Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tony Lacavera Has a New $100Mln Venture Capital Fund

          By Chuck Black

Tony Lacavera. Photo c/o Linked-In.
Anthony ("Tony") Lacavera, the entrepreneur who created Wind Mobile (Canada’s fourth-largest wireless carrier), once acted as chairman of the board for NewSpace company UrtheCast and currently serves as chairman of Globalive Holdings (a privately held Canadian communications and investment company), is raising money for a new venture capital fund.

As outlined in the January 21st, 2016 Financial Post article, "Wind Mobile founder Tony Lacavera returns to tech investing with $100M venture capital fund," Lacavera made five local investments in the last year into companies such as Kira Talent (an online video talent screening platform), Revlo (a "fan engagement platform" for Twitch users) and ChargeSpot (a wireless charging solution for cellphones and small electronics).

The new fund, being raised through Globalive, is expected to close in 2016 and would be used for follow-on investments to bolster existing stakes, but would also plug a strategic hole in the Canadian start-up landscape, by providing mid-level funding rounds of between $5 - $25Mln CDN.

According to Lacavera, Canada has plenty of support for entrepreneurs just starting out, and once they make it big, U.S. venture firms or investors like Toronto-based OMERS Ventures are there to write checks in the tens of millions of dollars. Between those stages there’s a funding desert, which his new fund intends to exploit.

One of Lacavera's recent investments includes the ChargeSpot wireless power charger for cellphones and small electronics. It uses electromagnetic induction principals originally discovered by Michael Faraday and tested by Nicola Tesla, in order to charge cell phones and other electronic instruments without a physical connection to the power source. Graphic c/o ChargeSpot.

From 2012 - 2103, Lacavera was also the chairman of the board of Vancouver BC based UrtheCast.

Chuck Black.
As outlined in the June 10th, 2013 post "UrtheCast Proceeds with Takeover and Funding for ISS Camera's," he resigned as part of the firms reverse-takeover (RTO) of publicly traded Longford Energy Inc. in 2013.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Did the Government Let COM DEV Go Because They Have Bigger Fish to Fry?

          By Glen Strom

The Canadian government is being criticized for not reviewing the sale of COM DEV International one of Canada’s biggest space companies, to American giant Honeywell International.

Screen shot of the COM DEV website taken on January 24th, 2016. As outlined in the January 21st, 2016 CNW press release, "COM DEV shareholders approve Arrangement with Honeywell," shareholder approval for the purchase was given at a special meeting of COM DEV shareholders held in Cambridge, Ontario on Thursday. For background on how the deal was structured, it's worth checking out the November 7th, 2015 post, "Should the proposed COM DEV sale to US based Honeywell trigger the Investment Canada Act." Graphic c/o COM DEV

A January 11th, 2016 blog post at Canadian Space, “Trudeau Government Fails First Big Space Test,” said that the government failed taxpayers who have invested tax dollars in COM DEV and workers in the aerospace industry who might lose jobs.

A January 21st, 2016 article at the Toronto Star, “The troubling shrinking of Canada’s space industry,” said the sale could affect the economy, as well as being a national security issue.

Although the sale didn’t trigger an automatic review under the Investment Canada Act because it fell below the $600Mln CDN cutoff point, the government could have launched a review within a 45-day period, but didn’t.

You’ll hear plenty of theories about why the feds did nothing. Here’s one more: the government is fine with the COM DEV sale because the company isn’t critical to Canada’s long-term economic development.

Times change. This photo shows exactEarth president Peter Mabson, with then COM DEV CEO John Keating,  FedDev  Southern Ontario minister Gary Goodyear, conservative MP Stephen Woodworth and  COM DEV COO Mike Pley (who would replace Keating as company CEO in 2010) at an event celebrating the $5.2Mln CDN FedDev funding awarded to COM DEV by FedDev Ontario in 2009  As outlined in the November 29th, 2009 FedDev Ontario post, "Announcement will strengthen Ontario's position as a world leader in micro-satellite technology," the award was "funded under the Southern Ontario Development Program (SODP), which will allow COM DEV to launch the first generation of its micro-satellites and establish Ontario as a world leader in this emerging industry." the Photo c/o Canadian Press.

COM DEV generates significant money and jobs in Canada. But they’re a first generation space company.

First-gen companies make hardware. COM DEV is a leader in making hardware for satellites. It’s a good market and will continue to be so. The 2015 State of the Satellite Industry Report, a 32-page PDF document produced by the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), showed 4% revenue growth for the satellite business between 2013-2014. The report also noted that the satellite services category (which includes TV, broadband, mobile, Earth-observation) is growing faster than satellite manufacturing.

On top of that, satellite services has a wild card: the Internet of Things (IoT). As noted in the November 20, 2015 post “exactEarth’s Big Bet on The Internet of Things:”
...by 2020 approximately 250,000 vehicles will be on our roads and also connected to the internet; by 2020 the food and beverage industry could annually save up to 15% of their current costs through the adaption of IoT methodologies and the IoT will add between $15 - 20 trillion USD's to global GDP over the next twenty years.
If the predictions come true, the need for satellite data and onnectivity will be huge. It’s the second generation space companies like UrtheCast and exactEarth that will benefit the most from that demand.

The government’s economic strategy has been clear from the start. Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Navdeep Bains outlined that strategy in the November 27th, 2015 Globe and Mail article, “Trudeau cabinet’s voice of business aims to bridge needs of old and new economies.”

Minister Bains said that, as part of his “innovation agenda,” his goals included encouraging research and development and helping businesses scale up and go global. He stressed that manufacturing was still important, but innovation was key even to old-economy industries.

Innovation is front and centre globally. The theme of the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF), which ran from January 20th - 23rd in Davos, Switzerland, was the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As the January 14th, 2016 article at the WEF website, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond,” explained:
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. 
Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
Canadian futurist Don Tapscott, a Forum attendee, drove home this outlook in a January 23rd, 2016 article at the Toronto Star, “Canada must focus on innovation economy to thrive in digital age.”

Tapscott was at a lunch for about 60 people in Davos discussing Canada’s future. The talk among business and government leaders was all about innovation, stimulating entrepreneurship, research and development, and job creation in the digital age.

Emerging technologies powering companies that are built for the digital revolution will drive the government’s economic plans.

COM DEV isn’t one of those new economy companies although exactEarth, soon to be spun off as part of the Honeywell deal, and UrtheCast are.

The question remains, how much might the COM DEV sale hurt Canada’s economy?

In the January 21st, 2016 article at TheRecord.com, “Com Dev shareholders approve sale to Honeywell,” COM DEV CEO Mike Pley said that Honeywell will invest in its space business in Canada.

Time will tell if they do.

Glen Strom.
Maybe, just maybe, the government is fine with letting go of COM DEV because their interest has gone from nuts and bolts space companies to those dealing with big data, the new big fish to fry.

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rocket Reusability and Holy Grails

          By Glen Strom

Reusability is the holy grail of rocketry.

How often have you heard that? Lots, no doubt. Everybody from journalists to space analysts to space company presidents toss out that one when the talk gets around to reusing rockets. By now somebody has probably taught a parrot to squawk it.

A damaged SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket after a landing strut broke while making a hard landing on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions." The rocket had just completed launching the US-European Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite into orbit on January 17th, 2016. As outlined in the January 13th, 2016 Motherboard post, "Why SpaceX's 'Next Few Missions' Will Attempt to Land a Rocket at Sea," SpaceX will continue to attempt soft landings on drone-ships down-range from the launch pad because it requires less fuel than having the rocket fly back to the launch pad before landing. Photo c/o @elonmusk.

If you got a dollar every time a news article said that reusability is the holy grail of rocketry, you’d need a wheelbarrow to move the money (Keep in mind that Canada has a one dollar coin instead of a paper bill).

Jeff Bezos. Photo c/o EuropeanCEO.
For example, Blue Origin, the space company owned by Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos, successfully landed their New Shepard rocket in November. In the November 24th, 2015 Seattle Times article, “Bezos says Blue Origin landing achieves ‘Holy Grail of rocketry’,” Mr. Bezos referred to reusability as “the holy grail of rocketry.” In all fairness, despite the headline, he didn’t say Blue Origin had achieved it, but that reusability would make make spaceflight less expensive. 

Recently SpaceX, the company owned by billionaire Elon Musk, landed a first stage booster on a landing pad, as seen in the December 21st, 2015 YouTube video, "Historic Landing of Falcon 9 First Stage at Landing Zone 1." In an earlier undated video interview that Mr. Musk did for the website Space.com, he also used the term holy grail in reference to rocket reusability.

Yes, they say that reusability will lower the cost of launching payloads by allowing launch companies to reuse the booster rather than building a new one from scratch.

Elon Musk. Photo c/o Reuters/Stephen Lam.
There’s only one teeny weeny problem with that idea: nobody has proven it yet.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the French space agency Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES) said in a December 22, 2015 article at Space Daily, “SpaceX landing is a 'feat', but not a game-changer,” that the SpaceX landing was a “technological feat” but nothing more. He went on to say that questions about the cost of refurbishing a used rocket remain. He didn’t dismiss the possible advantages of reusability but he noted that it hadn’t been proven yet.

And please don’t point out that the writer said “game-changer.” One rant at a time.

Another perspective about the difficulties of reusability is outlined in a January 9, 2015 article at the website The Conversation.com, “Explainer: why reusable rockets are so hard to make.” The author, an expert in advanced propulsion systems at Southampton University in England, talks about the problems of balancing propellant, vehicle and payload mass. He talks about the importance of keeping the refurbishing costs down as well.

(A side note: he also used the term holy grail. It must be some kind of virus going around.)

Tory Bruno. Photo c/o ULA.
Salvatore “Tory” Bruno, the president of American launch company United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX’s main competitor, has talked about his company’s plans to incorporate reusability into their rockets.

In an April 13, 2015 article at Spaceflight Now, “ULA plans to introduce new rocket one piece at a time,” ULA will try a more conservative approach to reusability by recycling parts rather than the entire booster. Mr. Bruno also said that an internal ULA study showed it would take 15 flights before a refurbished booster would save money over single-use boosters.

Until a number of successful launches are made with a reusable booster and people get a chance to analyze the numbers, we won’t know if reusability really will bring down the cost of launching rockets, or if it’s just over-hyped wishful thinking.

Glen Strom.
In the mean time, maybe people can ease up on that holy grail squawk.

Right now the only holy grails are a religious symbol and a Monty Python movie.

Time will tell if there’s a third.

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Canadian Company Building Integral Molten Salt Reactor

          By Brian Orlotti

A Canadian company has secured $10Mln CDN in funding to develop an unusual type of nuclear reactor. Oakville, Ontario based Terrestrial Energy will use the funds to develop an integral molten salt reactor (IMSR) for industrial and commercial markets.

The general layout of an IMSR plant. As outlined in the Stopping Climate Change page on the "Terrestrial Energy Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR)," the design is a small modular reactor (SMR) design based closely on a DMSR design from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but also incorporates elements found in the small, modular, advanced, high temperature reactor (SmAHTR), a later design from the same laboratory.  Graphic c/o Terrestrial Energy.

As outlined in the January 8th, 2016 Next Big Future post, "Terrestrial Energy gets funding for development for Game Changing Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor," IMSR reactors promise nuclear power that is far cheaper and greener than traditional methods.

IMSRs differ from traditional fission-based nuclear reactors in that they use fuel (in this case, denatured uranium) which has been dissolved in a molten liquid salt. Because an IMSR’s fuel is in liquid form, it functions as both fuel and coolant, transporting heat away from the reactor as it circulates. Thus, an IMSR cannot go into meltdown because a loss of coolant (the traditional cause of meltdowns) would also mean a loss of the fuel needed to drive the reactor.

In addition to being "melt down proof," IMSR technology offers other advantages:
  • With the fuel and cooling systems essentially combined, IMSRs are a much simpler design than traditional fission reactors and so can be made smaller and cheaper.
  • IMSRs use denatured uranium, a fuel that does not require extensive processing (i.e. lower fuel costs) and cannot be used to build nuclear weapons (no proliferation risks).
  • IMSRs require only 1/6th the fuel needed annually by traditional reactors (lower operating costs).
  • IMSRs can use recycled fuel.
For all of these advantages, IMSRs would still produce radioactive waste. However, this waste would be at far lower volume (kilograms versus tonnes) and be far shorter-lived (200-300 years versus millennia) when compared to traditional reactors.

Salt water reactors aren't new. From 1961 to 1965, this Tupolev-95LAL Russian bomber, using conventional engines and fuel, but also carrying a Russian designed and fully operational molten salt water reactor, performed a series of test flights designed to ascertain whether a nuclear reactor could be used to power an aircraft. The American equivalency was the Convair NB-36H "Crusader" program, created under the US aircraft nuclear propulsion program (ANP) to demonstrate the greatly extended range possible with nuclear-powered aircraft when compared to conventional designs. Both programs were cancelled as the benefits of ballistic missiles became clear. Photo c/o Stopping Climate Change.

Terrestrial Energy's IMSR builds upon research done in the 1960’s in the US at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where the molten salt reactor experiment test reactor operated from 1965 to 1969 and the denatured molten salt reactor was designed. In January 2015, Terrestrial Energy announced a collaboration with ORNL to commercialize its IMSR design. The design phase is scheduled for completion in 2017, with the company intending to have its first power plant commissioned somewhere in Canada in the 2020s.

Brian Orlotti.
With the debates over global warming and energy independence reaching a new crescendo, and off-world resource extraction steadily overcoming the giggle factor, Canada’s homegrown nuclear expertise could prove a great asset.

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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Pentagon, NASA & DARPA All Go to Comic-Con

          By Chuck Black

It's well known that the US military employs a cadre of "entertainment liaison officers" to glad-hand Hollywood executives and help decide which projects get Pentagon support, expertise, equipment, location permits and sometimes even funding.

Actor, producer and space enthusiast Seth Green moderates a Comicon 2014 panel discussion with Dr. Jim Green (NASA's division director of Planetary Science), Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, current NASA astronaut Mike Fincke and "Mohawk Guy" Bobak Ferdowsi, a NASA-JPL Engineer involved with the Curiosity and Europa Missions. Screenshot c/o NASA JPL.

It's less well known that NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and quite a few other organizations, often connect entertainment industry professionals with top scientists, engineers, military expertise and even funding in order to create a synergy between science and story lines.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a promotional tool which Canadian space scientists and entrepreneurs might consider copying.

The NAS even has a Science and Entertainment Exchange, which recently celebrated its "1000th consult," on films such as "Big Hero 6, The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, Battleship, Iron Man 2, Prometheus, Thor, and Tron: Legacy, as well as hit television programs like Castle, Covert Affairs, Criminal Minds, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Fringe, The Good Wife, and House."

As outlined in the January 7th, 2015 post on the Spy Culture website under the title, "The Pentagon, NASA and Comic-Con," NASA has recently begun to attend events like the San Diego Comic-Con.

According to the article, the "combination of nerds and sci-fi fanatics has proven too alluring to ignore and so one of the world’s biggest scientific institutions has joined the world’s largest military organisation in exploiting this opportunity."

Of course, while NASA is a latecomer to comics culture, the organization has been involved in other aspects of the media almost since its inception.

Chuck Black.
For a list of some of the programs NASA has been involved with recently, check out the December 17th, 2015 post on the Spy Culture website under the title, "NASA Public Affairs/Media Liaison Documents."

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Innovation Minister's Latest Announcement a Rehash of November 2015 Announcement

          By Henry Stewart

The Wednesday announcement by innovation minister Navdeep Bains, that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) had allocated $1.7Mln CDN to Kanata, Ontario based Neptec Design Group for the creation of a new damage detection system for close-up surface inspection on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS), was nice.

But it wasn't the first time the program had been announced. In November 2015, the CSA also announced $1.9Mln CDN funding for the same program and to the same company, but called it "phase A" funding for the design concept, after which a competitive bidding process would be initiated to decide upon the final contractor.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen with innovation minister Bains at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in Longueuil, PQ, on January 7th, 2016. As outlined in the January 7th, 2016 government of Canada press release, "The Government of Canada announces a new vision system to support the inspection and maintenance of the International Space Station,"  the minister was in town with parliamentary secretary Greg Fergus and Sherry Romanado, the Liberal member of parliament for the riding of Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne, to announce the awarding of a contract to Neptec for the design of a "new advanced space vision system" which will be mounted on the Canadian built Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM) or DEXTRE, which is already installed on-board the ISS. The new unit will include a 3D laser, a high-definition camera and an infrared camera, and will be tasked with supporting "the inspection and maintenance of the ageing infrastructure" of the ISS. Photo c/o @csa_asc.

As outlined in the March 31st, 2015 post on the Buy and Sell website under the title, "Dextre Deployable Vision System (DDVS) (9F052-141026)," the original RFI was offered up for tender by the federal government well before the current Liberal government came to power in October 2015.

The final contract, as outlined in the November 25th, 2015 Buy and Sell post, "Dextre Deployable Vision System (DDVS) – Phase A (9F052-150058/001/MTD)," was announced as being awarded to Neptec on November 25th, 2015. The story was then picked up by several news services including the November 25th 2015 Spaceref.ca article, "Neptec Awarded Phase A Contract for Space Station Dextre Deployable Vision System," and the  November 25th, 2015 More Commercial Space News post, "Neptec Awarded Phase A Contract for Space Station Dextre Deployable Vision System."

The differences in cost between the November 2015 announcement and last weeks announcement from the innovation minister relate almost entirely to the inclusion of the applicable sales tax on the total amount allocated by the federal government to the program.

Slide 14 of the October 2014 presentation on the DEXTRE Deployable Vision Sensor, which is available on the NASA website.  Graphic c/o NASA.

And, as outlined in the October 2014 presentation on the DEXTRE Deployable Vision Sensor, the idea of adding extra sensing capabilities to the Canadian built DEXTRE had been floating around NASA and CSA since at least 2010, and perhaps even before then. As outlined in the presentation, the intent of the program (at least from the CSA perspective) was to add a series of "high mature technologies" to the surface inspection capabilities on board the ISS.

Neptec has been a NASA prime contractor since the 1990's, supplying operational systems to both the Space Shuttle and ISS programs. Starting in 2000, Neptec began expanding its technology to include active 3D imaging systems and 3D processing software.

So while it's good that Minister Bains is promoting CSA activities and holding press conferences about new CSA contract awards, the suggestion that there is anything especially new or innovative about this particular announcement is at best naive.

Here's hoping he'll do better next time. Maybe he'll even follow through with a competitive bidding process, instead of just announcing the winner.
Editors Note: According to Julie Simard, the CSA's acting manager for strategic communications, the initial November 25th, 2015 announcement that Neptec was awarded the contract was not intended to be an announcement, but was intended instead to be a "routine administrative procedure" performed to come into compliance with the "Government of Canada’s policy on the mandatory publication of contracts over $10,000.
According to Simard, the real difference between a public announcement and an administrative procedure is that "a public announcement would involve press activities such as the publication of a press release or the organization of a press event (by the CSA or some other government organization), like the one that was held on January 7." 
Be that as it may, we're going to stand by our statement that the Neptec announcement (defined as simply "a written or spoken statement that tells people about something"  in the Merriam Webster dictionary), initially occurred in November 2015.
Simard also indicated that the original RFI offered up for tender by the federal government in March 2015 and expired in April, was superseded on July 7th, 2015 by a request for proposal (RFP) under the title "Système de vision déployable par Dextre (SVDD) / Dextre Deployable Vision System (DDVS)," under which the final contract to Neptec was to be awarded. 
The provided document explicitly confirmed that the current RFP is for phase A work only. Phase A work typically covers the feasibility assessment of a project under consideration and doesn't usually include any work on the project itself (that comes later in phases B, C and D). 
Simard spoke with Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black on January 13th, 2016 and followed up the conversation with the e-mail posted in the comments section below. 

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym for a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Canadian Space Agency Finally Releases 2013 Space Sector Report

          By Chuck Black

Cover art c/o CSA.
It's a year late, and already superseded by an expected 2014 report on the same topic completed by a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) subcontractor using a different methodology.

But the 2013 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report was finally and quietly released for public consumption on December 23rd, 2015.

Yeah, you read that correctly... The 2013 report.

As outlined in this "sorta" new assessment, the space sector generated approximately $3.49Bln CDN in 2013, which was a solid 5% increase over the $3.34Bln CDN generated in 2012, but only a marginal gain when compared to the $3.48Bln CDN generated in 2011.

Gains were also concentrated among the top 30 companies, a survey result which would normally indicate unfavorable conditions for small aerospace and space businesses focused around niche areas, which are typically the places where new ideas and processes are perfected and commercialized.

Of course, this isn't the first time that conditions within Canada's space economy have appeared to favour the largest players.

As outlined in the 2012 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report (which was released in January, 2014) the ten biggest space companies in Canada accounted for almost 88% of revenues and 64% of space industry employment in 2012. These earlier figures have changed only incrementally for the latest report.

The space workforce also grew by 3% in 2013, as compared to 2012. But the new positions were mostly added in administration, marketing, management or other areas of employment and were not generally considered to be "highly qualified positions."

The CSA has traditionally taken pride in the high percentage of highly qualified personnel (HQP), which are defined on the December 1st, 2008  the Statistics Canada webpage, "A profile of Canada's highly qualified personnel," as being "vital for innovation and economic growth."

Ten year trends in the Canadian space industry as outlined on page 21 of the 2013 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report suggest an industry in a state of stasis since 2010. As outlined in the November 21st, 2015 post, "Two New Government Players Looking to Prove their Usefulness," there is little indication that the new Liberal government is prepared to offer up any new solutions. At least they're bringing the paperwork up-to-date. Screenshot c/o CSA.  

Of course, the CSA isn't the only organization tracking the state of the space sector. According to the Space Economy at a Glance 2014, a publication from the Paris, France based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
Canada has a well-developed space industry, including about 200 private companies, in addition to research institutions and universities, some of which have some commercial activities...
The data used in the OECD publication had to come from somewhere, and most of the OECD numbers were referenced from the 2012 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report. For more details on this 2012 report, check out the January 24th, 2014 post, "Canadian Space Industry Shrinks While International Markets Grow!"

All of which suggests that there is scope for further research on the topic, and the generally acknowledged best way to begin this research is to explore something called the Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy.

The free for download publication is designed to provide a summary of the key metrics surrounding the indicators and statistics on the space sector and the larger space economy.

Cover art c/o OECD.
It's also meant to be complementary to the Space Economy at a Glance, which is updated every few years and published through the same Paris, France based OECD.

The CSA certainly respects the methodologies contained within the OECD publications.

As outlined in the August 24th, 2014 post, "Space Agency Seeks Insight into Space Industry," the CSA even explicitly referenced the Handbook the last time it solicited bids of up to $250,000 CDN from "qualified suppliers," able to undertake a "comprehensive socio-economic impact assessment" of the Canadian space sector.

The final deliverable for that CSA contract, originally expected to be completed in January 2015 (last year, not this year) by winning bidder Euroconsult-EC, has so far not been released for public consumption.

But that could also be about to change. As noted in the 2013 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report, the space ecosystem is evolving:
The OECD will shortly be issuing a new version of its Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy reflecting this ongoing effort to which the CSA has made significant contributions. 
In parallel to the collaborative effort with the OECD and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (the ex-Canadian Industry Ministry), the CSA commissioned work in 2014–2015 to better understand the socio-economic impacts of Canadian space activities and investments (the Euroconsult-EC report discussed above). With this work, we gained valuable information on ways to characterize the space economy. 
To better reflect the current best practices and for matters of consistency with the approach recommended by the OECD, the CSA will, as of next year, transition to a new methodology that characterizes Canadian space activities on the basis of an Upstream-Downstream Value-Chain approach (an approach referenced in OECD methodologies). The CSA will provide the reader with tools to help bridge the historic data and reporting with the new methodology.
This new methodology should also cause an immediate, one time jump in total dollar amounts of space industry activity, since the industry suppliers and customers (the "upstream" and "downstream" components of the analysis) and not just the direct industry players, will be tracked for future reports.

Chuck Black.
Now that the paperwork trail is being brought up to date, can the capability to perform useful science and build world class, competitive "newspace" companies be far behind.

Yeah... Right...

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

A Canadian Space Holiday Story, Complete With Dancing Sugar Plums

          By Glen Strom

Potential partners? Graphics c/o Urthecast & exactEarth.
The holiday season is a good time to speculate because it’s a quiet time for space news. Space writers sometimes fill the void with visions of rocket-powered sugar plums dancing in their heads.

OK, maybe just one space writer.

With that in mind, consider the case of two fast-growing Canadian space companies: UrtheCast, the Vancouver based Earth imaging company; and exactEarth, the Cambridge, Ontario based satellite automatic identification system (AIS) service that tracks ship movements.

Both companies are focused on the ultimate goal: the internet of things (IoT), a world-wide network that connects systems, objects and people by way of satellites. Both companies have made major strides toward this goal in 2015.

As outlined in the November 25th, 2015 post “exactEarth’s Big Bet on The Internet of Things,” exactEarth’s latest move was to acquire a minority stake in Myriota, an Australian IoT technology company. That, and their partnerships with Hisdesat Strategic Services S.A. of Spain, a satellite constellation company, and the communications giant Harris Corporation of Melbourne, Florida, puts exactEarth in a strong position in the IoT field.

Infographic c/o exactEarth.

UrtheCast, as noted on their website, has been widening the market for their space-based cameras by working with TV and news companies to customize content for targeted audiences. Discovery Channel is one of their partners.

UrtheCast has other significant partnerships. RAL Space is a space research and technology development organization and part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at Swindon, UK. STFC says their mandate is “helping build a globally competitive, knowledge-based UK economy.”

Another partner is the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the training arm of the United Nations and an organization with global reach.

UrtheCast CEO Scott Larson,  Interana founder & CEO Anne Johnson and The Gadget Buzz series editor Andy O'Donoghue discussing big data and it's consequences for business in October 2015. Video c/o Web Summit 2016.

Between the two companies, UrtheCast and exactEarth cover a lot of ground in the growing world of IoT. That raises the question, have they talked to each other about it? The only sure answer is they’ve had opportunities, judging by some of the conferences they’ve been to recently.

The Canadian pavilion at IAC 2014. Graphic c/o IAF. 
Both companies were at World Satellite Business Week in Paris, France for the 2014 conference. About 250 top executives in the satellite communications and information business attend this yearly event.

Each company had a display booth at IAC 2014 in Toronto. The booths were side-by-side, separated by about 3 metres—close enough for at least a how-de-do.

They crossed paths again at the C-Sigma VI conference in London, England in December 2015. The event gets industry people together to talk about satellite maritime surveillance.

Just being in the same place proves nothing, but remember, it’s sugar plum week. Let your imagination float along on that candied wave.

What’s the point of all this speculation?

What if the two companies made a strategic alliance with each other? What if UrtheCast and exactEarth combined their abilities to create a strong Canadian effort in the IoT world?

Imagine two of Canada’s fastest growing space companies combining their expertise and their growing international footprint in IoT. That could put Canada in a strong position as a leader in the IoT space.

Glen Strom.
Too bad it’s just idle speculation in a slow news week.

Fa la la la la, la la la la...

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

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