Sunday, April 16, 2017

Part 5: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

Winding up the 1970's, The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Spar Aerospace, 

MacDonald Dettwiler, a Seminal 1974 "Canadian Policy for Space" & the Canadarm

By Graham Gibbs & W. M. ("Mac") Evans

This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief history of the Canadian space program, written by two of the major participants.

The 1970's, Part 3

The 1970’s also saw the  beginning of Canada’s interests in using satellites for observing the earth. During the 1960’s, NASA had launched several weather satellites, including the Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) and the NIMBUS satellites. Canadian scientists, primarily at the National Research Council (NRC) and the Meteorological Services of Canada (MSC), had participated in using these satellites on an experimental basis. In 1971, the MSC set up a Satellite Data Laboratory at its new headquarters in Downsview, Ontario. 
Canadian scientists, primarily with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), had become active in pursuing the possibilities of remote sensing satellites to monitor events on earth.  
In 1969 they established the Interdepartmental Committee on Resource Satellites and Remote Airborne Sensing to oversee Canada’s growing interest in this area. In 1971 the scientists were able to convince the government to establish the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) within the Department of Energy Mines and Resources (EMR), now Natural Resources Canada, to be the lead agency in coordinating remote sensing activities in Canada.
An agreement was concluded for a joint experimental program with NASA using the first remote sensing satellite to be launched, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) 1, launched in 1972 and later renamed LANDSAT 1. DOC agreed to convert the Prince Albert Radar Laboratory so it could receive data from LANDSAT 1 and let a contract to a start-up firm in Vancouver called MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) for a quick-look facility for rapid processing of the data from the satellite. 
MDA produced a world-leading processor which allowed Canada to process the first images from LANDSAT 1 before the Americans did. MDA would go on to be the world leader in the supply of ground receiving and processing systems for remote sensing satellites.
Around 1974 NASA commenced planning for a satellite (called SEASAT) that would carry a radar instrument to provide images of the earth, by day, or by night and through clouds (the LANDSAT satellite carried an optical instrument that could only take images in sunlight and on cloudless days). This was of great interest to CCRS and an agreement was signed with NASA that allowed Canada to receive SEASAT data upon its launch in 1978. 
An advanced digital processor built by MDA under contract from CCRS allowed Canada to produce the world’s first digitally processed image from a satellite. The MDA processor became the world standard. SEASAT failed a few months after launch and when NASA announced that it had no intentions of replacing the satellite, CCRS and the scientific community in Canada launched a study program (called SURSAT) to investigate the possibilities for a Canadian radar satellite. 
In the midst of this rapid growth in interest in space by a number of government departments, the Ministry of State for Science and Technology (MOSST) issued in 1974 a “Canadian Policy for Space.” This was a seminal document that set the guidelines for the future of the Canadian Space Program. 
The Policy stipulated that Canada’s primary interest in space would be to use it for applications that contribute directly to the achievement of national goals. This provided the policy support for the recommendation in the 1967 Chapman Report (previously discussed in part two of this series) that Canada’s space program should move away from science towards applications, particularly in communications and remote sensing. 
Some government policies enjoy broad bipartisan support across party lines over the decades. Such is the case with the 1974 “Canadian Policy for Space,” which defined Canada’s primary focus in space as the development of applications that "contribute directly to the achievement of national goals." Those goals were reiterated as recently as the May 2007 "Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Report" and the June 2009 "Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Progress Report." It's quite likely that this policy will be reiterated again in June 2017, when the current Federal government is scheduled to unveil an updated Canadian space policy. Graphic c/o
The Canadian Policy for Space specifically identified the need to support the development of the Canadian space industry by moving government space research and development out into industry, by using government purchasing policies to encourage industry development and by requesting departments to submit plans to ensure that Canada’s satellite systems are designed, developed and constructed in Canada by Canadians, using Canadian components. 
This latter part of the Canadian Policy for Space led to the development of the Prime Contractor Policy adopted by the government in 1976 as the primary means for supporting the development of the Canadian space industry. 
The Prime Contractor Policy supported the creation in Canada of a single company, SPAR Aerospace, (which purchased the space assets of RCA and Northern Electric in 1976) capable of producing complete satellite systems. 
The government supported this effort through various means including: the expansion of the David Florida Laboratories to provide the facilities required to integrate and test complete satellites before launch; negotiating progressively higher Canadian content provisions in future Telesat satellite procurement's which helped SPAR become the prime contractor for the ANIK D series of satellites; paying the so-called premium for Canadian content on the ANIK C and ANIK D satellites; and creating a contracted-out space technology development program.
George Page, the deputy-director of the Kennedy Space Centre (on right) and Claus Wagner-Bartak (with mustache and glasses), along with other employees from North York's Spar Aerospace Ltd., Ottawa's National Research Council and CAE giving the thumbs up to the Canadarm they developed for the U.S. space shuttle in 1981. The 1970's was a tough time for Spar, which was formed in 1967 when the Canadian managers of De Havilland's Special Products and Applied Research Division, bought the division and renamed it. But the Federal governments decision to support a single Canadian company capable of creating complete satellite systems and other large space projects gave Spar a role it held until 1999, when that role was taken over by MDA. Photo c/o Toronto Public Library.
In direct contradiction to the recommendation in the Chapman Report that called for a central coordinating and contracting body for space, the Canadian Policy for Space directed that the utilization of space systems should be through activities proposed and budgeted by departments within their established mandates. This effectively put a stake in the heart of those proposing the creation of a national space agency. It is interesting to note that about a decade later, this same Ministry of State prepared the proposal for, and got government approval for, the creation of a centralized Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The Canadian Policy for Space recognized the importance of international cooperation to Canada’s space program (most of the programs noted above were international cooperative efforts) and encouraged the further participation of Canada in international space activities. This policy supported the underlying rationale for Canada becoming a Closely Cooperating State of the European Space Agency (ESA) in January 1979. 
Finally, the Canadian Policy for Space noted that “Canada will continue to rely on other nations for launch vehicles and services and we should enhance access to such services by participating in the supplying nation’s space program.” This was the policy rationale for Canada undertaking the Canadarm program for the US Space shuttle system.

In response to NASA’s invitation for foreign involvement in their “Post Apollo” program (i.e. the space transportation system now known at the Space Shuttle); Canada decided to contribute the remote manipulator system (eventually named the "Canadarm"). This decision was based in part upon an unsolicited proposal for the design and development of a robotic arm for the shuttle received from a consortium of Canadian industries led by SPAR Aerospace. After considerable debate in the Interdepartmental Committee on Space (ICS) it was decided to assign responsibility for the program to the NRC.
This decision can be seen as another reflection of the dictate of the Canadian Policy for Space that space activities should be conducted by departments within their established mandates. This decision broke the hegemony of the Department of Communications as the only department capable of putting hardware into space. 
In 1974 a Project Office was established in NRC to manage the program and on July 18, 1975, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between NASA and NRC for a cooperative program for the development and procurement of a Space Shuttle Attached Remote Manipulator System (later to be called Canadarm). 
Under the terms of the MOU, Canada undertook to develop and deliver to NASA one arm and NASA agreed to procure at least an additional three arms. Consistent with the directive of the Canadian Policy for Space to support Canadian industry, NRC contracted the design and construction of the first arm to SPAR. The technical challenges of building the world’s first space robot were formidable and had the added complexity of being associated with a human flight program. But once again, as in the Alouette days, Canadian engineers from both government and industry were up to the challenge. 
The 1970’s saw the most dramatic development in the history of the Canadian Space Program. It was the most prolific period in the development of space policies culminating in the Canadian Policy for Space announced by Madame Jeanne Sauvé, the Minister of State for Science and Technology in 1974. 
The program shifted from being science based to being based on the pursuit of applications to meet national needs. Canada became the first country in the world to have its own domestic satellite communications system operating in geosynchronous orbit. Development of the Canadian space industry became a major priority resulting in the emergence of the industrial capability to produce complete satellite systems. 
During the decade, Canada had more satellites launched than at any other period before or since. The government’s annual space budget grew from less than $20Mln CDN in 1970 to more than $90Mln CDN by the end of the decade. More departments were becoming interested in participating in the program and by the end of the decade, DOC’s share of the government’s space expenditures had fallen from its domination in 1970 to less than 40%. Major new players on the scene were NRC (with Canadarm) and the Department of Energy Mines and Resources (with its remote sensing activities).
The decade ended with the untimely death in 1979 of Dr. Chapman, the chief architect of the Canadian Space Program.

Graham Gibbs & Mac Evans. Photos c/o MyCanada & CSA.
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first counselor for (US) space affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of "Five Ages of Canada - A HISTORY from Our First Peoples to Confederation."

William MacDonald "Mac" Evans served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from November 1991 to November 2001, where he led the development of the Canadian astronaut and RADARSAT programs, negotiated Canada’s role in the International Space Station (ISS) and contributed to various international agreements that serve as the foundation of Canada’s current international space partnerships.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast.

Last Week: "More of the 1970's, "Equal Access" to Communications, "Improved Industrial Capability" and the Hermes Communication Satellite," in part four of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets."

Next Week: "The 1980's, A "National Space Agency," Canadarm's Rollout, The Second Three Year Space Plan & Canada's First Astronauts" as part six of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," continues.

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