Thursday, May 31, 2018

Inuvik Mayor Calls Feds "Not Forthcoming" Regarding Private Sector Commercial Ground Station Application

         By Chuck Black

According to Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald, "while the city is not directly involved with the ongoing efforts to license the commercial ground station built by Inuvik, NWT based New North Networks  (NNN) for San Francisco, CA based Planet and Tromsø, Norway based Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), we have been talking to both sides in an effort to get this thing up and running."

Inuvik Mayor McDonald in front of a local warehouse slated for demolition due to melting permafrost, which has shifted the building's foundation. As outlined in the April 7th, 2015 CBC News post, "Inuvik economy struggling, says new report commissioned by town," the local economy, heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector, has struggled as it attempts to diversify into tourism, emerging technologies and other areas, while at the same time dealing with a warming climate. Photo c/o CBC.

"And while some of the problems do seem to be regulatory, the Federal authorities involved with this process have simply not been forthcoming with their requirements and concerns," he said during a recent interview with this blog.   

As outlined most recently in the March 5th, 2018 post, "That Commercial Ground Station Built by New North Networks in Inuvik Still Can't be Used," the privately operated ground-station has still not received the second of two sets of Federal government approvals needed to operate under Canadian law.

The Federal department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), which is responsible for authorizing the radio licences needed to operate fixed Earth stations in Canada, approved their portion of the ground station application in March 2018, after a twenty-two month review.

Global Affairs Canada must still issue a second license under Canada's Remote Sensing Space Systems Act, for the facility to open. Planet and KSAT have both previously indicated that they will withdraw their application to use the facility and relocate to another jurisdiction if the second license isn't issued by June 1st, 2018.

Decisions to build satellite tracking stations are not taken lightly, nor in a vacuum. Above is a photo of the construction of the MacKenzie Valley Fibre Link (MVFL), a state-of-the-art fibre optic telecommunications link connecting communities in the Mackenzie Valley and Beaufort Delta regions. As outlined in the June 11th, 2017 CBC News post, "Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link brings opportunities, challenges to NWT," the new link, completed in 2017, involved the installation of 1,154km (717 miles) of high-speed fiber optic telecommunications cable from McGill Lake in the south to Inuvik in the North. One of the selling points of the $110Mln CDN link, according to Mayor McDonald, was that the new capacity could be used to attract more satellite tracking stations to the region. The NWT government has also committed up to $7Mln CDN per year for up to the next twenty years to support MVFL operating costs if the line is unable to find paying users in the satellite industry or from other sources. Photo c/o MVFL.

"License applications always have a process," said McDonald, who's used to working with oil and gas companies subject to regional and Federal regulations and licensing requirements:
But on this project, there has simply been no direction on how to move forward. Other licenses have been issued and my personal feeling is that KSAT and Planet have made real efforts to resolve any impasses.  
There is the real possibility that KSAT and Planet could simply end up walking away...
According to NNN CEO Tom Zubko, while Planet and KSAT are currently optimistic that the second required license to operate the Inuvik facility will be issued in a timely manner, both companies are "evaluating options" and the appropriate people at the US Department of Commerce have been informed of the situation. 

KSAT, which is hoping to use the Inuvik facility to fulfill a contract for the European Space Agency (ESA), has likely also informed the ESA of their situation.

Given the previously announced June 1st, 2018 deadline to resolve the issue, this story will continue to be updated as new information becomes available. Stay tuned.
Editors Note: In a June 4th, 2018 e-mail exchange with Trevor Hammond, Planet's director of corporate communications, he stated that, "Negotiations are healthy and ongoing with Global Affairs Canada regarding operational conditions of the Inuvik site. We’ll share more information when we have an update." 
So nothing has been terminated but nothing has also been concluded. 
As mentioned above, "stay tuned."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

US Commerce Department Releases More Details on New "Space Administration"

          By Henry Stewart

The US Department of Commerce has released more information on its plans to establish what it calls a Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise (SPACE) Administration within the department to streamline Federal government oversight of commercial space activities.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Photo c/o US Department of Commerce.

As outlined in the May 27th, 2018 Space News post, "Commerce Department to create “SPACE Administration,” the new department will:
...incorporate the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office and the Office of Space Commerce, currently part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 
The department was already planning such a consolidation of the offices, which would be moved out of NOAA and directly under Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Ross has also directed Commerce Department agencies that deal with space in one fashion or another to assign a liaison to the new office. Those offices include the Bureau of Industry and Security, International Trade Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NOAA and National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Secretary Ross discussed his new role in the May 25th, 2018 New York Times post, "That Moon Colony Will Be a Reality Sooner Than You Think." According to Ross:
On Thursday, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 2, which will make important strides toward modernizing our outdated space policies. 
These changes include creating a new office, the Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise Administration, within my office to oversee coordination of the department’s commercial space activities, establishing a “one-stop shop” to work on behalf of the budding private space sector.
According to Ross, "a unified departmental office for business needs will enable better coordination of space-related activities."
When companies seek guidance on launching satellites, the Space Administration will be able to address an array of space activities, including remote sensing, economic development, data-purchase policies, GPS, spectrum policy, trade promotion, standards and technology and space-traffic management. The new office will also enable the department to manage its growing responsibilities in space.
According to the Space News post, the new office will require additional legislation in order to become a permanent fixture in Washington.
A House bill passed in April, the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, already includes some of those measures. The Senate is planning its own commercial space bill but has not introduced it yet.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Monday, May 28, 2018

Minister Bains Promises "Canadian Space Strategy" Within Months... Again!

         By Chuck Black

It's probably not worth a whole lot of space in this blog to mention that Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains has once again promised to release a "Canadian space strategy" sometime within the coming months.

After all, Bains has made much the same promise before as have other Federal politician's in both the Liberal and Conservative parties over the last decade.

Men on a mission! Innovation Minister Bains (centre) with CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen (left) and CSA president Sylvain Laporte in the MDA facilities in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, PQ. where, as outlined in the May 25th, 2018 post, "Canadian Space Agency Awards 33 Organizations $26.7Mln CDN Through STDP Program," Bain's announced new CSA funding under the Space Technology Development Program (STDP). After the announcement, the visitors received a tour of the facilities where the three RADARSAT Constellation satellites (RCM) are currently undergoing testing in anticipation of a launch sometime before the end of the year. Photo c/o @NavdeepSBains.

As outlined in the May 25th, 2018 Canadian Press post, "New Canadian space strategy to be unveiled ‘in the coming months’: Bains," the Innovation Minister made the latest promise during last Friday's Canadian Space Agency (CSA) press conference announcing that 33 organizations would be receiving a series of grants totalling $26.7Mln CDN to "further Canada's role in space technology."

That article also noted that the current Liberal government plan to develop a new space policy was already over a year behind schedule.

This latest statement is only the most recent in a series of Federal commitments going back at least ten years to 2008, when then Industry Minister Jim Prentice gave a speech outlining the mandate for Steve MacLean, then the incoming CSA president.

Jim Prentice in 2008. Photo c/o CBC.
During that speech, Prentice explicitly mentioned the need for a "new" long-term space plan (LTSP), which is what they used to call a space strategy.

As outlined in the September 3rd, 2008 CSA press release, "Speaking Points - The Honourable Jim Prentice, PC, QC, MP Minister of Industry: Canadian Space," Prentice said:
I have given Steve a mandate to make sweeping changes at the CSA. As we stand at this crossroads, he will revitalize the Agency. He will restore its ability to punch above its weight in an international quest. He will develop Canada's capacity for a new era of prestige and achievement. 
And to that end, as one of Steve MacLean's first acts as new President, the CSA will begin consultations with stakeholders that will lead to a new Long-Term Space Plan (LTSP). 
I expect this plan — the fourth in the series — to be as influential for our generation of exploration and development as any plan that Canada has produced for charting our future in space. 
That's a tall order. I know that Steve is capable of bringing together the stakeholders. Time is of the essence, and I look forward to the plan in the coming months.
Of course, that plan eventually went up in smoke and was replaced by the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review.

As outlined in the December 5th, 2012 post, "What the Space Volume of the Aerospace Review Actually Says," Emerson advocated a strictly limited role for the CSA, with decreased procurement capabilities and increased public oversight (including the formation of the original "space advisory board") because of a series of acknowledged "procurement problems" and a "lack of direction within government in general and the CSA in particular."

MacLean. Photo c/o NASA/JSC.
In essence, the Aerospace Review wasn't so much as statement of future goals (as had been traditional with space policy documents) as it was advocating the reigning-in of CSA procurement excesses and the narrowing of the CSA mandate to the point where it would no longer be a "policy-making body" or "directly involved in designing and manufacturing space assets purchased by the government."

This cut to the bone of what the CSA believed it should be doing.

As outlined in the January 19th, 2013 post, "Praising Steve MacLean," the embattled CSA president resigned only a few short months after the Aerospace Review was released in November 2012.

The Aerospace Review enjoyed broad bipartisan support among both the Federal Conservative and Liberal parties and was eventually implemented as government policy.

But off the record, most anyone at the CSA will tell you today that, without the ability to develop and build hardware in the form of satellites, spacecraft or International Space Station (ISS) components like the Canadarm, the current CSA cannot survive.

This is also why the CSA is so intent to contribute to the US led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G)/ Deep Space Gateway (DSG) program.

Sources within the CSA say the LOP-G/DSG program is the last real chance for the CSA to "bend metal" and build hardware for the forseeable future.

As outlined in the May 18th, 2018 post, "That Massive Political Elephant Crowding Every Room at CASI ASTRO'18," the CSA is currently on such a short leash that even the LOP-G/DSG needs Federal government approval before moving forward.

Come September, NASA will likely want some sort of commitment from the Canadian government to formally support LOP-G/ DSG requirements as a preliminary to finalizing the design and issuing contracts. NASA begins its FY 2019 budget cycle on October 1st, 2018.

On the other hand, the issues which comprise the domestic "space policy" bucket have grown over the last five years to a point where many of the required answers no longer demand input from a national space agency.

For example, over the last six months, the Trump administration in the US has begun easing restrictions governing the activities of space companies such as Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX, and centralizing the remaining regulations with the Secretary of Transportation.

As outlined in the May 25th, 2018 post, "Trump's New Space Policy Directive 2 Could Make Life Easier for SpaceX and Others," Trump has also ordered the US Commerce Secretary "to review regulations on the commercial remote-sensing industry, and gives the secretary 30 days to come up with a plan to create a "one-stop shop" within the Commerce Department for private-spaceflight regulation."

Such a streamlining of legislation, if undertaken in Canada, would certainly be useful for Canadian space companies such as Inuvik, NWT based New North Networks (NNN).

As outlined in the March 5th, 2018 post, "That Commercial Ground Station Built by New North Networks in Inuvik Still Can't be Used," NNN and it's international partners are still waiting for the second of two Canadian government licences needed to operate a domestic satellite receiving facility.

The process has taken two years so far and solving that problem would, by now, require very little additional input from the CSA in Canada or NASA in the US.

On the other hand, any real solution might require leadership from the Canadian Federal government. That will be harder.

But maybe, if Minister Bains is willing to seperate the concept of a "Canadian space strategy" into its individual components, then resolve each of those components seperately, there might be some reasonable expectation of something concrete being announced over the coming months.

Those components could include:
  • The requirements to modernize and simplify existing legislation relating to Canadian communication and Earth imaging satellites.
  • The requirement to address internal CSA perceptions relating to what the agency thinks it needs in order to remain useful.
No doubt, there are many more components needing to be seperated from the larger concept of a "space policy" and then dealt with individually and maybe they will be.

But if not, this latest government promise will end up being no better remembered by voters than were any of the previous, failed commitments from both sides of the House of Commons.

Back to you, Minister Bains. Please note that next year is an election year.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Canadian Space Agency Awards 33 Organizations $26.7Mln CDN Through STDP Program

         By Chuck Black

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded 33 organizations a series of grants totalling $26.7Mln CDN to "further Canada's role in space technology."

14 contracts totalling $9.6Mln CDN and focused around the "development of cutting-edge technologies for a wide variety of future science missions," were discussed in the May 25th, 2018 CSA webpage, "Contracts awarded for the development of enabling space technologies." Graphic c/o CSA

As outlined in the May 25th, 2018 Government of Canada press release, "Federal government investing in space innovation to create or maintain nearly 400 well-paying jobs for Canadians," the new funds will "create or secure 397 jobs and give 66 students valuable experience in space-related fields."

The funding was awarded through the CSA's Space Technology Development Program (STDP), which supports "innovation to enhance the capabilities and competitiveness of Canada's space sector."

As announced in the May 24th, 2018 Government of Canada media advisory, "Minister Bains to announce an investment in Canadian space technologies," the awards were announced by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and CSA astronaut Jeremy Hanson earlier today.

The remaining companies, which received awards totalling $18.9Mln CDN were discussed in the May 25th, 2018 CSA webpage, "Contributions awarded under the STDP – AO 4" and included programs related to space research and development for large and small business and feasibility studies related to this area. Graphic c/o CSA.

While most of the larger grants were seemingly scooped by the usual suspects in the Canadian space industry (Cambridge ON based COM DEV International, a subsidiary of Morris Plains NJ based Honeywell International and Colorado based Maxar Technologies subsidiary MDA come to mind), it was nice to see that at least a few of the smaller Canadian space companies also represented. 

The most noteworthy inclusion was Toronto, ON based Continuum Aerospace, which received $200,000 CDN for an "additively manufactured high-impulse cooled chemical thruster for cubeSats and microsats."

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," Continuum also received a CSA grant in 2009 to assess Canada's capacity to create and support a small domestic launcher.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Maritime Launch Services Will Not Say When It Will Begin Building Proposed Canso NS Commercial Spaceport

          By Henry Stewart

The start date to begin construction of a proposed Canso, NS based commercial spaceport optimized to launch Ukranian built Cyclone 4M rockets, but evidently also open to other rocket companies, has been pushed back to an unknown future.

MLS CEO Stephen Matier  talks with reporters at a meeting of the proposed project team in Dartmouth, NS on December 11th, 2017. Behind Matier is MLS VP of strategic development Yaroslav Pustovyi. Until recently, Pustovyi also acted as chairman of the board of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA). Photo c/o Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press.

According to Canso, NS based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) CEO Stephen Matier, the launch site in Canso, NS, likely won't start being developed until later this year, although he was hesitant to commit to any new timeline.

As outlined in the May 21st, 2018 Canadian Press post, "Developer pushes back construction of Nova Scotia rocket launch site," the original plan was to begin construction on the estimated $200Mln CDN facility in May 2018.

The announcement was made by Matier "following meetings at the proposed rocket launch site near a small fishing community on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore," according to the post.

The post also quoted Matier as stating that:
As part of the process, I try to move things along. But the process (in order to come into compliance with the various federal and provincial regulations) is the process. 
There's 12 months of data collection. There's a report that has to be written. There's a review process that has to happen...
Matier made those comments to Canadian Press in a recent phone interview, as he waited at Halifax's Stanfield International Airport for a flight back to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he runs a small engineering consulting firm.

As outlined in the April 13th, 2018 post, "Ukrainian Rockets Like the Cyclone 4M Are Too Dangerous an Investment for Western Interests: Kyiv Post," independent observers in the Ukraine have questioned the capabilities of western investers to perform the appropriate due dilligence needed to assess Ukranian based investments.

The Ukraine space industry, along with the rest of the industrial infrastructure, was decimated during the 2014 Crimean crisis and remains heavily dependent for parts and support on the Russian government, its Crimean opponent.

That post also noted that MLS has engaged Toronto, ON based Jacob Capital Management Inc. (JCMI), to "lead the team of strategic and financial advisory services associated with MLS’s investor strategy," and said that MLS has "received a letter of intent from an undisclosed launch company to use the spaceport."

MLS, as outlined in the April 30th, 2018 iPolitics post, "Lobby Wrap: Where is Kevin Chan?," has also engaged Toronto, ON based Sussex Strategy associate Liam Daly to "raise awareness" of the Canso, NS space port and look for funding opportunities. Calls and e-mails into Daly's office to discuss his new role have, so far at least, not been returned.

As outlined in the November 9th, 2017 post, "Commercial Space and Rocket Port Shenanigans," Matier has stated previously that he was committed to funding the Canso space port with private financing and had already "secured commitments" of nearly $400Mln CDN in "series A" financing for the project.
Editors Note: Marc Boucher, over at SpaceQ, seems to have objected to several of the above statements in his May 25th, 2018 Short Cuts e-mail.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. 
This blog looks forward to the vigorous peer review necessary to insure that the true story regarding MLS and it's Ukranian designed and manufactured Cyclone 4M rockets gets out to a wider audience, just as soon as possible.
For those interested in learning more, Boucher's comments are included below.  
Graphic c/o Spaceq

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute Has Begun Posting Recorded Sessions From CASI ASTRO'18

          By Henry Stewart

The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) has begun posting recorded sessions from it's recently concluded ASTRO'18 conference, held in Quebec City from May 15th – 17th, 2018.

CSA president Sylvain Laporte (left) giving the ASTRO'18 keynote presentation in Quebec City, PQ last week. On the right is CASI President Dr. Jacques Giroux. Check out Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black's question to Laporte, beginning at the 39.15 mark of the video. Photo c/o CASI IASC YouTube.

They're on the CASI IASC YouTube channel and are well worth checking out. Posted sessions include:
  • The Director General (DG) Panel Discussion on CSA Updates and Opportunities, with Dr. Jean-Claude Piedboeuf (the CSA DG of space science and technology), Eric Laliberté (the CSA DG of space utilization), Gilles Leclerc (the CSA DG of space exploration) and Mary Preville (the CSA DG of policy). This session was moderated by CASI president Dr. Jacques Giroux.
  • Perspectives on the Future of Canada's Space Sector, a panel discussion between CSA president Laporte, Mike Greenley (the group president of Brampton, ON based MDA, a MAXAR Technologies subsidiary), Ewan Reid (the president and founder of  Ottawa, ON based Mission Control Space Services) and Dr. Kaley A. Walker (a professor of physics at the University of Toronto). The panel session was also hosted by CASI president Giroux.
All things considered, the video's are essential viewing to get a sense of the CSA's current leaders and their roles. 

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Monday, May 21, 2018

The First Chinese "Private Space Company" Has Launched its First Suborbital Rocket

          By Brian Orlotti

Beijing-based OneSpace Technologies has launched a suborbital rocket from northwestern China, becoming the first private Chinese space firm to do so. While OneSpace’s claims to being a private firm are debatable, they are the vanguard of a slew of new Chinese space firms eager to stake their claim to the opening space market.

As outlined in the May 17th, 2018 Reuters post, "China launches first rocket designed by a private company," the rocket, dubbed the “Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” reached a reported altitude of 25 miles and travelled about 170 miles before falling back to Earth.

It is powered by a solid fuel engine developed by OneSpace and its control systems are customizable to users’ needs, the company’s chairman, Ma Chao, told Chinese state news agency Xinhua. The craft, also known as the OS-XO, can place a 100 kg payload into an 800 km Earth orbit.

According to the May 17th, 2018 Xinhua post, "China launches rocket developed by private company," the rocket is energy-efficient by using wireless rather than wired networking to link onboard systems, cutting weight and thus lowering fuel costs by about 30%.

The launch is the first step towards the company’s goal of a scalable business focused on launching small satellites into orbit. OneSpace is aiming for 10 satellite launches in 2019, company founder Shu Chang told the official newspaper China Daily.  “I hope we can become one of the biggest small-satellite launchers in the world,” Shu said.

In a May 17th, 2018 CNN interview under the title, "OneSpace launches China's first private rocket," Shu compared his company to Hawthorne, CA based rocket pioneer SpaceX. Other media outlets have drawn the same comparison, but a fairer comment would be that OneSpace (like SpaceX) inhabits the grey area between private and government-run.

According to CNN, Shu Chang is a former employee of a “state-owned aerospace company.”

OneSpace, as outlined in the May 17th, 2018 Quartz post, "A Chinese firm says it launched the country’s first privately built rocket," was reportedly founded with money from the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, and this particular flight was financed by China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation.

The rocket’s very name, “Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” is a nod to the state-run Chongqing Liangjiang Aviation Industry Investment Group, which OneSpace is partnering with to build a research and manufacturing base that will become part of the Chinese government’s massive Belt and Road initiative.

OneSpace’s rocket, in its current form, has marked disadvantages over SpaceX’s Falcon rockets. It stands at just 30 feet tall and can only carry a 220 pound payload, far below the 230 ft tall and 50,000 pound capacity of the Falcon 9.

OneSpace also uses a solid-fuel engine, which, though generally more stable and simple to build, prevents reuse of the rocket---unlike SpaceX craft.

It is important to note, however, that similar criticisms were hurled at SpaceX in its early years, yet the company was able to overcome the naysayers. Shu Chang has stated that OneSpace will eventually build larger rockets with greater payload capacity and intends to serve both commercial and govt customers, like SpaceX.

However, OneSpace faces significant hurdles in building an international clientele, particularly in the US.

Existing US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), as well as the US Congress’ prohibitions on NASA and other government entities from cooperating with China currently lock OneSpace out of the lucrative US market. Yet OneSpace may be able to build up a sizeable customer base in Asia, Europe and elsewhere in addition to government contract work.

Murky though its origins may be, OneSpace’s entry into the commercial spaceflight industry is no bad thing. Keeping competitors on each other’s toes is a spur that drives progress forward.
Brian Orlotti.

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

EU "Freezes" Britain out of Galileo SatNav System; RAF Promises New "British" SatNav & Space Defence Policy

          By Henry Stewart

In the latest example of how politics influences the activities of the space industry, the United Kingdom (UK) has learned that, after contributing £1.2Bln ($2.06Bln CDN) of the estimated £8.5Bln ($14.6Bln CDN) total cost towards the building of the European Union (EU) Galileo navigation satellite system (GNSS) UK scientists will not be allowed to remain involved with the program.

As outlined in the May 21st, 2018 Express post, "RAF to launch NASA-style space agency after EU freezes Britain out of Galileo project," the non-elected governing body of the European Union (EU), known as the European Commission (EC), has said that continued UK participation in the Galileo program would “no longer be appropriate” after the expected exit of the UK from the EU (known as 'Brexit"), currently scheduled for midnight on March 30th, 2019 Central European Time.

In response, UK Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has tasked the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) with assessing "the military requirements for a UK global navigation system," and developing partnerships "with other close allies such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US" interested in contributing to a UK based satellite navigation project.

UK Defence Secretary Williamson. Photo c/o Mirror.
The assessment will become a core component of the first UK Defence Space Strategy, which is expected to be developed over the next few months.

Other UK news services are also reporting on the story.

As outlined in the May 21st, Independent post, "UK plans own space programme after dispute with EU over Galileo project, defence secretary announces," the UK will: its contribution to the EU’s Galileo satellite programme and “plan for alternative systems in this crucial area”, Gavin Williamson has said as he announced the launch of the UK’s first Defence Space Strategy. 
The move follows an increasingly bitter dispute between Whitehall (the centre of the UK government) and Brussels (the EU capital) over the access the UK, the European Union’s biggest spender on defence, will have to the bloc’s satellite navigation project after it leaves the EU.
The article also quoted the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who said last week that British companies could not be directly involved in a new EU satellite navigation system after Brexit, but Britain would have access to its signal.

It cannot be business as usual,” according to Barnier. “Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

The announcement that the UK is planning “alternative systems” suggests that the UK government is resigned to being excluded from Galileo and forfeiting its investment.

The proposed new UK Space Defence Strategy "aims to significantly boost the sector in response to changing threats to the country’s critical infrastructure," according to the May 21st, 2018 Government Europa post, "UK launches first space defence strategy to protect space-based infrastructure."

According to the post:
Under the new strategy, the RAF Air Command will take control and assume responsibility for the UK’s military space operations in the future. These operations are set to increase as the nature of space-based threats changes.
According to UK Secretary of State Williamson, “Britain is a world leader in the space industry and our defence scientists and military personnel have played a central role in the development of the EU’s Galileo satellite programme alongside British companies, so it is important we also review our contribution and how we plan for alternative systems in this crucial area.”

Galileo GNSS is being built through the European Union (EU) by the European Space Agency (ESA). It's advertized as being intended primarily for civilian use, unlike the more military-orientated systems such as the US based Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's  Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) or China's 1st generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and 2nd generation COMPASS system.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is a "cooperating state" of the ESA and participates in a variety of ESA programs and missions including Galileo, as outlined in the October 8th, 2003 Universe Today post, "Canada Joins Galileo System."

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Friday, May 18, 2018

That Massive Political Elephant Crowding Every Room at CASI ASTRO'18

         By Chuck Black

It's worth noting that few (if any) Canadian Federal government space related initiatives can move forward without the active participation of some fairly senior Ottawa based politcal operatives.

An "advocacy funnel," one of many useful, graphic representations available online to help define the mechanisms and actions needed to gain the attention of elected representatives. Graphic c/o The Campaign Workshop.

As outlined most recently in the March 22nd, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?," that political engagement has been missing under the present Justin Trudeau Federal government.

It's not that the appropriate politician won't politely return the phone calls from the appropriate technocrat, bureaucrat or independent advisory board panel member. It's that the politicians continue to promise action next week, not this week, after making similar promises last week and the week before.

In some cases, such as the proposed Canadian contributions to the US Deep Space Gateway (DSG), now known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), political approval may simply be a formality.

After all, the general consensus within government is that the program is the logical follow-on to one of the current core mission of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), which is to administer and co-ordinate Canadian contributions to the International Space Station (ISS).

But sometimes those initial assumptions are simply not congruent with the final political and funding decisions.

As outlined in the both the April 30th, 2018 post, "NASA Resource Prospector Cancellation "Disappointing" Says Deltion Innovations CEO Boucher," and the September 26th, 2016 post, "The REAL Reason Why Canada Won't Be Participating in the NASA Resolve Mission Anytime Soon, Probably!," those disconnects happen often and occur because of political decisions at both the domestic and international level.

Sometimes, the consensus needed to make a political decision may be lacking.

An example of this could be found at the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) ASTRO'18 conference, held this year in Quebec City, PQ from May 15th - 17th, during the Thursday morning presentation on the upcoming "RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) Data Policy."

The presentation focused on the substancial amount of legislation which has grown up around Earth imaging since RADARSAT-2 launched in 2005 and how the existing policy needs to be taken into account before creating a new set of policy decisions to cover the release of the expected flood of upcoming RCM data.

Given that RCM is currently scheduled to launch sometime before the end of 2018, there are reasonable grounds to conclude that the constellation could begin operating and collecting data before any RCM data policy is finalized and appoved at the political level.

The complexity of integrating the existing and proposed new legislation could also be a part of the problem with that new, private sector commercial ground station built by Inuvik, NWT based New North Networks for San Francisco, CA based Planet and Norwegian based Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT). 

As outlined in the March 5th, 2018 post, "That Commercial Ground Station Built by New North Networks in Inuvik Still Can't be Used," and the newer, May 7th, 2018 CTV news post, "'We're quite frustrated:' Red tape threatens growing Arctic space industry," that situation has remained unresolved for two years and will fall apart if not soon dealt with by Ottawa.

Of course, there were at least a few people focused on space policy at CASI ASTRO'18.

These including Federal Space Advisory Board (SAB) head Lucy Stojak, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) executive VP Iain Christie, along with representatives from the McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and others.

But there wasn't any influencial members of parliment in attendance or any explicitely political operatives of the kind that inhabit the darker corridors of the typical AIAC or Canadian Science Policy Centre conference.

And, for the most part, those who did attend focused either on a simple listing of the items needing to be politically addressed (and that's a long list) or on their favoured version of a political end result.

There wasn't a lot of discussion on practical methodologies needed to achieve results or address problems. This is an obvious failure on the part of our domestic space industry.

Until it can come to grips with the specific steps required to move the political ball forward, that massive political elephant already crowding every room at CASI ASTRO'18 will continue to grow larger.

Eventually, it could end up crushing us all.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. During this past week, he attended and participated at CASI ASTRO'18 in Quebec City.

UTIAS Space Flight Lab Team Presented With 2018 Alouette Award at CASI ASTRO'18

         By Chuck Black

The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) has honoured the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) for their highly successful Canadian Advanced Nanospace eXperiment (CanX) nanosatellite precision formation flying mission. 

CanX-4 and CanX-5 at the UTIAS SFL just before being transfered to Sriharikota, India for launch onboard the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) PSLV C23 launch vehicle on June 30th, 2014. As outlined in the July 30th, 2014 UTUAS SFL press release, "CanX-4 & CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission, One Month in Space," the satellites were commissioned quickly after launch and were designed to demonstrate low cost, low mass orbital positioning technologies with.practical application related to sparse aperture sensing, ground target tracking, precise geolocation and on-orbit satellite servicing. Photo c/o UTIAS SFL.

In November 2014, the CanX-4 and CanX-5 dual formation flying mission accomplished a series of automous orbital formations with sub metre control and centimetre level relative position knowlege which allowed the two micrsats to dance around each other in an orbital ballet of unparalleled complexity for a smallsat.

CASI president Dr. Jacques Giroux presented each of the six named mambers of the UTIAS SFL team with the 2018 Alouette Award for outstanding contribution to advancement in Canadian space technology during the gala dinner of the biannual CASI ASTRO'18 conference, held this year in Quebec City, PQ from May 15th - 17th.

The CanX-4/CanX-5 team included: 
  • Dr. Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, the director general, space science and technology at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • Dr. Brad Wallace of Defence R&D Canada
  • Dr. Cameron Ower, the director of engineering and chief technology officer, robotics and automation at Brampton ON based MDA.
  • Doug Sinclair the owner of Sinclair Interplanetary, a supplier of hardware, software, training and expertise to the spacecraft community.
Mission contributions also included control algorithms from Prof. Christopher J. Damaren of UTIAS and navigation algorithms from Profs Susan Skone and Elizabeth Cannon of the University of Calgary.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The First Falcon-9 Block 5 Launch

          By Brian Orlotti

On May 11th, the SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket launched and landed successfully at the Kennedy Space Centre. The launch marks another milestone for the commercial space industry, allowing SpaceX and its customers to greatly up the tempo of launches.

The Falcon 9 Block 5’s first flight was actually delayed by a day, after a technical issue triggered an automatic abort with less than a minute remaining before launch on May 10th. Fortunately, no issues marred the rescheduled launch, allowing the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket to deliver its payload to orbit.

As outlined in the  May 11th, 2018 The Verge post, "With the landing of SpaceX’s powerful new Falcon 9, a new era of rocket reusability takes off," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk admitted to some nervousness:
The reason that it’s so hard to make an orbital rocket work is that your passing grade is 100 percent. And you can’t fully and properly test an orbital rocket until it launches, because you cannot recreate those conditions on Earth… Man, anyway, I’m stressed.
The Block 5’s first payload was Bangabandhu 1, a Bangladeshi communications satellite designed and built by Thales Alenia Space. Bangabandhu 1 is Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite, providing Internet access across the country as well as India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The $248 million USD satellite was financed via a loan from HSBC Holdings plc.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 incorporates upgrades meant to satisfy both NASA Commercial Crew program as well as US military launch requirements. These include:
  • Uprated engines enabling 7-10% more thrust
  • An improved flight control system that lowers landing fuel requirements
  • A reusable heat shield at the rocket’s base to protect the engines and plumbing
  • More temperature-resistant cast and machined titanium grid fins
  • A thermal protection coating on the first stage to limit damage from re-entry heating
  • Redesigned and requalified valves for greater durability
  • A set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping
These various upgrades will make the new Block 5 rockets sturdier and easier to maintain, so that each can be flown up to 10 times before needing refurbishment. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has states that his next goal is to launch the same Falcon booster stage twice within 24 hours. The Falcon 9 Block 5’s leap forward in efficiency will greatly help to cut the cost of space travel, a key enabler for Elon Musk’s ambitious plans to settle Mars.

The success of the Falcon 9 Block 5 is another step towards the bright future envisioned by Musk, Jeff Bezos and others; a vision of millions of humans living and working in space.
Brian Orlotti.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mississauga ON Based Macfab Builds Space Industry Connections Throughout the World

         By Chuck Black

It's well known within its industry, but less well known internationally. Mississauga ON based Macfab, a precision component and sub-assembly manufacturing facility with connections to the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Lab (SFL) and expertise in satellite control devices and space science instruments, is hoping to change that.

Macfab director of R&D Charles Day (left), and business development director Joe Magyar (right) discuss synergies and opportunities with ÅAC Microtec AB and Clyde Space Ltd. founder & CSO Craig Clark on day three of the 34th Space Symposium, which was held from April 16th - 19th  in Colorado Springs, Colorado. macfab is registered with Canada's controlled goods program and holds membership in the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI), the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) and the Southern Ontario Defense Association (SODA). Photo c/o macfab.

According to Macfab business development director Joe Magyar, the next step in that process will be exhibiting at the upcoming Small Satellites, Systems and Services Symposium (4S Symposium), which will be held in Sorrento, Italy from May 28th - June 1st, 2018.

"It's good to connect with your Canadian customers and potential clients at a national event," said Magyar during a recent interview. "It's even better to connect at an international event like the annual Colorado based Space Symposium, which has a lot of high level content and connections. But we are really looking forward to this event in Italy."

As outlined on the 4S Symposium website, this year's event is jointly organized with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the French national space agency.

But it's also a cooperative venture, organized in conjunction with two other major smallsat conferences; the annual Small Satellite Conference (organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Utah State University) and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Symposium on Small Satellites for Earth Observation.

The technical exhibition area is currently booked solid with a cross-section of well known international precision manufacturers and smallsat firms including Irving-TX based Orbital Systems Ltd., Stockholm, Sweden based GOMSpace, Toronto, ON based UTIAS SFL, the UK based Science and Technologies Facilities Council and quite a number of others.

"I'm especially looking forward to connecting with Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS), a Netherlands based supplier of launch services and cubesat products and OHB Sweden , who are also exhibiting at the 4S Symposium," said Magyar.

As outlined in the May 2018 Macfab newsletter post, "Hybrid rocket engine wins 2018 Capstone Grand Prize," this year’s Macfab-sponsored award for the "Best Overall Project" at the 2018 Capstone Design Symposium went to a three-person team for their design and development of a hybrid rocket engine. As outlined in the post, Nicholas Christopher, Nerissa Wong and Scott Dalgliesh also picked up two other awards at the event and will join their colleagues from the Waterloo Rocketry student team, to compete at the 2018 Spaceport America Cup, which will be held from June 19th - 23rd, 2018 at Spaceport America NM. Photo and graphic c/o Macfab.

With a production range that runs from single components into the thousands, Macfab produces custom components and assemblies for numerous specialized science, high technology and industrial product applications, including cardiovascular devices, mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, mass cytometry, satellites, space science instruments, power generation and distribution equipment, medical diagnostic devices.

The firm’s focus is on close tolerance precision components and assemblies; its evolution strategy has been to complement its core business, and to offer new value-added services to its customers, through the introduction and integration of a complete suite of finishing, cleaning and assembly solutions.

"We have made a huge investment in our clean lab," according to Magyar. "We can deliver components so clean that they can go directly into the client clean room. It's a huge differentiator to our clients, to have a supplier go from raw materials to finished products which are cleaned, assembled, and tested as per customer requirements, then delivered straight to the clients own clean room facilities."

Macfab was launched in 1987. Today Macfab serves client organizations across North and South America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Quick Notes on the Upcoming CASI ASTRO'18

          By Henry Stewart

Here's a few quick notes on the upcoming Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) ASTRO'18, Canada's largest space conference, which will be held on May 15th - 17th at the Hôtel Delta Quebec in Quebec City, PQ.
  • News updates, registration, sponsorship and accommodation information, plus information on the one day "Space Resiliancy" workshop, which will be held on May 14th, 2018, are available on the  main ASTRO18 webpage
  • The ASTRO'18 team has organized a site visit to ABB Canada’s Measurement and Analytics business unit’s unique high-tech facility in the Espace d’innovation Michelet, a next-generation technological park in Québec City on Thursday, May 17th from 2:15pm – 4:30pm.
This 85,000-square-foot new facility boasts some impressive features including: 
  • Cleanroom space (2,800 sq. ft.) composed of 8 individual rooms and external service hall to double simultaneous integration capacity. 
  • Laboratory space (40% larger) for R&D and contract engineering with dedicated optical (2x) and ESD critical electronic (2x) rooms. 
  • A large TVAC (1.5 meter inside diameter) adapted for large payloads such as the PCW Meteorological Imager. 
  • Metrology room with anti-vibration floating slab and micro-vibration tests setup. 
  • 28 feet height high bay production floor for integration and test of large equipment (ex. astronomy instruments).
For more information on this site visit, please check out the ABB Canada – Site Visit web page on the CASI website.

  • Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black is on the technical committee of the event this year and will be speaking on the topic of "So You Want to be a Space Advocate" on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 as part of the Public Engagement and Outreach track. 
If you like what he has to say please feel free to provide feedback during the session. Otherwise, feel free to bring ripe fruit for throwing. Either way, a good time will be had by all. 
See you in Quebec City.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Still No Funding From the Space Agency? Check Out These Options

          By Henry Stewart

Looking for a listing of 100+ firms which provide support and capital to Canadian technology entrepreneurs? Then check out this incredible group of mostly Canadian based incubators, accelerators, angel, seed, series A and series B investors from Maple Leaf Start-ups.

May 8th, 2018 screenshot from the Maple Leaf Start-Ups Home page showing sixteen of the 100+ organizations the firm tracks.

Each listing contains a firm overview, a link to the website, the firm portfolio (the small businesses it has funded or is planning to fund) and a listing of the principals involved with the project.

As outlined in the March 31st, 2014 Marc Evans consulting post, "Canadian Startup Financing Landscape (2014)" the listing derived from an earlier info-graphic, but has been updated and improved.

While the list favors software and biosciences funding, it also contains essential background for anyone looking for an entry into the world of venture capital, even if all you really want to do is build a better rocket ship.

This list, along with the The Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) listing of its 250 strong member directory, is "essential background reading" for the 21st Century Canadian entrepreneur. Enjoy.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

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