Sunday, August 31, 2014

Graphene as the Next Great Miracle Material for Space

          by Brian Orlotti

On August 20th, Ottawa-based Grafoid Inc., a company involved in the research, development and production of graphene, opened a 225,000 square foot production facility in Kingston, Ontario. The move has Canada positioned to become a world leader in the production of the much-hyped super-material, with effects on many industries, not the least of which is aerospace.

The facility, located in Queen's University's Innovation Park, in addition to housing research labs and graphene-related product development areas, will be the prime production point for Meso-Graf, a low-cost, high-purity graphene powder developed by Grafoid. The expansion into Kingston was facilitated by Grafoid's purchase of Kingston, ON based advanced materials group ALCERECO in June, 2014 for $1.25Mln USD ($36Mln CDN) as outlined in the June 9th, 2014 press release "Grafoid announces agreement to acquire advanced materials technology group ALCERECO Inc. of Kingston, Ontario."

Through this acquisition, Grafoid gained access to ALCERECO's existing facilities, technical expertise and global customer base. Grafoid 's expansion into Kingston is expected to bring 160 new jobs and provide a $32.7Mln CDN stimulus to the local economy.

Incorporated in September 2011 in Ottawa, ON, Grafoid is a graphene research and investment company. Its partners include Ottawa-based mining development firm Focus Graphite Inc. (the owners of a high-grade graphite deposit in Lac Knife, QC) and Singapore-based graphene producer Graphite Zero (a spin-off of the National University of Singapore's Graphene Research Center).

Graphene and its uses. Graphic c/o

The company is pursuing the commercialization of graphene for applications in numerous fields including renewable energy, 3D printing/additive manufacturing, bio-medicine, specialized coatings and military uses. Grafoid is currently attempting to raise a further $50Mln CDN in capital for further product development, as well as for more acquisitions.

Traditional methods of producing graphene are expensive, low-yield, multi-step processes involving harsh chemicals. Grafoid's proprietary production process (developed by company founder/ president & CTO Dr. Gordon Chiu) produces large yields of high-purity graphene from unprocessed graphite ore without the use of harsh chemicals. Chiu's method achieves higher yields by eliminating unnecessary steps from traditional processes and attains higher purity by eliminating harsh chemicals that typically damage the end product.

Graphene, first discovered in the mid 2000's, has been highly hyped over the past decade as a holy grail of materials science whose unique properties will transform our society and economy. Among graphene's many potential applications:
  • A replacement for silicon in computer circuitry that would enable ultra-fast, Terahertz-speed optical computers and wireless networks. 
  • An aircraft building material even stronger and lighter than carbon fiber.
  • Cheap, high-capacity batteries that could be charged within seconds.
  • Filters that could cheaply desalinize seawater or remove radioactive waste. 
  • Cheap, compact, high-density hydrogen storage for use in transportation.
For all of graphene's tantalizing potential, its development has been hampered by researchers' lack of understanding of the material as well the difficulties in manufacturing it economically in large quantities.

Brian Orlotti.
The efforts of Grafoid and its partners will help mitigate both of these issues. In the coming years, graphene's promise may finally become reality.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Open Source Development of Earth Imaging Data Applications

          by Chuck Black

Two recent announcements, one American and one Canadian, highlight the growing influence of open source development methodologies in the processing of Earth image data.

The first, as outlined in the August 18th, 2014 Waterloo News announcement "Waterloo makes public most complete Antarctic map for climate research," deals directly with what has until now been perceived as the esoteric core of Canadian space agency activities, RADARSAT-2 data. 

According to the article:
Thanks to a partnership between the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), the prime contractor for the RADARSAT-2 program, and the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN) at UWaterloo, the mosaic is free and fully accessible to the academic world and the public.  
Using Synthetic Aperture Radar with multiple polarization modes aboard the RADARSAT-2 satellite, the CSA collected more than 3,150 images of the continent in the autumn of 2008, comprising a single pole-to-coast map covering all of Antarctica. This is the first such map of the area since RADARSAT-1 created one in 1997. 
Next up, at least according to the article, is a similar mosaic for Greenland, "which will provide further crucial information about our shifting climate in the northern hemisphere." There are also plans "to continue creating mosaics of Antarctica every few years to provide more data for researchers."

This RADARSAT-2 pole-to-coast Antarctic mosaic was created by MDA in cooperation with the Canadian Space Agency as part of the International Polar Year. Image c/o CSA.

The second announcement, as outlined in the August 22nd, 2014 article "NASA Picks Top Earth Data Challenge Ideas, Opens Call for Climate Apps," focuses on the NASA OpenNEX challenges. According to the article:
NASA has selected four ideas from the public for innovative uses of climate projections and Earth-observing satellite data. The agency also has announced a follow-on challenge with awards of $50,000 to build climate applications based on OpenNEX data on the Amazon cloud computing platform.
Both challenges use the Open NASA Earth Exchange, or OpenNEX, a data, cloud computing, and knowledge platform where users can share modeling and analysis codes, scientific results, information and expertise to solve big data challenges in the Earth sciences. OpenNEX provides users a large collection of climate and Earth science satellite data sets, including global land surface images, vegetation conditions, climate observations and climate projections.
These two articles are examples of the "public good" model of software development, a model championed by open source developers, whereby existing government/taxpayer needs require the paid collection of geo-spatial data and justify investment in satellites by making the data free and open for the taxpayers' benefit, which ideally leads to economic value and the creation and growth of businesses that make use of the public imagery for the greater good.

In this model, satellites, imagery and data are derived from "infrastructure," built by the government of others, which is available for all to exploit.

There is, of course, a second model, the "commodity" model whereby private companies fund the costs of satellites via sale of the data/imagery as a commodity on the open market. It is the model championed by IKONOS, GeoEye, Skybox Imaging (now owned by Google), Planet Labs along with Canada's Blackbridge (RapidEye) and UrtheCast.

This is the model the Federal government has been supporting recently, with multiple announcements of funding such as those described in the August 9th, 2014 post "Industry Minister Allocates $6.7Mln to Develop Space Apps."

It will be interesting to see which model ends up dominating the market.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Space Agency Seeks Insight into Space Industry

          by Chuck Black

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is soliciting bids of up to $250,000 CDN from "qualified suppliers" to undertake a "comprehensive socio-economic impact assessment" of the Canadian space sector.

Part of the cover of the most recent State of the Canadian Space Sector report. Since 1996, this annual document, normally released publicly in the winter, has tracked the financial impact of Canadian organizations involved in the space industry. According to the report, the 140 companies and organizations listed in the Canadian Space Directory generated $3.327Bln CDN in revenue and employed just under 8000 Canadians in 2012. It's unclear whether the new RFP will supplement or supersede the existing report.

As outlined in the Public Works and Government Services Canada website under the title Comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the Canadian Space Sector (9F012-140360/A), the objective of the request for proposal (RFP) is to "capture the economic argument for investment in space, as well as, demonstrate the larger socio-economic impacts that result from activity in the Canadian space sector, whether public or private."

According to the RFP, one bid will be accepted sometime after the August 28th, 2014 closing date for the contract but before October 10th, 2014 , when the preliminary "list of individuals selected for interview" and other initial documentation is scheduled to be presented to CSA for approval. 

The final, completed report is scheduled for presentation to CSA and other government officials "by January 30th, 2015."

The contract is open only to firms who've qualified under a series of restrictions relating to "consultant categories, security level, region and tier." The complete list of qualified contractors is included in the RFP and includes 168446 Canada (which operates under the name Delta Partners), 2Keys Corporation, ACF Associates Inc. ADGA Group Consultants Inc. and about fifty others. 

It will be interesting to see both what this latest CSA contract uncovers and if the new data collected under the contract will ever be released to the wider public.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Canadian Space Agency Gears up to Fund More Rovers

          by Chuck Black

After spending the month of August funding various Earth imaging applications, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is preparing to fund three rover projects costing $600K, $300K and $3.2Mln CDN.

The Argo J5 Mobility platform being demonstrated at the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies MarsDome facility on February 20th, 2014. Directly behind the orange J5 is a grey JUNO mobility platform (J1) and a J4 Rover, which is currently the basis of the Artemis Jr., the chassis of choice for the proposed NASA Resolve mission. To the left is a second ARGO J5 rover equipped with ODG’s lunar wheel prototype, optimized for harsh conditions.  Both the JUNO and Artemis Jr. Rovers were developed under a series of CSA contracts by New Hamburg based Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG). ODG is considered one of the front runners to receive the next round of Canadian rover funding. Photo c/o author.

As outlined on the Public Works and Government Services Canada website, the three "notices of tender" are as follows:
  • The ExCore small planetary rover platform (9F052-140062/A) - This is a single $600,000 CDN contract disbursed through the CSA's Exploration Core (ExCore) program for a functional, small, four wheeled planetary rover platform with skid-steering, fully passive suspension, which is manually lockable, and has a basic power system along with a power & mechanical interface to accommodate small exploration surface mobility (ESM) payloads. The tender closes on September 4th, 2014 and the period of the contract will extend from December 1st, 2014 to December 1st, 2015, which likely means that the award will be announced later this year.
  • The lunar polar rover night survival strategy (LPRNSS) concept study (9F052-140125/A) - This is a single $300,000 CDN contract, also disbursed through the CSA's ExCore program, to develop alternative heat sources for a lunar rover, with the intention of protecting the rover from the low temperatures which occur during a lunar night in the lunar polar region. This is one of the biggest challenges at the current state of unmanned lunar exploration, although, as outlined in the February 14th, 2014 article "Has China's Ailing Moon Rover Survived 2nd Lunar Night," others may have developed a solution. This tender will close on September 18th, 2014, but the period of the contract is undefined and only listed as extending from the "date of issue for a period of six (6) months."
  • The lunar rover drive-train prototype (LRPDP) platform (9F052-140053/A) - This is the big project for Canadian rover manufacturers; a $3.25Mln CDN contract, also disbursed through the CSA's ExCore program, to develop a slightly larger, but still functional lunar rover platform & drive train prototype (LRPDP), able to be subjected to rigorous testing. But you'd best hurry to apply for this; the tender closes on August 29th, 2014 and the period of the contract is listed as being from September 22nd, 2014 to December 18th, 2015.
As outlined most recently in the October 20th, 2012 post "Lots and Lots of Rovers Looking for Missions," the last round of funding for the Canadian rover program was part of the 2009 Economic Action Plan, which allocated $110Mln CDN over three years to the CSA for development of the next generation Canadarm (which received $53.1Mln CDN) and for Canadian rovers (which received most of the rest). The CSA funding for the Canadian rovers ran out on March 31st, 2012.

It's unlikely that the latest round of rover funding will be enough to fund a completely new rover. So expect the winner of the current tenders to end up being some of the same organizations which ended up being funded in the last funding round. 

Tech Titans Bringing the Silicon Valley Mindset to the Space Industry

          by Brian Orlotti

Chuck Hull. Photo c/o Industry Week.
Over the the past decade, the building momentum of commercial space initiatives has seen a variety of new players enter the space sector. Often, these new participants are leaders in their fields. Now, 3D printing pioneer 3D Systems is getting into the space business by acquiring two firms with solid track records in that sector.

Rock Hill, SC based 3D Systems was founded in 1986 in Valencia, CA, by Chuck Hull, inventor and original patent-holder of the first stereolithography (SLA) based 3D printing system. The companies' industrial 3D printers utilize a variety of technologies including SLA, selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modelling (FDM). The company also invented the STL file format, now the de facto standard for 3D printers. 3D Systems caters to many industries, including automotive, architectural, dental/healthcare, and aerospace and defence. With $353Mln USD ($384Mln CDN) in revenue in 2012, the firm currently employs over 1000 people in 25 offices worldwide.

As stated in the August 13th, 2014 article "3D Systems Corporation Buys Sister Companies APP and APM," 3D Systems has been on an aggressive  shopping spree over the past four years, acquiring over 45 companies totaling some $520Mln USD ($566Mln CDN).

Its newest purchases are two Tulsa, Oklahoma-based sister companies:  American Precision Prototyping (APP) and American Precision Machining (APM), both of which have strong aerospace backgrounds. Both APP and APM are providers of rapid prototyping/manufacturing, product development and engineering services to a clientele that includes Boeing, EADS, Cessna, Black & Decker, NASA and General Electric. Both companies have over 24 years of experience in these areas. The cost and details of the dual acquisitions have not been made public.

3D Systems' acquisition of APP and APM will allow the company to expand its presence in a niche where it had previously been small. 3D Systems will now be positioned to offer 3D prototyping and additive manufacturing services to not only large established entities like Boeing and NASA, but also newer space players like SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, and Orbital Sciences Corporation.

3D Systems' recent moves parallel those of another technology giant: Google.

Back in June, Google bought Skybox Imaging, an Earth-observation satellite builder and data provider, for $500Mln USD ($544Mln CDN) in cash. In April, the company purchased Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones. As well, in December 2013, Google turned many heads with its purchase of DARPA-affiliated robotics firm Boston Dynamics. These purchases are part of Google's long-term goal of becoming a provider of internet access (via satellites & drones) as well as services.

Most significantly, space lies at the core of Google's plans for growth.

3D Systems' and Google's acquisition strategies share two key commonalities: the acquisitions' products enhance their own (i.e 3D Systems' aerospace presence and Google's Maps and Earth software) and they provide an entry point into expanding new markets (i.e nano/micro-satellites, space-related services like Earth imagery and Internet access for the developed/developing world).

Brian Orlotti.
In entering the space business, these two tech titans seek to bring the Silicon Valley mindset to a long-static industry.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hadfield in Emirates, Russia in Lather & UrtheCast in Orbit!

          by Chuck Black

It's been a busy week for the Canadian space industry with a retired astronaut sourcing out middle east space contracts, Russia threatening additional economic sanctions to "keep the country's space and rocket industry afloat" and Earth imaging company UrtheCast finally offering up Earth images of our home and native land.

Hadfield abroad. Photo c/o Donald Weber / Crown Prince Court/ Abu Dhabi
Here are a few of the items currently being tracked by the Commercial Space blog:
Russian president Putin pointing. Photo c/o Wikipedia.
  • Of course, some national governments aren't quite so pleased with recent Canadian activities and among these would be the Russian government under president Vladimir Putin, which last week banned food imports from nations which had previously instituted sanctions over Russian activities in the Ukraine. As outlined in the August 7th, 2014 CBC news article, "Russia sanctions show Putin's 'short-sighted desperation,' Canada says," the fast expanding trade war now includes meat, fish, milk, fruit and vegetables from Canada, the US and the European Union. Even worse for the Canadian space industry, as outlined in the August 7th, 2014 RIA Novosti article "Russia to Draft Import Substitution Program for Space Industry," the Russian government is crafting an "import substitution plan" to find domestic replacements for technology imports expected to be lost by Russia as a result of trade sanctions. Of course, there is no current word on how this new plan would affect possible Canadian aerospace activities in Russia although, as outlined in the July 31st, 2014 Space News article "MDA Satellite Exports Feeling the Effects of Canada’s Tough Stance on Russia," Canadian firms are already being affected by sanctions. As covered in the April 28th, 2014 post "M3Msat and the Politics of Dancing in the Crimea," the Canadian government  decided "not to proceed" with the planned June 2014 launch of a Canadian micro-sat, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, in protest over Russian actions in the Ukraine. 

Winnipeg, as seen from the ISS. Photo c/o UrtheCast.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Industry Minister Allocates $6.7Mln to Develop Space Apps

          by Chuck Black

Minister Moore on Thursday. Photo c/o CBC.
Spending almost $7Mln CDN to develop a series of applications ("apps") for satellite derived data seems a little expensive in a country chock full of software developers offering up their services for free at events like the annual International Space Apps Challenge.

Of course, that's not the impression intended to be conveyed by the August 7th, 2014 Industry Canada press release, "Industry Minister Moore announces support for new space technologies that will provide crucial information about the Earth."

The announcement that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) would be awarding contracts worth a total of $6.7Mln CDN to develop new applications for satellite derived Earth imaging data was intended to bolster Canadian claims of competitiveness in the fast growing but crowded commercial marketplace. 

But while space has always been difficult to get to and operate in, the development of applications intended to utilize the data collected from space has always followed pretty much the same processes and methodologies as any other software development project.

This is why NASA, Google, Yahoo, HP, the World Bank and others banded together to create the International Space Apps Challenge in 2012.

As outlined in the May 19th, 2014 post "CDN "SkyWatch" wins "Best Use of Data" at Int'l Space Apps Challenge," a Canadian team even won the 2014 Challenge by designing and building (over a single weekend) an application which takes worldwide observatory data and combines it in an easy to understand, twitter-like set up to plot the data on on Google Sky.

Of course, in the absence of any real innovation and as outlined in the August 7th, 2014 Government of Canada list of organizations scheduled to receive a contract, the CSA funding will be provided to 3vGeomatics, AECOM, Array Systems Computing, ASL Environmental Sciences, C-CORE, Effigis Géo-Solutions, GHGSat, the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Kepler Space Inc., MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and PCI Geomatics as per the standard CSA operating procedures.

The individual awards are each around $500,000 CDN and most of the applications being developed will use commercially available RADARSAT 2 derived synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data.

But will the CSA awards preserve Canadian competitiveness in the growing Earth imaging applications industry?

Yeah, Right....


As per the the August 18th, 2014 Government of Canada press release, "The Government of Canada announces investment in innovative mapping system for first-ever global surface water survey," the Federal government has allocated an additional $3.3Mln CDN to Georgetown-based manufacturer, Communications and Power Industries Canada Inc. (CPI Canada), to develop the extended interaction klystron (EIK), a satellite radar component that will:
generate pulses used to gather surface information. This investment will support local high-technology jobs and economic growth while the resulting information could help Canada more efficiently manage water resources, prepare for potential flooding, and help avoid costly damage from flooding or drought. 
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission will survey 90 percent of the globe, studying the Earth's lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans. SWOT data could lead to improvements in many water-related services in Canada, including operations at sea and water management systems, and will provide measurements for lakes and rivers in Northern Canada for which none currently exist.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, and as outlined in the August 18th, 2014 Waterloo Journal article, "Waterloo makes public most complete Antarctic map for climate research," the University of Waterloo:
has unveiled a new satellite image of Antarctica, and the imagery will help scientists all over the world gain new insight into the effects of climate change.

Thanks to a partnership between the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), the prime contractor for the RADARSAT-2 program, and the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN) at UWaterloo, the mosaic is free and fully accessible to the academic world and the public...
Only time will tell if the open source development model has staying power, but this looks like a good start.

Canada can create useful instruments to place in space with funding from the Federal government while the data derived from those programs is provided for free to the public which paid for the data. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

New East Coast Rocket Start-up Announces Kickstarter Campaign

          by Brian Orlotti

A group of Nova Scotia space entrepreneurs have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $100,000 CDN needed to begin building Canada's first orbital micro-satellite launch vehicle. According to Open Space Orbital (OS) founder and CEO Tyler Reyno, the goal is to build and launch rockets to serve the burgeoning international small-sat market and reduce Canada's reliance on other nations for space launches.

A screen shot from the official Open Space Orbital Kickstarter campaign video.  To go to the campaign, please click on the graphic. Image c/o OS

The thirty-two day campaign went live the evening of August 4th and will run until the evening of Friday, September 5th, 2014. As outlined on its Kickstarter website, the funds raised will be used for:
  • Further development of the launch vehicle prototype engine (dubbed "Neutrino") using outsourced components from partners ERFT Composites and Composites Atlantic. Both firms are subsidiaries of the French aerospace/defense giant Safran Group.
  • Preliminary launch vehicle design, which is currently being done in partnership with Continuum Aerospace, an aerospace design and consulting firm in Toronto, ON.
  • Legal services pertaining to facility and launch site property selection, regulatory challenges, and intellectual property through East coast law firm McInnes Cooper.
Founder & CEO Tyler Reyno. Photo c/o OS.
The OS board of directors possesses a wide range of skill-sets and includes the former Canadian Space Agency (CSA) scientist and current Federal Liberal party candidate for Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle, Dr. Alain Berinstain, along with retired Canadian senator and former Nova Scotia premier John Buchanan and retired naval officer and defence consultant Anthony Goode.

OS's engineers are also presented as an experienced group who have honed their skills in many places including the CSA, the National Research Council (NRC), Transport Canada, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Roscosmos, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) along with private firms like COMDEV International and others.

In an interview with the Commercial Space blog, Reyno, a recently-graduated mechanical engineer who studied at Dalhousie University, said he has been a passionate and vocal space advocate, even prior to founding OS.

As outlined in the May 14th, 2014 Metro article "One way ticket to Mars—who on Earth wants to go," Reyno was an applicant for the MarsOne project and has also created a series of You-tube videos entitled "Send Nova Scotia to Space," as part of his entry for last year's AXE Apollo Space Academy competition.

According to Reyno, the Crimean Crisis and its affect on Canadian space operations, such as the postponement of the Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat), described in the April 28th, 2014 post "M3MSat and the Politics of Dancing in the Crimea," highlight the need for a domestic launch capability.

In addition, Reyno foresees Canadian-built launch vehicles as a means of stimulating both the Canadian and the Maritime economy. He notes that Atlantic Canada is not known as a technology hub and sees space as a path to prosperity for the region.

Brian Orlotti.
Though the Crimean crisis has highlighted the shortsightedness of Canadian space policy, it has also shown us a new path. Now, ordinary citizens, through crowd funding, can help shape our country's future in space.

Perhaps Canadians, long since skilled at making the tools to understand space, will now also begin to build the means to traverse it.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Funding the "Son of Sapphire!"

          by Chuck Black

The multi-year maze of financial hoops and hurdles facing any proposed Canadian government military space project is back in the news with recent reports that the Department of National Defence (DND) is looking to build a follow-on to the successful Surveillance of Space (Sapphire) satellite.

The Sapphire ground system architecture. The ground segment is composed of a Spacecraft Control Center (SCC), a Satellite Processing and Scheduling Facility (SPSF) located in Richmond BC. S-band command telemetry and data is sent to Sapphire from ground stations in Abbotsford BC and Guildford, UK. Data is also shared with the Space Surveillance Operations Center (SSOC) in North Bay, which shares data with the US Space Surveillance Network. Graphic c/o MDA.

Sapphire, Canada's first military satellite, was constructed by Richmond based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) using an SSTL-150 bus produced by UK based Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) and an optical payload built by Cambridge based COM DEV International. Launched in 2012, it was designed to monitor space debris and satellites within a medium Earth orbit (between low Earth and geostationary orbit) and is expected to function as a component of the US Space Surveillance Network (SSN) until at least 2017.

The new program (known officially as Surveillance of Space 2 and unofficially as the "Son of Sapphire") was originally part of the $100Bln CDN "wish list" of potential government military expenditures released on June 16th, 2014 as part of the Canadian government Defence Acquisition Guide (DAG), but didn't initially seem any closer along the path to procurement than any of the other listed programs.

However, according to the July 24th, 2014 SpaceNews article, "Canada Eyes “Son of Sapphire” as a Way To Keep Helping US Watch over Space," there are compelling reasons to fast forward approval and funding of this particular program. As outlined in the article, the original Sapphire was:
...seen as a key contribution to the US - Canadian defense relationship. In 2012 the Canadian and US militaries entered into a five-year agreement for sharing orbital surveillance data, with Sapphire playing a role in that. At the time of its launch, then-Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay called Sapphire an important milestone in the country’s military space program. He noted that Sapphire “is an essential component of our robust defense for Canada and North America, through NORAD.”
According to the article, a follow-on program would would go a long way towards maintaining access to the US data provided by the SSN (which is operated through NORAD), after the current SSN agreement expires in 2017.

Current ground assets of the US Space Surveillance Network, which  detects, tracks, catalogues and identifies artificial objects orbiting Earth, such as active/inactive satellites, spent rocket bodies, or fragmentation debris. Graphic c/o Wikipedia

It's also the logical follow-on to a program which was itself designed to replace the original Canadian contribution to the SSN, a series of three ground-based telescopes in Canada functioning as space surveillance sensors, which were decommissioned in 1992.

It's unlikely that the US will wait as long as it did the last time for Canada's next contribution to a program generally conceded to be a "joint operation," so its likely that the "Son of Sapphire" will be fast-tracked for future funding.

Although the first Sapphire was listed as costing approximately $96.4Mln CDN including design, development, building, ground infrastructure and personnel according to the January 30th, 2014 DND website update "Space Situational Awareness and the Sapphire Satellite (BG 14.002)," the follow-on project was estimated in the current DAG to cost somewhere between $100Mln and $249Mln CDN.

Expect the final numbers to be on the high side of that estimate. After all, the first step in the modern government procurement process is normally to low-ball preliminary cost estimates in a bid to gain political support.

Let the games begin.

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