Monday, February 12, 2018

Revisiting "A Nautilus-X for the Next 'HMCS Bonaventure'"

         By Chuck Black

It goes back to the July 4th, 2011 post "Ground Control to Marc Garneau," a critique of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and it's focus on building rovers and components to sell to other space agencies, almost to the exclusion of innovative and useful domestic space focused projects.

That story spawned more than its fair share of private and public comments, most of them focused on how much easier it is to critique a plan of action than it is to originate one.

Those comments, perfectly reasonable as they were, got addressed in the July 5th, 2011 post, "A Nautilus-X for the Next 'HMCS Bonaventure,'" which suggested that the best way to build a space program would be to pick a difficult goal which very few felt could be accomplished, then inventory the potential subcontractors to see where the existing expertise happened to be located and then assess whether or not the project could actually be made with the available resources.

We even suggested calling the end result HMCS Bonaventure, after Canada's last aircraft carrier. Which is kinda like what Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX did after its founding in 2002, except for the part where it's named after an aircraft carrier.

And look where SpaceX ended up. As outlined in the July 5th, 2011 post, Canada could certainly do the same:
...there are several obvious research areas where a bit of judiciously provided Federal government money (or private sector Canadian funding) could make the difference in guaranteeing future Canadian space competitiveness across a wide range of opportunities. 
These potential research areas and emerging technologies aren't focused on unmanned robotics or simple Mars rovers. Instead, they are directly applicable to solving propulsion, orbital construction and environmental/ habitation concerns relating to long duration, manned, interplanetary spaceflight. 
This makes them a far better way to ensure the continuation of the Canadian astronaut corps than anything wrapped around unmanned activities could ever possibly pretend to be...

That post also suggested that there were "four specific areas where Canada could contribute, right now, to the proposed Nautilus-X interplanetary spacecraft as described in the February 14th, 2011 Popular Mechanics article "New NASA Designs for a Reusable, Manned Deep Space Craft, Nautilus-X" or to any other manned spacecraft program for that matter."

Those areas included
  • Expertise developed building the Canadarm and the Canadarm II for the International Space Station (ISS)., through the then Richmond BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), now a subsidiary of San Francisco, CA based Maxar Technologies.

Keep in mind that this proposal came out long before the April 22th, 2016 post, "2009 Canadian Space Agency Report on Indigenous Canadian Launcher said "Yes!" But CSA Didn't Move Forward," which reported on how CSA subcontractors had inventoried Canadian capabilities to build orbital capable rockets in 2009, found that their construction was an achievable domestic goal, but did not move forward when the CSA decided not to release the documentation related to the project and/or actually building something.

These days we could probably recommend something far more substantial, and we could do so without the CSA's involvement.

While MDA is no longer Canadian and CanALSS seems to have fallen off the funding grid, there may be far more appropriate and capable replacements for the Canadian organizations listed in the earlier post.

Canadians certainly don't need to become part manufacturers or subcontractors for other space agencies.

We can still choose our own path.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page