Friday, May 18, 2018

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

         By Chuck Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

         By Chuck Black

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

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

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

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

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

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The First Falcon-9 Block 5 Launch

          By Brian Orlotti

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mississauga ON Based Macfab Builds Space Industry Connections Throughout the World

         By Chuck Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Quick Notes on the Upcoming CASI ASTRO'18

          By Henry Stewart

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

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

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Support our Patreon Page