Thursday, December 20, 2018

Airbus Has Been in Canada for Thirty-Five Years and Wants to Increase its Contribution to Our Space Activities

          By Chuck Black

Most Canadians don't think of Airbus as a space company. Those who track the industry recognize Airbus as the firm which took a 50.1% stake in the Dorval PQ based Bombardier Aerospace C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP) in July 2018 to fund the production ramp-up needed to turn Bombardier’s single-aisle C Series (now known as the Airbus A220) into a commercial success.

Airbus in Canada. As outlined on the Airbus in Canada website, Airbus is a successful provider "of space technology and solutions to Canada’s government, military, commercial and civil space markets. Airbus’ commercial space credentials include providing advanced geostationary telecommunications satellites to Telesat, a leading satellite operator headquartered in Ottawa. The company’s military communications accomplishments include providing military satellite communication terminal equipment and secure communications services to the Canadian Armed Forces." The page also notes Airbus contributions to the DND Sapphire space surveillance satellite and the upcoming Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM). Graphic c/o Airbus.

Others note the Fort Erie ON based Airbus helicopter manufacturing facility and the contract awarded in 2016 by the Department of National Defence (DND) Fixed Wing Aircraft Procurement Project, for 16 Airbus CC-295 aircraft to take over the search and rescue duties currently provided by six CC-115 Buffalo aircraft and 12 CC-130 legacy Hercules aircraft.

But according to Simon Jacques, the President at Airbus Defence and Space Canada, Airbus is also the second largest aerospace company in the world and heavily involved with Canada's space industry.

Simon Jacques. Photo c/o LinkedIn.
Jacques, along with Pierre-Alexis Joumel, the Airbus executive who recently co-founded "The Moon Race," initiative and Chris Dodd, the Director of business development at Airbus, spoke with this blog on Tuesday. 

According to Jacques, "Airbus has been in Canada for thirty-five years. We are Canadian and our roots are as deep as any other large company operating here."

He should know.

Jacques is also a Canadian, who spent who spent seven years at what was then known as MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (now a part of ‎Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies).

He began his career in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as a combat system engineering naval officer, according to his bio on the Montreal PQ based Aero Montreal website.

According to Jacques, his current priority is grow the Airbus footprint in Canada by building out partnerships with Canadian experts and companies able to supplement the capabilities of existing Airbus suppliers. Airbus currently lists 665 suppliers across Canada and supports over 17,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Airbus website.

"Our existing supply chain already supplies us with much interaction with space companies," he feels.

According to Pierre-Alexis Joumel, one of the current Airbus initiatives to target key technologies for future space exploration is "The Moon Race," an international competition to support technology demonstrations in space and on the lunar surface.

As outlined in the October 1st, 2018 Moon Race press release, "The Moon Race: Pioneering Sustainable Lunar Exploration," the goal is to:
...bring together a group of space and non-space partners from the Moon-bound community (and beyond) that will jointly award opportunities for technology demonstrations on the lunar surface to up to four candidates in order to foster global entrepreneurship.
Pierre-Alexis Joumel. Photo c/o LinkedIn.
The initial announcement of the competition was made during the 69th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2018), which was held in Bremen Germany from October 1st - 5th, 2018.

As outlined in the October 3rd, 2018 post, "'Moon Race' Backed by Blue Origin, Airbus Aims for 2024 Lunar Flight," participating entities in the competition include the European Space Agency (ESA), the Mexican Space Agency, Airbus, Kent WA based Blue Origin and Cedex France based construction giant Vinci Construction.

"We're looking to bring the best and most useful technologies to the Moon's surface," according to Joumel. Those technologies are currently divided up in to four "parallel technology streams" including:
  • Manufacturing ("to construct useful items wherever they're needed" according to Joumel). 
  • Energy ("to help survive the long winter night").
  • Resources ("to provide the raw materials for manufacturing" and maybe even fill the first bottle of Moon water).
  • Biology ("to eventually grow food on the Lunar surface").
"We're attracting teams from all over the world. We're actively looking for Canadian teams and talking with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)," he said. "I invite Canadians who are interested in participating in the Moon Race to contact me."

More information on the event will be announced in January 2019

The Airbus executives also had some strong opinions and useful suggestions relating to Canada's future in space. 

According to Chris Dodd, "we need to move forward with the low-Earth orbit telecommunications constellation infrastructure."

As outlined in the February 28th, 2018 post, "'Big Winners' in Tuesday's Federal Budget," the Federal government included $100Mln CDN in the 2018 Budget to develop constellations of low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites intended to bring internet services to rural parts of the country, but the program hasn't been moving forward as fast as expected. 

"A $100Mln contribution is a good start, but most of it hasn't been released yet and it's not a lot when you look at the big picture and how many Canadian companies could participate in building this system," he said. 

According to Dodd, the total cost of the LEO constellation is in the range of several billions of dollars and the amount so far provided by the Federal government is only a small proportion of the total amount needed.

He also added that:
Telesat’s LEO constellation is largest space project ever conceived in Canada. It has the potential to revolutionize the delivery of affordable, high capacity, secure and resilient broadband connectivity throughout Canada and the world. 
The government needs to join with private industry to bring this ambitious telecommunications infrastructure project to fruition. It’s a good investment that will benefit Canadian, increase exports and is fully aligned with both the skills and innovation agendas.
As outlined in the August 2nd, 2018 post, "Airbus Competing Against Thales/ Maxar to Design and Build the 117 Satellite Telesat Constellation," Ottawa ON based Telesat will act as the lead on the project.

Dodd also believes in increased transatlantic space co-operation. "Canadian industry acknowledges the benefits of the current CSA efforts within the ESA. Major Canadian players including Honeywell and MDA benefit from Canadian/European co-operation and much can be gained from our partnerships." He added “The CSA should increase its contribution to ESA programs to create more opportunities for Canadian industry to participate in Europe’s Earth observation, telecommunications, science and exploration projects.” 

According to Jacques, it's "difficult for the government to pick out what's important and while we all agree that aerospace is vitally important, we often get hung up on the specifics. That's why we need a balanced space plan, something that's good for Canada and for the industry as a whole including stakeholders."

"A clear commitment by the government to a long-term, balanced space plan is long overdue," he said.

Jacques also said that the Federal government plans to begin moving forward with the proposed enhanced satellite communication project (ESCP). The program is a long running Federal proposal to build a two node constellation of modified Molniya orbiting DND satellites "to fill the requirement of the new Canadian defense policy for all-Arctic (communications) coverage."

But as outlined in the December 8th, 2017 post, "Long Awaited DND Polar Sats Postponed. Will be Cancelled/ Replaced/ Renamed After Next Election (Like Last Time)," this blog doesn't expect any further announcements on ESCP until after the next election.

Of course, who knows what will happen over the next few months, especially since it's an election year. Here's wishing Airbus the best of luck with their future plans.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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