Monday, April 30, 2018

New Sheppard's Latest Test Flight

          By Brian Orlotti

On April 29th, Blue Origin, the Kent, WA based space firm started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, successfully completed the latest test flight of its New Sheppard launch system. The flight marks another success for the company, which plans to take private citizens into suborbital space in 2019.

The fully reusable New Sheppard vehicle launched from the company’s West Texas launch site at 1:06 p.m. EDT, reaching an altitude of nearly 107 km (New Shepard’s highest flight to date), then made a successful landing.

This altitude was slightly higher than New Shepard’s usual target of 100 kilometers, also known as the Kármán line, the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

The New Sheppard carried a passenger capsule containing a test dummy dubbed ‘Mannequin Skywalker,’ along with research payloads from NASA, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and other commercial customers. These included investigating the effects of microgravity on gene expression and testing the feasibility of providing commercial wi-fi access to users in space, among other experiments.

The capsule detached from the top of the rocket, deployed its parachutes and landed successfully. The rocket landed separately, rapidly descending, then firing its onboard engines just before touchdown.

It was the eighth flight of the New Shepard system since its debut in 2015 and the second test of the newly redesigned rocket and capsule.

A partial listing of the payloads carried on the mission are listed in the April 27th, 2018 Blue Origin press release "Payload Customers Customers on New Sheppard's 8th Test Flight."

As discussed in the April 30th, 2018 Quartz post, "Jeff Bezos explains how his space company will save civilization," both Bezos and rival rocket-maker Elon Musk "have long been clear that their investments in space are mission-driven. Bezos has talked about his lifelong enthusiasm for a future where millions of people live and work in space. Many have noticed the inspiration of space colony theorist Gerard O’Neill, who was finishing his career at Princeton when a young Bezos led the university’s chapter of Students for Exploration and Development of Space." Photo c/o Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Bezos with the goal of developing reusable rockets to enable private human access to space while driving down costs. The company is also working on a heavy-lift orbital rocket known as New Glenn, which is slated for launch in 2020.

The company has made public a rough outline of a typical passenger flight aboard New Sheppard beginning in 2019.

After about two minutes of vertical ascent, the capsule, carrying up to six people, will detach from the rocket as it reaches the edge of space, at which point passengers will experience weightlessness. They will also be able to see the curvature of the Earth through large windows, which Blue Origin claims are the biggest of any spacecraft to date.

About four minutes later, the capsule will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, descend towards its surface and then land in a fully automated process.

In addition to ferrying space tourists to and from the Kármán line, New Shepard will be for hire to carry experiments.

Beyond suborbital flights, Blue Origin has more ambitious plans.

In September 2017,  Blue Origin and other commercial space firms, including Cape Canaveral, FL based Moon Express, owned by Canadian born Robert Richards, laid out plans for commercial missions to the Moon during a meeting of the US House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology.

Blue Origin revealed that, in addition to New Sheppard, it is developing an orbital-class rocket called New Glenn, to be used as part of a lunar mission architecture called ‘Blue Moon.’

The Blue Moon lunar lander could deliver more than 5 tons of cargo to the lunar surface. Blue Origin has pitched an Amazon type delivery service serving the Moon.

With the success of New Shepard, this vision has come one step closer to reality.
Brian Orlotti.

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

NASA Resource Prospector Cancellation "Disappointing" Says Deltion Innovations CEO Boucher

         By Chuck Black

The CEO of a small, Sudbury, ON based mining equipment design company, who has worked for the last decade on a series of funded contracts from both NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop a sampling drill for the proposed NASA Resource Prospector (RP) mission, is more than a little disappointed that the mission has just been cancelled.

A photo of the Deltion Innovations DESTIN drill attached to the bottom of an Artemis Jr Rover built several years ago by Kanata, ON based Neptec Design Group under contract to the CSA. As outlined on the Neptec web site, "the DESTIN drill is designed to drill into the lunar surface and collect samples of the soil (regolith) that can then be analyzed to determine the presence of water-bearing minerals or water ice." Photo c/o Neptec.

According to Deltion Innovations CEO Dale Boucher, "the cancellation of RP is disappointing at this juncture. It is my belief that government space agencies can best enable and encourage industrial capacity by helping to reduce risk and transfer knowledge and innovation to the private sector."

Of course, while the CSA is all about "science," outreach and partnering with others to get contracts to build their components, transferring knowledge and innovation to the private sector may be exactly what NASA and the US government are attempting to do...

As outlined in the April 28th, 2018 Space News post, "NASA emphasizes commercial lunar lander plans with Resource Prospector cancellation," the RP mission will be replaced with "a series" of robotic missions to the lunar surface which will include some, but certainly not all, of the tools developed initially for RP.

The rovers, the rockets and the rest of the components needed for those new missions will use commercially available technology sourced under a new NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. On April 27th, 2018, the NASA Office of Procurement released a draft request for proposals under the new program (solicitation number R18R0011R).

The CLPS program is expected to favour US based, private sector providers so there is no guarantee that the Deltion drill, known as the Drilling Exploration & Sample Technology Integrated (DESTIN) drill, will make the final cut and be chosen as part of the new program.

As outlined in the March 17th, 2015 Shackleton Energy press release, "US lunar mining company and Norwegian technology company to develop drilling and power solutions for operations on the Moon" there is at least one other US based company also in the running.

NASA will be holding a one day "Preproposal Conference for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Acquisition," at NASA HQ in Washington DC on Tuesday, May 8th, 2018, to discuss the new program.

Not so long ago, Canadian's were competing to supply the complete chassis for the Resource Prospector mission (then known as RESOLVE), not just the components and tools. However, 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!," funding for a production version of the proposed rover dried up in 2012 and Canada dropped out of the competition. As outlined in the October 20th, 2012 post, "Lots and Lots of Rovers Looking for Missions," it had become obvious to most everyone who didn't work at the CSA that planetary rovers used well understood technology and could be built cheaper and more effectively by the private sector. But the CSA has continued to actively, if quietly, fund Canadian rover research, according to the December 1st, 2014 post, "New CSA Rover Contracts Worth Over $3.28Mln CDN Uncovered" and the April 10th, 2017 post, "General Fusion, exactEarth's Missing (But Insured) Satellite, More CSA Rovers & ULA Drops Launch Costs." Graphic c/o Commercial Space Media.

In a series of e-mail exchanges with this blog, Boucher said:
Resource Prospector was intended to be a first mission that actually performed a subsurface prospecting activity. Prospecting is a necessary first step in any kind of resource extraction activity that interacts with the surface or subsurface of a planetary body. 
The effort for RP was to have been to try to determine the potential for mining water ice in the near surface areas of the south pole as a means to support long term missions to the moon and even human outposts. 
Deltion CEO Boucher. Photo c/o Deltion.
RP would have demonstrated the ability to evaluate the quality and quantity of water ice available for extraction and tied the results to orbital data in a way that would provide confidence to mission planners that a human mission on or near the moon could be sustained with a dramatically reduced set of supply missions from earth. 
The newly proposed Deep Space Gateway/ Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), will require the supply of water and oxygen from the moon in order to manage costs. RP was to be less of a science mission and more of a mining development mission.
Space robotics is an innovative niche for Canada. Combining space and mining is a natural fit for Canada (as per the 2nd volume of the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review). 
This combination would encourage innovation in terrestrial mining, a sector left out of the recent Innovation Supercluster Initiative.
Although Canada has thus far refused to participate in RP, and in space mining in general, citing both a lack of resources and no mandate from the federal government, the cancellation of this mission is a setback from which it will be difficult to recover. 
It is most likely the private sector will step forward to continue development of in-space mining. 
Canada, as a country, is not in the game, not on the team, not even on the cheer-leading squad. It is, at best, in the nose bleed section of the cheap seats not even paying attention to the game taking place in Luxembourg, the USA, UK, Australia…”
For more on this topic, it's worth checking out the April 10th, 2017 post, "Goldman Sachs is Bullish on Asteroid Mining."
Editors Note: As outlined in the June 5th, 2018 post, "NASA spent $100 million on much-anticipated lunar rover before scrapping it in April," the Resource Prospector mission spend $100Mln US ($130Mln CDN) of NASA money before it was cancelled in April 2018.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ottawa's IP Plan to Promote Canadian Innovators and Investors

         By Chuck Black

The Federal government is moving forward with plans to revamp the rules surrounding intellectual property (IP) issues. It's a success story which contains lessons for Canadian space advocates, who followed down much the same path last year, but failed to develop anything more than a shopping list of problems needing attention.

Canada's current intellectual property laws are "rife with dysfunction," and need to be fixed to attract new business investment for innovative Canadian based technologies, according to the June 15th, 2017 MacDonald Laurier Institute (MLI) post, "Eliminating Dysfunction in Canada's Intellectual Property Regime: New MLI Paper." According to the post, "Patents, copyright and anti-piracy measures are some of the areas that will require the federal government’s attention as it follows through on its promise to craft a new intellectual property strategy for Canada." Graphic c/o MLI.

As outlined in the April 26th, 2018 CBC News post, "SWAT teams and patent trolls: inside Ottawa's IP plan to promote Canadian innovators," Canada "will bring in new rules to protect innovative companies from foreign predators, and create programs to help them leverage intellectual property to benefit both their bottom lines and the country's economic growth."

Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains made the announcement on April 26th, 2018 at the Ottawa, ON based Bayview Yards Innovation Hub.

Developed through a series of public consultations outlined in the August 10th, 2017 Federal Government post, "Canada's New Intellectual Property Strategy" the revised policies will include:
  • The creation of a new "SWAT team" of Federal government experts with  a mandate "to help small and medium-sized firms develop and retain control of their intellectual property."
  • New initiatives to promote IP awareness and education among Canadian entrepreneurs, particularly companies run by women and indigenous people.
  • $30Mln CDN for a pilot project to create a "patent collective" in Canada, where companies can share IP expertise and strategies. Patent pools, or collectives, are consortium's of two or more patent holders who agree to cross-license patents in order to save time and money.
  • $18.7CDN in new funding to "resolve disputes" over IP and copyright cases currently before Canadian courts.
  • Promised new legislation intended to protect patents, copyright and trademarks of Canadians firms from so-called "patent trolls," holding companies that routinely go after Canadian firms claiming their products infringe on patents they hold.
As outlined in the March 16th, 2018 post, "Looks Like Intellectual Property Issues Were Addressed in the 2018 Federal Budget," funding to move forward with the new strategy was included in the latest Federal Budget.

The structure of the IP review, beginning with a series of public consultations leading to the formulation of consensus recommendations, followed by the allocation of funding to develop policies to implement those recommendations, is a pattern the ill-fated Space Advisory Board (SAB) also attempted to follow during it's deliberations in 2017.

However, unlike the SAB, the new IP review was bolstered by assessments and public presentations on the topic from places like the Ottawa, ON based MacDonald Laurier Institute, a non-profit think tank which published papers and supported discussion on the issue, and the various major Canadian law firms, who benefited by being perceived of as experts in the area.

Together, these organizations independently assessed various plans and performed an essential due diligence function, which publicized the IP review and helped to build a consensus. On the other hand, the SAB, perhaps simply reflecting the larger Canadian space industry perception that it's improper to get into any sort of serious public policy debate, was cold to independent assessments.

In at least one instance, as outlined in the November 2nd, 2017 post, "Media Refused Entrance to Thursday's CSCA Meeting at Denton's Law Firm," one of the strongest SAB supporters, the Toronto, ON based Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), refused entrance to independent media on a discussion of relevance to the SAB.

As a result, and as outlined in the March 22nd, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?," the SAB did not build the public feedback loop needed to incorporate contrary viewpoints into its report, build consensus and move forward.

Maybe the SAB, or whatever might end up replacing it, will know better next time. Until then, congratulations to all those involved with Canada's IP review and the new strategy.
Editors Note:Just when you think the world is unfolding as it should comes reaction from the international community. 
As outlined in the  April 28th, 2018 CBC News post, "US adds Canada to priority watch list over intellectual property concerns," the Trump administration has labelled 36 countries as "inadequately protecting U.S. intellectual property rights," keeping China on a priority watch list and adding Canada over concerns about its border controls and pharmaceutical practices. 
The Trump administration cited Canada's "poor border enforcement," especially for counterfeit goods shipped through Canada, and expressed concerns over "intellectual property protections for pharmaceuticals."
America First!!!
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The 2018 Listing of CDN and Int'l Business and Entrepreneur Focused Organizations Useful to the Space Industry

Don't wish to spend your days jockeying for academic tenure or begging the government to come up with plans and new funding for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)? 
Graphic c/o Jeff Koterba, Omaha World Herald. 
Then don't! 
It's not well known, but in Canada over half of all research and development comes from the private sector, not academia or government.  
As outlined in the 2015 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report, the most recent report published by the CSA to measure the overall size of the space sector, university and research centre revenues amounted to only $125Mln CDN in 2015, or only 2.4% of the total $5.3Bln CDN revenue measured from all sources.
That's right. Only 2.4% are traditional academics. The real muscle of the space industry derives from business and entrepreneurial activities. It's unfortunate that industry contributions have been dismissed and diminished by academics and their advocates over the last decade or so. 
It's also unfortunate that this total has been slowly shrinking as other political jurisdictions, including the US and the Isle of Mann, have become more appealing places to start and grow a space or innovation focused business.
But for now and at least until the last of our current crop of innovators turns out the lights and leaves the country, here are a few of the best places in Canada to find the real space sector, working for a living and solving Canadian problems.

The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) - As earlier discussed in the April 19th, 2018 post, "The 2018 Listing of Canadian Space Lobbyists, Advocates, Activists and Groups," the AIAC is the biggest and the most important player connecting the Canadian space industry.

This not-for-profit business association and lobby group, focused around aerospace policy issues, lists over 120 corporate members in its current members directory.

They include almost all of the current aerospace suppliers in Canada such as Montreal, PQ based ABB Canada, Ottawa, ON based Airbus Defence and Space Canada, Ottawa, ON based Boeing Canada Operations, Ottawa, ON based Bombardier Aerospace, St-Laurent, QC based CAE and Ottawa, ON based Lockheed Martin Canada.
Also included are most of the known players in the domestic space industry, including Cambridge, ON based exactEarth Ltd., Mississauga, ON based Magellan Aerospace, Brampton, ON based MDA, Kanata, ON based Neptec Design Group, Ottawa, ON based Satellite Canada Innovation Network, Ottawa ON based Telesat Canada, Vancouver BC based UrtheCast Corporation and Montreal PQ based Xiphos Systems Corporation
Surprisingly, the Toronto, ON based Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) is also listed as an AIAC member. Hopefully, considering their performance in the most recent Space Advisory Board (SAB) fiasco, the CSCA will use their membership to learn a little more about the lobbying process, fund raising and how to affect government policy.
The Canadian regional chapter of the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME) - A part of the larger, international Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), with chapters across the US, the UK and Australia.
Whether on Earth or in space, things still need to be manufactured and AME is the leading industry-diverse community with more than 4,000 professionals dedicated to enterprise excellence, continuous improvement, lean methodologies and kaizen techniques in manufacturing. 
Now, if only someone could bring them up to speed on open design concepts, 3D-printing and what's going on at places like Hacklab.TO.
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance) – The largest hi-tech association in Canada and another one of the organizations which, as outlined in the April 19th, 2018 post, "The 2018 Listing of Canadian Space Lobbyists, Advocates, Activists and Groups" is active both as a business association and as a lobby group.
Originally focused on software and telecommunications, CATA provides good background materials on government programs related to innovation, such as the Federal government Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit, the CATA Innovation Nation National Campaign (designed to boost Canada’s competitiveness and innovation rankings) and other initiatives. 
Not specifically an aerospace or space focused organization, but knowledgeable on many of the same taxation, innovation and business issues faced by the aerospace industry.  
Canadian Acceleration and Business Incubation (CABI) - Once known as the Canadian Association of Business Incubation (CABI), the re-branded organization remains "dedicated to supporting the growth of new and early-stage businesses" and works with "industry, government and academia to foster collaboration between business incubators, accelerators, innovation hub, co-working spaces and other key stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem."
The member directory includes 60+ Canadian business incubators and accelerators with a broad range of expertise. 
Sponsors include the Venture Technology Practice at the Dentons Law Firm, the Victoria, BC/ Toronto, ON based SilkStart CRM software company and the Toronto, ON/ Goa, India based, which claims to provide "everything you need to be successful online."
The Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries (CADSI) – The “voice” the Canadian defense and security industries, with "more than 800 companies from across Canada that provide innovative, world-class products and services needed for a modern, flexible force capable of defending Canada and Canadian interests."
CADSI membership overlaps with the AIAC and covers much the same territory, since both are focused on selling and promoting high technology to the Federal government. But its still a useful place for space companies to get to know, especially those firms focused on Earth imaging, rocketry, "internet of things," artificial intelligence (AI) or "big data" offerings. 
After all, there are very few military communications, command, and control (C3) capabilities in our current age which can't be purchased as a service from civilian space satellite contractors like Airbus, Google, Maxar (which owns MDA) and ViaSat. 
CANSEC organizes the annual CANSEC defence trade show, which will be held from May 30th - 31st in Ottawa, ON. 
The Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) – With over 250 members with over $105Bln in capital under management, the CVCA represents the majority of private equity companies in Canada. 
Focused on venture capital (investment in early stage, mostly technology based companies), mezzanine financing (subordinated debt or preferred stock with an equity kicker) and buyout funding (risk investment in established private or publicly listed firms that are undergoing a fundamental change in operations or strategy).
If you can't find funding through this group, you need to either visit Silicon Valley or update your pitch deck. Maybe both.
The Commercial SpaceFlight Federation (CSF) – A non-Canadian based space advocacy group well worth emulating. 
The 40 businesses and organizations who are members of the CSF provide a comprehensive snapshot of the emerging international NewSpace industry.  
Members include Los Vegas, NV based Bigelow Aerospace, Kent WA based Blue Origin, Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies (which owns Brampton, ON based MDA), the Mohave, CA based Mohave Air and Spaceport, Cape Canaveral, FL based Moon Express, Redmond, WA based Planetary Resources, Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX and quite a number of others.
Focused around a variety of legal and economic issues relating to spaceflight including export control issues, funding issues and regulatory requirements.
The Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) – CARIC is a joint initiative of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ) to create "a national research and technology network that unites stakeholders from industry, universities, colleges and research institutions" across Canada.
CARIC uses the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ) funding and collaborative model in order to remain in operation.
The Delta-V NewSpace Alliance - Australia's first start-up space accelerator. 
Since January 2016, Australian space startups Saber Astronautics, Myriota, Fleet Space Technologies, Gilmour Space Technologies, Hypercubes, Cuberider, Neumann Space and Earth-AI have raised nearly A$20Mln ($19.5Mln CDN) in private angel and venture funding from firms such as Blackbird VenturesGrok Ventures, 500Startups and many others to jump-start the Australian space industry.
In March 2017, the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) released a white paper calling on the Australian government to institute a proper space industry policy, and suggested the creation of an Australian Space Agency to unlock "burgeoning potential." 
The vision is to "create a new industry ecosystem drawing together fragmented groups – SMEs, university and industry R&D teams, startups, students, local, state and federal governments, and big companies – around a theme of deliberate entrepreneurship."
Certainly not Canadian, but absolutely full of useful advocacy lessons for Canadians.
Deltion Innovations – Billed as "Sudbury's first aerospace company" and focused on the design and fabrication of terrestrial and space mining systems.
Deltion CEO Dale Boucher helps to organize the annual Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium and was originally part of the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT).
The various European Space Agency (ESA) Business Incubation Centres (ESI) and the European Space Incubators Network (ESINET) – The ESA spends a lot of time and effort supporting small and innovative space focused firms. The work done through these two organizations is well worth investigating for lessons which are also applicable for Canada.

The Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPEC) – A national association comprised of over 1,700 members from Canada and abroad.
Members include patent agents, trade-mark agents and lawyers specializing in intellectual property. 
This is the first stop on the line if you're a rocket scientist looking to protect your trade secrets or intellectual property. 
The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) - Not especially space related (unless you're familiar with the partnerships developed in Great Britain between the IT and space advocacy communities, which led to the creation of the UK Space Agency in 2010), but another one of those organizations heavily involved in much the same issues of government procurement, innovation and commercialization.
Even better, many of the entrepreneurial leaders in the current NewSpace community (Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, for example) started in IT.

The panel chair of the 2012 Review of Federal Support to Research and Development (the "Jenkins panel," which directly effected Industry Canada (IC) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) activities) was Tom Jenkins, then the executive chairman and chief strategy officer of Waterloo based Open Text Corporation, a member in good standing of ITAC.
Well worth learning more about.
A listing of 100+ firms which provide support and capital to Canadian technology entrepreneurs from Maple Leaf Start-ups - An interactive assessment tool from start-up marketer Marc Evans, on where to go to get funding and support for Canadian start-ups.
The list is divided up into business incubators and accelerators, angel investors, plus seed, series A and series B funding sources. Derived from the Canadian Start-up Financing Landscape info-graphic.
The MaRS Discovery District – A Toronto business incubator focused on the medical and IT industries but open to new ideas.
Maintains the MaRS Funding Sources Directory, a listing of provincial, national and international funding sources suitable for Ontario companies in both the public and private sectors.
Mitacs – A national, not-for-profit research organization focused on building "partnerships between academia, industry, and the world – to create a more innovative Canada."
Offers a suite of research and training programs "which enable companies to connect with top Canadian and international researchers." 
The MoneyTree Report on Venture Capital investment in the United States - A quarterly report compiled by Price-Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) and the US based National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).
The quarterly report tracks venture capital activity in the United States by region, industry, funding stage, financing sequence, investing fund and receiving firm.
The National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) – An organization of Canadian angel capital investors connecting individuals, groups, and other partners supporting angel-stage investing. 
NACO also provides intelligence, tools and resources for its members; facilitates key connections across networks, borders and industries and helps to inform policy affecting the "angel asset-class" and organizes a variety of regional and national level events for the angel investment community.
National Crowd Funding Association of Canada (NCFA) - An organization billing itself as "Canada’s crowd funding hub," the NCFA works closely with industry groups, government, academia, other business associations and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowd funding industry and voice across Canada.
Has recently moved into Fintech, P2P, acternative finance, blockchain and cryptocurrency opportunities for Investors, companies and online financing platforms
NewSpace Global (NSG) – Provides accurate and critical information on international NewSpace focused organizations and opportunities.
NSG publishes a variety of items for subscribers, including the always up to date NewSpace Watch online news service and the Observer company database, which tracks the top international NewSpace companies.
Subscribers include Fortune 500s, universities, government agencies, small and large corporations, and space industry investors.
The Ontario Aerospace Council - One of several regional, not for profit associations of aerospace firms across Canada tasked with enhancing industry competitiveness.
Others include Aero Montreal, the Aerospace Industry Association of British Columbia (AIABC), the Manitoba Aerospace Association and the Unmanned Vehicle Systems Canada (UVS).
The Space Angels Network – an American based network of angel investors that also accepts investors and clients from Canada and Europe.
Has an interesting portfolio which includes Toronto, ON based Kepler Communications and Waterloo, ON based Skywatch.
The Space Frontier Foundation - US based advocacy group which believes that the barriers to space exploration are "primarily found in the bureaucratic status-quo of the government space program," and that change must come externally, through entrepreneurship.
Organizers of the annual NewSpace business plan competition.
Start-Up Canada – Entrepreneur led, national movement to enhance the nation’s competitiveness and prosperity by supporting and celebrating Canadian entrepreneurship. – An online community of over 20,000 CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs who get together to discuss fundraising, rate and review angel investors and venture capitalists, and exchange ideas for strategies to grow start-up businesses.
A part of the Founder Institute.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Will There Be a NASA Space Apps Challenge in 2018?

          By Brian Orlotti

For the first time in six years, the NASA International Space Apps Challenge will not occur during its normally scheduled late April/ early May time frame. It could potentially not take place at all unless organizers soon start recruiting teams to participate. Such a lull may be a symptom of the chaos and confusion that have held sway at NASA over the past year as the agency has gone without an Administrator or overall policy direction.

First held in 2012, the Space Apps Challenge brought together coders, makers and entrepreneurs from around the world to form teams and solve various "challenges" developed by NASA. By 2017, more than 25,000 participants in nearly 200 cities across 50 countries were contributing to the event.

Over 48 hours, teams create software and hardware solutions to these challenges by leveraging NASA science data (be they from satellites, space probes or other assets). Through the challenge, NASA strives to foster innovation and make space exploration more visible and engaging to the public.

As outlined in the April 14th, 2014 post, "Commercializing the Winners of the Space Apps Challenge" NASA open innovation program manager Beth Beck said that the Space Apps Challenge was created by former NASA Open Innovation Program members Nicholas Skytland, Ali Llewellyn, and Sean Herron to fulfill a White House mandate, later extended to other US agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to make US government data available to the public for use.

This released data, when promoted through mechanisms like the Space Apps Challenge, would encourage the development of a global community to drive innovation and create new uses for NASA derived data.

Beck and her superiors at NASA believe that the works of this "solver" community would give rise to new companies and industries as well as be incorporated back into NASA’s own programs.

The final tweets from the @spaceapps twitter feed are dated halfway through February 2018 and mention only that "Planning for Space Apps 2018 is in progress." While that might still be true two months later, it's also virtually certain that the 2018 event won't be held any time soon. Graphic c/o Twitter

Unfortunately, as of April 23rd, 2018 no new @spaceapps tweets nor any updates on the main Space Apps website, nor any updates on the Toronto Space Apps Challenge (which serves as the Toronto organizers for the event) covering the 2018 event can be found.

As outlined on the Toronto Space Apps Challenge website, last years event took place over the weekend of April 28th - 30th 2017.

In response to an April 22nd, 2018 email query from the author, Space Apps Toronto event organizer James Costa stated:
Unfortunately we don’t have an update right now! NASA has been mum on details, and we’re locally considering the likelihood that there won’t be a Space Apps event in 2018. 
Sorry for the bleak details! Hope this helps in some way.
In response to a second email query, NASA Open Innovation Program Manager Beth Beck stated that she was no longer involved with the Space Apps Challenge but referred the author to Sarah N. Hemmings of NASA HQ’s Earth Science Division.

In an April 23rd, 2018 phone conversation, Hemmings stated that an Apps Challenge will “definitely” be held later in 2018, and will be open to all cities to apply to as usual.

Hemmings said that the public can reasonably expect to see more information posted on the Space Apps website over the next month.

An April 23rd, 2018 screenshot of the NASA Space Apps Challenge website indicates only that "planning for the International Space Apps Challenge 2018 is in progress. The event will be held later in the year. Please check our website and social media for updates in the near future." The last update on the website is a May 16th, 2017 post "Canaria in a Gold Mine" which focused on one of the successful 2017 competitors. Screen shot c/o NASA Space Apps Challenge.  

In 2014 a Toronto-based team, Skywatch, took home the top prize from the Toronto Space Apps Challenge. Skywatch was granted the ‘Best Use of Data’ award, the first Canadian Space Apps team to win at an international level. Their application (also called "Skywatch") combined data from various  NASA sources into a web-based interface for easy viewing and analysis.

In February, 2018, the now Waterloo, ON based Skywatch raised $4Mln CDN in seed financing to continue development of its platform  (now called "EarthCache") for the aggregation and distribution of open-sourced Earth image satellite data. The financing was led by Palo Alto, CA based Sinai Ventures and New York, NY based Space Angels, with participation from Toronto, ON based Golden Venture Partners, Boulder, CO based Techstars Ventures, San Francisco, CA based SK Ventures, Toronto, ON based Globalive Capital, and New York, NY based ARC Angel Fund.

It is also worth noting that, as outlined in the May 16th, 2014 Toronto Star article "Canadian team wins NASA space apps challenge," one of the SkyWatch team members has a connection to the early Canadian space program. Decades ago, team member Roland Singh (who is also the father of team member Stefan Singh) worked on the Canadarm program.

What a waste to have such an outlet for creativity and hope erased by political apathy and incompetence. Let us hope the NASA Space Apps Challenge can get its act together and resume quickly.

This post will be updated as new information becomes available.
Editors Note: Only two days after the original story came out, the Space Apps Challenge website and the @spaceapps twitter feed have both announced that the event has been rescheduled for October 19th - 21st, 2018. 
There's still not a lot of details to fill in, but the organizers promise to clarify the situation within the month.
Updated April 25th, 2018 screenshot of the main NASA Space App Challenge website. Graphic c/o NASA Space Apps Challenge.
It's also worth noting that, as outlined in the April 23rd, 2018 post, "New NASA Chief Jim Bridenstine Officially Sworn In After Long Nomination Fight," the current NASA administrator was only sworn in two days ago and likely has a lot on his plate.

Stand by for adventure.
Brian Orlotti.

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

New MDA Group Pres says US Parent "Won't Affect Canadian Jobs" but BC HQ Moved & Old HQ "Will Eventually Close"

         By Henry Stewart

It's amazing the differences between what MDA, the now Brampton, ON based subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies, will tell traditional media outlets like the venerable Toronto, ON based Canadian Press, and what it's willing to tell media outlets it sponsors and feels friendly towards.

MDA's new group president Mike Greenley is seen in front of one of three RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) spacecrafts being built for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) at the MDA facility in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, PQ on January 30th, 2018. As a Canadian based company under the name MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), the firm was responsible for earlier Canadian successes such as the various Canadarm's and RADARSAT 1&2. The new MDA wants to remain the "go-to" private sector supplier for Canadian government space focused hardware and Canadian industry "capacity building," a process where individuals and organizations "obtain, improve, and retain the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to do their jobs competently or to a greater capacity." It's worth noting that capacity building generally costs more than normal procurement. Photo c/o CP/Ryan Remiorz.

For example, "nothing has moved and nothing is moving," MDA group president Mike Greenley said in the April 21st, 2018 CP post, "MDA president says having parent firm in United States won't affect Canadian jobs."

As outlined in the post, Greenley, the head of the new MDA, said that MDA and Maxar have been "very transparent and talked openly" about shifting the head office south of the border.

Greenley oversees all of the MDA lines of business and its 1,900 employees in Canada. He's quoted in the article as stating that:
My job is to run it and grow it bigger in Canada, for Canada, and exporting from Canada to the rest of the world. 
You have to export and access foreign markets in order to grow to scale (because) Canada's economy is only so big...
Of course, Greenley told a substantially different story in the April 19th, 2018 SpaceQ post, "MDA Marketing New Robotic Kits for On-Orbit Servicing."

As outlined in that story, there have been at least a few, major changes:
One of the notable changes Greenley instituted was moving senior management to the Brampton, Ontario office. 
Greenley says the downtown Vancouver office which served as MDA’s corporate headquarters will eventually close.
SpaceQ is heavily sponsored by MDA and provides mostly favorable coverage of MDA activities, as can be seen on the main SpaceQ website. That's probably why the SpaceQ post (which included an audio interview) led with the updates to the MDA product line, a far less newsworthy story, and only included the news about MDA's corporate HQ relocation further down in the body of the article.

This blog reached out by e-mail to Peter Rakobowchuk, the author of the CP article for his response to the SpaceQ post.

According to Rakobowchuk, the CP interview was held some time ago, and "Greenley mentioned in the recent CP interview that he would be working out of MDA’s Brampton office," but didn't specify that the MDA HQ was relocating to Brampton.

In essence, the relocation and any implications that may have for BC employees, may not have been finalized when the interview took place. So nothing was noted in the CP article.

An April 23rd, 2018 screenshot of the SpaceQ website showing MDA advertising in the bottom right hand corner. As demonstrated in the April 23rd, 2018 SpaceQ "Shorcuts" Newsletter MDA also promotes its Canadian heritage through the SpaceQ newsletter. It's certainly not uncommon for large aerospace companies to sponsor smaller news outlets. A recent example of this would be Politico Space, a "weekly must-read briefing on the policies and personalities shaping the second space age. Presented by Boeing." While there is nothing wrong with this sort of sponsorship, just so long as everything is out in the open, it's also an obvious editorial bias, which readers should note. Screenshot c/o SpaceQ

Over the longer term, MDA's US managers at Maxar may have come up with an alternate plan to control the message getting out to their shareholders. They'll write it themselves.

Since February 2018, the company has been posting short articles written by Maxar executives on its new "Maxar Technologies Blog."

Most of the writing has been attributed to Maxar CEO Howard Lance and includes the April 20th, 2018 post, "Spaceview: Advancing US Leadership in Space," the March 28th, 2018 post, "Spaceview: The Power of X" and the March 9th, 2018 post, "Spaceview: Right Place, Right Time."

But there's also at least one, March 29th, 2018 post from Walter Scott, Maxar's EVP & CTO under the title, "How the US Government Benefits from 'Buying Commercial'" and more posts from other senior Maxar executives can be reasonably expected over the next little while.

Ostensibly independent news outlets like SpaceQ, along with legitimately independent (if more traditional) outlets like CP (and even this blog) need to prepare for the day when large companies like Maxar attempt to exert tighter control of their own news stories and content distribution.

After all, hundreds of millions of dollars of stock valuation are at stake and large, publicly traded companies like Maxar/ MDA cannot be expected to simply lie back and let others define their valuations and future options.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Friday, April 20, 2018

Telesat Moves Forward with New Offices, New Plans, New Challenges and New Funding

         By Chuck Black

It's twenty years older than the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) so Ottawa, ON based Telesat has more than a little experience putting together useful commercial deals funded from a variety of sources without the need for a domestic space agency to act as the prime contractor.

Out with the old and in with the new. As outlined in the March 12th, 2018 Ottawa Business Journal post, " Ottawa satellite firm Telesat moving downtown with new Place Bell lease," the satellite technologies firm "is preparing to move from its east-end campus to two floors inside the office tower at 160 Elgin St. (in downtown Ottawa) as part of a bid to attract new talent " Younger employees generally prefer a more vibrant downtown environment, according to the article. Photo c/o Telesat.

In the post Emerson Aerospace Review landscape, that skill-set will come in handy. The company has announced that it expects to begin the first trials on its new low Earth orbit (LEO) communications constellation sometime later this year.

As outlined in the April 18th, 2018 Via Satellite post, "Backed by Government, Telesat to Initiate First Customer LEO Trials This Year," Telesat will be depending on Federal government contributions from the $100Mln CDN Strategic Innovation Fund, allocated in the 2018 Federal budget to support upcoming LEO satellite projects to bolster a $20Mln CDN direct contribution from the government of Ontario, to help fund the constellation.

As outlined in the post:
The investments seem to reflect the government’s confidence in LEO constellations as a solution to bridging Canada’s digital divide. 
There, the issue of rural broadband is a salient one due to the country’s distinct, often harsh geography and population distribution. At least half of its approximately 36 million citizens live south of the Washington-Oregon border, while most of the remainder live in sparse communities scattered across a 3.5 million square mile landscape. 
Telesat believes blanketing these rural regions with satellite-based connectivity is a profitable niche, and will work hand-in-hand with the Canadian government to do so.
The Souyz-2 spacecraft with Meteor-M satellite and 18 additional small satellites, including one from Telesat, launches from Russia's new Vostochny cosmodrome, near the town of Tsiolkovsky in Amur region, Russia, on November 28th, 2017. As outlined in the November 28th, 2017 Associated Press post, "Canadian satellite lost after Russian rocket fails during launch," the failure of the booster's final stage prevented the satellites from entering orbit and led to the failure of the mission. It was one of two Telesat satellites designed to test out concepts for the Telesat LEO constellation. A second test satellite was launched successfully on January 12th, 2018 aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Photo c/o Stringer/Reuters.

As outlined in the April 16th, 2018 Telesat press release, "Telesat Canada Announces Preliminary Revenue and Adjusted EBITDA1 for the Quarter Ending March 31, 2018," the company revenues are expected to keep even with last year’s performance.

The projections were released early in connection with a potential amendment to its US$2.43Bln CDN loan facility, a formal financial assistance program offered by lending institutions to help a company that requires operating capital. Telesat intends to file "full interim unaudited consolidated financial statements for the period prepared in accordance with IFRS" on or about May 3rd, 2018.

The loan modification might not just be for new operating capital. It could also mean that a corporate restructuring is in store for Telesat.

As outlined in the March 16th, 2018 Space News post, "Loral warns of possible Telesat legal battle, Xtar restructuring," New York, NY based Loral Space and Communications has indicated that it wants to move ahead with a “strategic transaction” involving fleet operator Telesat that may spark a legal fight with Telesat’s other major shareholder, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments), a Canadian crown corporation established by an act of parliament in September 1999.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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