Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Maxar's Win and Canada's Loss

          By Brian Orlotti

On Friday, San Francisco-based Maxar Technologies Ltd. (formerly Richmond, BC-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates) announced that it will use a refurbished SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Canadian Government’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) in 2018 and also announced that it had received four contracts valued at about $53.75Mln CDN with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

Maxar CEO Howard Lance, and his team at the NYSE last week. "On Friday, one of Maxar's business units, signed four contracts valued at about $42 million (US) with the Canadian Space Agency," according to CNBC. Maxar is "a leading commercial supplier of advanced satellite systems, optical imagery and geospatial analytics to commercial and government customers worldwide" and "has designs to grow earth observations and to advance the geospatial segment to better support commercial customers, the US Department of Defense and Intelligence Community and International Governmennts."  Graphic c/o CNBC.

As outlined in the December 15th, 2017 CNBC post, "Global communications company, Maxar, rings closing bell at NYSE," Maxar’s President and CEO, Howard Lance made the announcements on US based news network MSNBC (along with the online focused CNBC subsidiary), but mostly ignored Canadian media outlets, except for the December 15th, 2017 MDA Canadian press release, "MDA advances innovative robotics and rovers for space exploration and to support on-going operations of the ISS," which didn't cover the RCM announcement.

The announcements, and the way they were made, are a useful reminder of where the former Canadian firm's true focus now lies...

RCM is a Canadian Government space mission that will consist of a fleet of three Earth observation satellites which will utilize synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for a variety of purposes, including maritime surveillance, environmental monitoring and resource management. The RCM will improve on its predecessor, RADARSAT-2, by enabling more frequent coverage of Canadian territory and reduced risk of service outages.

As for the four CSA contracts valued at about $53.75Mln CDN announced by Maxar on the same day, they include:
  • A $800,000 CDN contract to develop future autonomous space hardware (including robotic arms, rovers, scientific instruments, and satellites) under the CSA Space Technology Development Program (STDP).
  • A $450,000 CDN contract for a concept study for two lunar rovers: a pressurized rover to transport astronauts on the Moon's surface and a smaller rover intended to collect lunar samples serve as a test bed for the technologies required for the pressurized rover.
Maxar Technologies was formed last October when MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) merged with Colorado based satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe in a $2.4Bln CDN deal. Maxar is essentially a fusion of its two parent companies and their two acquisitions, including Palo Alto, CA based Space Systems Loral (SSL) and Gaithersburg, MD based Radiant Solutions. The new company employs over 6,000 people across the globe.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), via its corporate predecessors, MD Robotics and SPAR Aerospace, was the recipient of hundreds of millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars starting in the 1980’s for the development of the Canadarm and its derivatives.

However and 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," Maxar and its subsidiaries have insisted that none of the products developed using Canadian taxpayer dollars have been used in US projects although many, including this blog, have strongly suggested otherwise.

After the CSA related announcements concluded, Maxar CEO Howard Lance took part in the ritual ringing of the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Perhaps the bell was meant to celebrate Canadian foolishness as much as Maxar’s success.
Editors Note: The mainstream media is slowly gaining an awareness the material highlighted in this blog over the last few years, most recently in the December 28th, 2017 Globe and Mail post, "How Canada lost its foremost space company." 
According to that article, written by Michael Byers, who currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia (UBC), "the government of Stephen Harper would never have allowed this (the reorganization of the Canadian based MacDonald Dettwiler into the US based Maxar Technologies) to happen."
According to Byers, "it is too late to stop MDA from becoming American, but not too late to consider punitive measures. If the company's CEO or directors knowingly misled the Trudeau government, they should be investigated for possible violations of Canadian law. As for the company, it could be blocked from bidding on Canadian government contracts for a period of time."
Expect the issue to become a partisan point of discussion during the run up to the next Federal election, which should happen sometime in 2020.
Brian Orlotti.

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

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I wonder if the Canadian Space Agency were to have a little more vision and ambition for space exploration, would it have stopped the likes of MDA and COM DEV from jumping ship to the United States. Who will be next?

    A shame really.

    Now these fine folks from the University of British Columbia, on the other hand, are on the right track. The CSA would do well to seriously consider their ideas: https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/facultyresearchandpublications/52383/items/1.0352001


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