Friday, March 27, 2015

Part 8: 100 Years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield

Happy Times, Planning for the Future, HARP Defunded and The Chapman Report



By Robert Godwin 
This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief synopsis of the history of astronautics in Canada.
The author wishes to thank the late Dr Phil Lapp and his wife Colleen Lapp for their permission to reveal some of Dr Lapp's memoirs. Dr Lapp was a founder of the the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) and of SPAR Aerospace. 
He passed away in 2013; the text herein was written by Robert Godwin.

As early as September 1963 a 3000 acre solid fuel rocket plant had been established at Rockwood Manitoba for supplying rocket propellant to the Churchill launch site. The site was built by Bristol and Aerojet-General for $2M.[i] USAF expertise and money flowed into Churchill where a dedicated team of research scientists continued to launch ever more complex and sophisticated payloads into the upper atmosphere.

The Canadian built Black Brant IV would ultimately fly an 18 kg payload to 1000 km and it was determined that given a small increase in budget it could have quickly been upgraded to orbital capability. A large "auroral" launch building was completed at the Churchill site and allowed the scientists to work on their payload while sheltered from the climate. Black Brant would soon be competing with Bull's HARP for the limited Canadian government funds available.

Gerald Bull used the media and all of his many intellectual assets to keep HARP's money flowing. Eventually by the summer of 1964 he managed to effectively embarrass the Canadian government into matching the US Army funding for HARP.[ii] At this point the second HARP test site began construction in Highwater, Quebec.

Later in 1964 the Canadian government signed an agreement with the United States to place three more satellites into space, all from the launch site at Vandenberg. This project became known as the International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) and was successfully conducted over the ensuing seven years. 

The first ISIS satellite was named Alouette II and was launched November 29th 1965. RCA Victor was selected as prime contractor with SPAR as an associate. RCA Canada, based in Montreal, defined its role as "space research, satellite work, and earth based facilities in support of satellites." RCA's checkered history in Canada has a heritage that stretched all the way back to 1899 and Emile Berliner, who had invented the flat phonograph record and the microphone used in Bell's telephones. 

Montreal became a nexus for electronics and communications technology, in part because Marconi also set up the Canadian Marconi Company there in 1903. Berliner was bought out in 1924 by Victor Talking Machine Company which in turn was bought out in 1929 by the quasi-government Radio Corporation of America.[iii] The fight over who would control trans-Atlantic communications, Britain or America, certainly spurred the development of the robust electronics industry in Montreal. The century-long battle evolved from undersea cables to radio and ultimately to satellites. In 1977 RCA's Government and Commercial Systems Division was purchased by SPAR.[iv] Berliner's factory built in 1920 on Rue Lenoir in Montreal played a major role until RCA closed it down in the 1980s.

In May 1966 while on a trip to France Dr Lapp was telephoned by John Chapman who also happened to be in France at that moment. Chapman asked Lapp to meet him to discuss a new study group ordered by Dr Omond Solandt of the Science Council of Canada (SCC). This study group was charged by the SCC to come up with proposals for the future course of Canada's space program, specifically towards developing policy for space communications, space and upper atmosphere research, and how these activities should be organized and funded.[v]

Lapp and Chapman spent that evening cruising down the Seine while discussing their plans for the future. Lapp later recalled that Chapman entered a singing contest with a group of "lively Australians" and won the day with a rousing version of Alouette. The only time he claims he ever saw Chapman "let his hair down."

The SCC study group included Chapman, Lapp, Gordon Patterson of the University of Toronto and Peter Forsyth of the University of Western Ontario. Patterson, a U of T graduate and ex-member of Kurt Stehling's rocket club, had distinguished himself in the 1930s as scientific officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Chapman's SCC group held meetings in eleven cities across Canada for four months in 1966 before heading south to meet with Robert Seamans at NASA and then travelling as far afield as Europe and Japan for consultations.[vi]

"The final report was written by individual members of the Study Group and many others from across the country. I wrote Part III, HARP-McGill, the section dealing with Dr Gerry Bull and his big guns, and the section on the Black Brant program," Dr. Phil Lapp.[vii]

By this time Black Brant and HARP were the two biggest projects in the Canadian aerospace budget. Many contractors around the country were involved, including Heroux of Quebec who made various probes for HARP and later made the legs for the Apollo Lunar Module.
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The SCC sponsored report appeared in February 1967 under the title Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada but soon became known as simply The Chapman Report since that was the way it was described in the follow up from the SCC which was entitled A Space Program for Canada

The most notable recommendation from the group was the formation of a national space agency. This proposed new organization would be both a national advisory body and contracting agency. This was consistent with a recommendation which had been put forth by The Royal Commission on Government Organization as early as January 1963. Input from all parts of industry and academia considered the consolidation of the national effort as the most useful solution to many of the problems inherent in the various programs underway. Despite this, that particular recommendation would still not be implemented for another 22 years. 

One of the most problematic issues was the discrepancy between public and private budgets. At the time of the report government researchers in Canada received ten times the compensation that their industry peers received.

And while Universities definitely wanted a national governing space body, they didn't see any use for Gerald Bull's HARP. Most of the experiments that were planned simply couldn't withstand the shock of a HARP launch. Despite Dr Lapp's opinion that HARP could serve a meaningful purpose, the budget share that Bull had carved out from the Canadian government was simply too high.

Other important recommendations from Chapman's group included staking a claim to GEO locations between 75 degrees W and 115 degrees W for Canadian communications satellites. They also recommended that the government allocate the same percentage of the GNP to space as the United States (0.1%). Despite lower amounts of GNP allocated in other space-faring countries the Study Group felt that living so close to the United States would create too much temptation for more of Canada's top scientific minds to move south in search of bigger budgets.

PDF copies of "Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada," by J.H. Chapman, P.A. Forsyth, P.A. Lapp and G.N. Patterson, also known as the “Chapman Report," are available online by clicking on the link. Document c/o Phil Lapp.

The Churchill Research Range and the Black Brant were deemed by the Study Group to be good enough for orbital launches. They recommended that Canada should take over full responsibility for CRR (which they did until closing it in 1985) and that by strapping multiple Black Brants together or modifying the Scout launcher, or even giving Bull more money, Canada could quickly develop its own orbital launch capability. None of these recommendations were followed.

Other suggestions included building a robust satellite industry; changing the allocation of certain frequencies to allow for the possibility of direct satellite television transmissions; a coordinated effort to organise the different university programs; and if necessary in the future, encouraging life science researchers to cooperate with foreign programs.

However, the three most notable recommendations that Olandt took to the Minister were, a national agency, the need for comm-sats by 1971 and a Canadian satellite launch capability. Of the three, the first two were eventually implemented.

The three sections of the Chapman Report were broken down into history, treaties and Gerald Bull's HARP. Despite the special attention given to Bull's mega-project, by November 1967 the tide had begun to turn against HARP.

Robert Godwin.
After the Chapman Report was published Canada's fragmented space efforts continued much as before, with the notable exception of Bull's HARP, which was deprived of Canadian funding at the end of June 1967.
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Robert Godwin is the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books. He is also the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum

He has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series "The NASA Mission Reports" and appeared on dozens of radio and television programs in Canada, the USA and England as an expert not only on space exploration but also on music. 

His books have been discussed on CNN, the CBC, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes. He produced the first ever virtual reality panoramas of the Apollo lunar surface photography and the first multi-camera angle movie of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. His latest book was written with the late Frederick I Ordway III and is called "2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey" about the history of spaceflight at the movies.

Footnotes

[i] Globe and Mail Sep 20 1963
[ii] Ibid. July 16 1964
[iii] http://www.berliner.montreal.museum/site/enberlinerplus.html
[iv] Phil Lapp Memoir pg 227
[v] Ibid. Pg 178
[vi] Ibid. Pg 178
[vii] Ibid. Pg 179


Last Week: "STEMs around the World, the USAF gets Churchill and Gerald Bull's Gun," in part 7 of "100 years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield."

Next Week: "SPAR, Telesat, UTIAS rescues Apollo 13 and Churchill Expands but then Closes," as part 9 of "100 years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield" continues!

Monday, March 23, 2015

$5Mln Allocated for Digital Manufacturing Hub in Winnipeg

          By Brian Orlotti

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WEDC), a department of the federal government, has announced that it will establish an advanced digital manufacturing hub (ADMH) in Winnipeg, MB.

3D printing is not just for creating pretty little plastic blocks. As outlined in the March 18th, 2015 3D Print.com article, "Volvo Trucks Cuts Production Time By 94% & Costs with Stratasys 3D Printing Systems," the technology has substantive, money saving applications in the manufacturing, aerospace and automotive sectors.  Graphic c/o 3D Print.com.

The ADMH will develop additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) technologies for use in the aerospace and medical industries. As outlined in the March 13th, 2015 WEDC press release, "Harper Government Supports Innovation in Western Canada," the hub will be developed in partnership with several companies including local satellite component manufacturer Magellan Aerospace

The move comes on the heels of WEDC's March 4th unveiling of a new satellite manufacturing facility in Winnipeg. As outlined in the March 9th, 2015 post, "Magellan & U of Manitoba Open New Satellite Manufacturing Facility," both initiatives are part of the Canadian government's efforts to shape Western Canada into a tech nexus.

The ADMH (to be called Precision ADM) will operate as a division of the Orthopaedic Innovation Centre (OIC), a non-profit corporation focused on orthopaedic technology development located in Winnipeg's Concordia Hospital. WEDC will contribute $5Mln CDN of the ADMH's projected $20Mln CDN cost over the next five years.

As Canada's first dedicated additive manufacturing facility, the ADMH has acquired several high-profile industry partners including:
  • Stratasys, a leading US-based manufacturer of industrial and consumer 3D printers.
  • EOS of North America, a subsidiary of a German firm specializing in selective laser sintering (SLS) technology.
Although not a traditional expert in the area, Magellan's interest in 3D printing is rooted in the technology's potential to dramatically reduce both the cost and weight of spacecraft and satellites.

In addition, recent moves in the space industry indicate increasing demand for high-volume, low-cost space systems. Over the past year, several  large firms, including Google, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), and the Virgin Group have announced plans to deploy huge constellations of small, low-cost satellites to provide internet access. Magellan's participation in the ADMH can be seen as a first step in building a new industrial base to service this emerging market.


But, as outlined in the March 10th, 2015 Space News article, "Com Dev Gears Up for Mega-constellaton Opportunity," another Canadian space firm, Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International, is also looking to drive business in this area.

According to COM DEV CEO Mike Pley, his company has been preparing for bids on mega-constellation projects since mid-2014, and one project, the proposed 650-satellite OneWeb system is moving forward faster than the others. The OneWeb company is expected to create a joint venture this year with the builder of its constellation and could be operational as early as 2019.

With such opportunities on the horizon, COM DEV participation in the ADMH is not inconceivable.

The creation of the ADMH, combined with Magellan's and Com Dev's ramp up in capabilities in the wake of MacDonald Dettwiler's (MDA) slow exit from the Canadian space sector, as outlined in the March 2nd, 2015 post, "Will the Last MDA Employee Leaving the Country, Please Turn out the Lights," can be seen as a changing of the old guard to the new.

As stated by Michael Corleone in one of the more memorable lines of the 1990 film, 'The Godfather Part III':

Brian Orlotti.
               Your enemies always get strong on what you leave behind.
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Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Time for Mars One

          By Chuck Black

While not officially a Canadian story, recent comments from a variety of domestic space pundits suggest that Netherlands based Mars One, a non-profit organization which advocates a series of one way colonizing trips to the red planet beginning sometime in the late 2020's, has slowly slipped into the public conscious of space activists, although not in a good way.

Opening screenshot from "The Mars 100 - Mars One Astronaut Selection Round Three Trailer," a promotional video released  on February 15th, 2015 by Mars One to celebrate the third round selection of 100 potential semifinalists in the running to take part in what the organization calls an ambitious, multi-billion dollar private mission to colonize the red planet. As outlined in the February 17th, 2015 MacLean's article, "Newsmakers of the day: Canada’s Mars One semi-finalists," six Canadians still remain in the race to become one of the 24 astronaut colonists who believe they could just possibly be sent one day on a one way trip into the history books. They include "Toronto’s Reginald Foulds, a former military pilot and self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades; TV journalist and teacher Karen Cumming of Burlington, Ont.; Toronto’s Andreea Radulescu, a Romanian-Canadian IT analyst; English teacher Joanna Hindle from Whistler, B.C.; Vancouver scout leader Sue Higashio Weinreich; and University of Waterloo Ph.D. candidate Ben Criger. " Graphic c/o Mars One

The current spike in interest seems to have mostly derived from the March 16th, 2015 Medium article, "Mars One Finalist Explains Exactly How It‘s Ripping Off Supporters," As outlined in the article, the Mars One organization possesses "no plan, no process" and no real ability to accomplish anything even approaching the scale of the $6Bln USD ($7.53Bln CDN) fund raising campaign required to organize the effort, much less send anything real to the red planet.

The article extensively quoted Dr. Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin School of Education, who made the shortlist of 100 candidates willing to undertake the theoretical journey. According to Roche, the successful Mars One candidates were mostly the ones who had contributed the most money to the program.

The article left readers with the strong impression that application fees for the mission were the current and primary source of revenue for the Mars One team and also alleged that Mars One has received only 2701 applications in total, rather than 200,000+ applicants it publicly promotes on its website and sales literature.


For his part, Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp released a video just three days later attempting to respond to the statements made in the March 16th Medium article. According to Lasdorp:
The recent bad press about Mars One was largely caused by an article on medium.com, which contains a lot of things that are not true. 
Bas Lansdorp. Photo c/o Mars One.
For example, the suggestion was made that our candidates were selected on the basis on how much money they donate to Mars One. That is simply not true and this is very easy to find that on our website. There are a lot of current Round Three candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One and there are also lot of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One. The two things are not related at all and to say that they are is simply a lie. 
The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth...
Of course this isn't the first time Lansdorp has been on the hot-seat. As outlined in the  January 4th, 2014 article, "Mars One co-founder called out for “treachery, deceit and fraud” on Reddit," the self proclaimed "born entrepreneur" who has "never been one to let bold ventures intimidate him," often gets questions related to the feasibility of the Mars One plan of action.

Chris Hadfield. Image c/o CTV News.
Even normally reticent Canadians are getting into the spirit of criticizing Mars One.

As outlined in the November 9th, 2014 Medium article, "All Dressed up For Mars and No Place to Go," Canada's favorite ex-astronaut Chris Hadfield called Mars One "a failure from even the most basic starting point of any manned space mission." According to Hadfield:
I really counsel every single one of the people who is interested in Mars One, whenever they ask me about it, to start asking the hard questions now. I want to see the technical specifications of the vehicle that is orbiting Earth. I want to know: How does a space suit on Mars work? Show me how it is pressurized, and how it is cooled. What’s the glove design? 
None of that stuff can be bought off the rack. It does not exist. You can’t just go to SpaceMart and buy those things.
Julie Payette. Photo c/o Matt Stroshane/Getty
And, as part of her key-note speech to the 2015 AeroSPACE Symposium, organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which was held from March 18th - 20th in Montreal, PQ, former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette said “We don’t have the technology to go to Mars, with everything we know today, so I don’t think that a marketing company and a TV-type of selection is sending anybody anywhere.

As outlined in the March 18th, 2015 Canadian Press article, "Ex-Canadian astronaut Julie Payette says Mars One, the one-way mission to the red planet, is going nowhere," the current chief operating officer for the Montreal Science Centre and director of the National Bank of Canada also felt that,“if you meet any of those people (who've signed up with Mars One), don’t tell them they’re courageous because the only courage they had was to sign up on a website.”

Payette may have a more nuanced opinion of the Mars One effort than most others because she's one of the few who've grasped the essential truth of the effort. It's essentially very little more than a website with a marketing plan which expects to work out the details of the actual activity at some future date, after the money begins to flow in.

The  Producers. Graphic c/o Amazon.
The March 17th, 2015 NPR news story, "Are Humans Really Headed To Mars Anytime Soon?" even quoted Mars One CEO Lansdorp as believing that the voyage "will likely pay for itself because it will be a media spectacle. Everyone in the world will want to watch the whole adventure."

To take advantage of the opportunity "Mars One is planning a reality TV show with sponsorships and advertising," according to Lansdorp. "We expect it's worth up to 10 Olympic Games' [worth] of media revenue, which is $45 billion."

Of course, this sort of public statement puts Mars One squarely in the category of grandiose claims so far untainted by any semblance of reality, if only because it would seem to be exceedingly difficult to generate an order of magnitude more revenue than an event like the Olympic Games with an order of magnitude less resources and only a couple of employees.

At this point, the overall picture seems quite similar to the 1967 Mel Brooks movie "The Producers," which focused on down-on-his-luck producer Max Bialystock (played by Zero Mostel), who teamed up with a timid accountant (Gene Wilder) in a get-rich-quick scheme to put on the world's worst show and make off with the production funds.

Mars One essentially smells the same at this point.

Of course, in the movie the get rich quick scheme is undone when the production becomes a smash hit and the perpetrators are sent to jail for oversubscribing the production.

Will the Mars One team end up in a similar position? If they do, then perhaps that's entertainment!

Dick Shawn auditions for the role of Hitler in the 1967 movie, The Producers.