin Another Show... Next CDN Space Policy June 2017," the Federal government has at least offered up the promise to unveil an updated Canadian space policy document in June 2017. 
They've also promised a "chief science advisor." As outlined in the December 5th, 2016 iPolitics post, "Liberals may protect chief science advisor with legislation: Duncan," at least that search seems to be moving forward. 
So while its unlikely that the Trudeau government will offer up the billions of dollars currently available on the international market needed to fund and support domestic satellite construction, here's hoping that they'll come up with enough of something to placate their increasingly strident critics.
The reason why Clyde Space is an award winning space business and an effective competitor in international markets has more to do with marketing savvy than space science or government support. The company has a standardized listing of several dozen common parts and modular components able to fit together into satellites able to perform a wide variety of missions. Clyde Space first gained fame in 2014, when the 3U cubesat bus was used in Ukube-1, the UK Space Agency's first national spacecraft. Photo c/o Clyde Space.
  • Toronto based Kepler Communications has selected Glasgow, UK based Clyde Space to supply two 3U spacecraft, which will launch Kepler’s novel software defined radio (SDR) and antenna array in 2017.
As outlined in the November 30th, 2016 Kepler press release, "Kepler Communications selects Clyde Space as Spacecraft Manufacturer," the microsat "will support Kepler in deploying its in-space telecommunications network, which will use nanosatellites to relay data in real-time for devices deployed in terrestrial, remote operations and satellites deployed in low Earth orbit."
The spacecraft will be built and tested by Clyde Space in Glasgow for delivery next autumn. 
Currently, Clyde Space produces "produces an average of six satellites each month for a range of customers world-wide and is pursuing an expansion in the United States." 
Kepler has applied to the FCC to deploy up to 140 satellites, including spares, in a non-geostationary (NGSO) low-earth polar orbit with seven orbital planes between 2017 and 2022 in order to build a wireless pipeline to facilitate machine to machine communications.
Come on down to the ULA website, where "value is more than a price tag," many options are available and prices start at $109Mln US ($145Mln CDN). Photo c/o ULA.
  • Speaking of marketing initiatives, United Launch Alliance (ULA), in an effort to demonstrate that they provide value with their rocket launch prices, have unveiled an interactive website which offers potential customers the ability to get price estimates for Atlas V launches.
As outlined in the November 30th, 2016 Space News post, "ULA debuts online pricing tool for Atlas launches," the new ULA "RocketBuilder" website is "designed to let users select variables about their launch, including their desired orbit, payload mass, fairing size and desired launch date. The site then calculates the estimated price of the Atlas 5 rocket for that mission."
The article also quotes ULA chief executive Tory Bruno as saying, "it will be easier to buy a ride in space than to get a plane ticket home for the holidays.” 
According to Bruno, “all of that guesswork and all of that murkiness that an operator has to go through to figure out launch services, how that balances against the choices they make on their spacecraft, that is a thing of the past.” 
Of course, like any sales promotional material. the site also estimates the “added value” that ULA argues an Atlas 5 launch provides. 
According to the article, that value supposedly "comes in the form of insurance savings because of the vehicle’s high reliability, elimination of costs from launch delays and increased revenue the satellite can generate from an extended lifetime enabled by the Atlas’ accuracy in placing the satellite in the desired orbit." 
Let the buyer beware.
Graphic c/o Daily Dot.
  • Speaking of business, its worth noting that one of the craziest business pivots of the year is the reverse merger of Netherlands-based Mars One with Switzerland based Innovative Finance AG (InFin). 
As outlined in the December 2nd, 2016 Mars One press release, "Mars One Takeover Approved by InFin Shareholders," the takeover of the failed mobile payment company will provide "a solid path to funding the next steps of Mars One’s mission to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars."
At the very least, they'll be able to sell stock on the Frankfurt stock exchange, where InFin is already available and publicly traded. 
The press release quoted Moritz Hunzinger, the CEO of InFin, as stating "the board of InFin has received a strong mandate from its shareholders for the Mars One Ventures takeover. We're looking forward to the exciting new steps that lay ahead."
Also quoted was Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp, who stated, "the Mars One board will approve the acquisition as soon as possible. Once this deal is completed, we’ll be in a much stronger financial position as we begin the next phase of our mission. Very exciting times!"
The reverse takeover has been on the table since November. As outlined in the November 7th, 2016 Ars Technica post, "Mars One merges with failed mobile payment company so it can sell stock," it's not currently clear what resources InFin brings to the deal beyond the access to the Frankfurt stock exchange.
Nor is it clear if Mars One has the technical capacity to actually develop a plan to land people on Mars. Recent attempts to counter that impression, such as the one outlined in the September 15th, 2015 Business Insider post, "Two MIT students lay out the facts about why the Mars One mission is bogus," have typically met with failure.
But privately held, BC based UrtheCast raised over $77Mln CDN selling stock after going public via a reverse takeover of publicly-traded Longford Energy Inc in June 2013. 
There is no reason why a publicly traded Mars One could not end up doing the same, or more.
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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