Friday, September 22, 2017

Elevate Toronto; It's Our Time

          By Brian Orlotti

It's not specifically a space conference, but the 1st Elevate Toronto Festival, a three day tech start-up extravaganza held in Toronto, ON last week, dealt with many of the same technological questions, business concerns and features some of the same players. As the global landscape undergoes its most profound political, economic and technological upheavals since World War II, Elevate Toronto even adopted a telling slogan: It’s Our Time.

Toronto Mayor John Tory at the Elevate Toronto Festival in Toronto on September 12th. Photo c/o Brian Orlotti.

The festival, created by returning Canadian expat Silicon Valley techies and backed by Canadian and American investors, struck a confident and uncharacteristically nationalist tone. Spread out over multiple venues, the festival featured speakers from the world’s biggest technology and venture capital firms as well as Toronto’s own vibrant tech startup community.

Divided into multiple tracks such as Elevate AI, Elevate Work, Elevate Health and Elevate FinTech and Blockchain, the festival focused on two main themes:
  • Harnessing Canada’s tech talent to strengthen its economy and global influence, thereby reducing its dependence on an increasingly hostile United States
  • Embracing disruptive new technologies to create new employment and long-term prosperity, rather than simply eliminating jobs for short-term profit

Key highlights from the festival include:
  • An eloquent and surprisingly frank speech from Toronto Mayor John Tory. Tory praised Toronto as a tolerant, safe city with high quality of life even while admitting its challenges with poverty, gridlock and infrastructure. Tory was quite blunt in his admission that Toronto’s government is both inefficient and technically behind the times, dubbing it "two generations behind" in tech practice compared to the business world. To address this, Tory unveiled Toronto’s new Civic Innovation Office, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. This new office will serve as the link between Toronto's government and it's tech industry. It's mandate will be to 'disrupt' City Hall via a series of new 'Civic Challenges' to be unveiled soon. 
  • Canadian Tech Titan Tony Lacavera gave an electrifying presentation in which he stated Canada must purge it's colonial mindset and build Canada's brand on the world stage if it is to stop the leaking of its economic value to foreign powers. Lacavera gave the example of the light bulb actually being a Canadian invention whose patent was purchased by US inventor Thomas Edison. He then put forth the question of why doesn't the Canadian govt hasn’t purchased any Canadian-made D Wave quantum computers (as Google and NASA did) and created an ecosystem around them? Lacavera ended with a slide showing the tagline, ‘It's time to go for the gold.’ Lacavera’s sentiments were greeted with thunderous applause.
  • Vinod Kosla, venture capitalist, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and co-creator of Java spoke about the challenges of fundraising as well as possible uses for artificial intelligence (AI). Kosla framed the current debate over the dangers of sentient AI as wrong, saying that the true danger is rather from non-sentient AI in the hands of "bad actor" nation states and criminals.
  • In a panel discussion entitled ‘Building an AI Ecosystem,’ panelists listed several Canadian advantages vis-a-vis the US in growing its global presence. As the US increasingly restricts  immigration laws to block the hiring of Muslims and other undesirables, Canada's more liberal policies will make it well placed to thrive in the new geopolitical order. In addition, Canada can leverage its advantage in centralized medical record and genetics databases as compared to the US where most such systems are scattered at the hospital and insurance level.
Elevate Toronto proved to be an energizing, patriotic and hopeful event. A welcome addition to Toronto’s array of cultural events, it may well be the crucible in which a great Canadian future is forged.
Brian Orlotti.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First Canadensys Got a Lunar Rover Contract: Then They Scooped 3 Ontario Drive & Gear Engineers

          By Chuck Black

Back in July, Caledon, ON based Canadensys Aerospace picked up a contract from the Waimea, HI based International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) to build instrumentation for the first ILO Lunar Observatory rover.

We live in a small world. As outlined in the July 3rd, 2014 Lunar Enterprise Daily post, "ILOA Partnering With Canadensys Aerospace Corp On ILO-1 Flagship Moon Mission," the partnership between the two organizations goes back several years.The ILOA is also part of the Space Age Publishing Company, which shares links and stories with the Commercial Space blog. Graphic c/o Space Age Publishing Company.

Almost immediately, and in a stunning human resources coupe, Canadensys scooped-up New Hamburg, ON based Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG) ARGO VP of engineering Peter Visscher, project manager Perry Edmundson, and senior mechanical designer Peter Woolfrey.

And yesterday, as if to celebrate those acquisitions, Canadensys announced the creation of a Waterloo, ON based "new facility for space mechanical design and advanced manufacturing."

As outlined in the September 21st, 2017 Canadensys press release, "Canadensys announces advanced manufacturing capability in the Waterloo region," the new facility will support the company's "expanding space and exploration initiatives." Of course, the expectation is that the new facility will also support ILOC efforts to build a lunar observatory rover.

And, as outlined in the July 20th, 2017 ILOA post on "The ILO Mission," contract work is advancing through Silicon Valley, CA based Moon Express Inc for "ILO-1 Landing Technology Advanced R&D, with actual ILO-1 spacecraft development by Moon Express to begin in 2018."

According to the post, the Canadensys contribution was a “a flight-ready low-cost optical payload for the ILO-1 mission, ruggedized for the Moon South Pole environment,”  called the "Lunar Optics Program."

A sampling of proposed Moon Express robotic explorers. It's worth noting that Toronto born Moon Express CEO Robert Richards also started out in Canada, but eventually ended up moving to the US to generate funding for his company. Graphic c/o ME.

ODG was evidently sanguine about the  manpower losses. The September 21st, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Canadensys is Expanding its Operations Opening an Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Waterloo," quoted  Joerg Stieber, the chairman of the board at ODG, as stating that his company "had decided to refocus on their terrestrial extreme terrain robots."

Of course, there was also the possibility that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) had run out of money for ODG to research lunar rovers.

As outlined most recently in the April 10th, 2017 post, "General Fusion, exactEarth's Missing (But Insured) Satellite, More CSA Rovers & ULA Drops Launch Costs," those funds were substantial, but depended in the final analysis on acquiring a deal with another international partner, a situation which never materialized.

It's also worth noting that the senior team at Canadensys, including president and CEO Christian Sallaberger, VP of space exploration Nadeem Ghafoor, chief engineer of space exploration Howard Jones and director of strategic development Jim Middleton each started off in far duller and more traditional jobs in either Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) or at the CSA.

We all gotta start somewhere.

Here's hoping that the Canadensys people and their previous employers are able to manage the intellectual property derived from their earlier positions so they can still be utilized by Moon Express, the ILOA and anyone else who wants to use it.
Editors Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that "Canadensys Aerospace picked up a contract from the Waimea, HI based International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Silicon Valley CA based Moon Express to build the first lunar observatory rover."
That statement was in error. Although both Moon Express and Canadensys do have a customer in common (the ILOA), there is no contractual relationship or formal partnership between Moon Express and Canadensys.
eveChuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Telesat Now Planning 290 Satellite Constellation

          By Henry Stewart

Ottawa, ON based Telesat has confirmed that its proposed 117 satellite low Earth obit (LEO) constellation has now grown to approximately 290 satellites.

Artist’s rendition of a small satellite in LEO. Photo: SSTL

As outlined in the September 13th, 2017 Advanced Television post, "Canada’s Telesat planning 290 satellites," Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg made the announcement to delegates at the recently concluded 2017 Euroconsult World Satellite Business Week, which was held in Paris, France from September 11th - 15th.

Goldberg also told delegates that, under proposed new FCC regulations, Telesat was obliged to launch half of the new fleet, about 140 craft, within six years. The balance, once the second batch of 140 had been launched, would be in-orbit spares/replacements.

As outlined in the November 20th, 2016 post, "SpaceX, Telesat & Kepler Just Three of the Dozen Satellite Constellations Currently on the FCC Table," Telesat had initially proposed a much smaller fleet.

Telesat CEO Goldberg. Photo c/o SpaceNews/ Kate Patterson.
However, and as first reported in the September 11th, 2017 post, "New FCC Rules a Defeat for SpaceX, But May Signal Opportunity for OneWeb & Telesat," a series of proposed new Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations may have given a competitive advantage to smaller satellite constellation proposals from firms such as Telesat, UK based OneWeb and others as they attempt to compete with Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX and its proposed 4000 plus army of super-fast internet satellites.

The new FCC rules were released for comment and feedback on September 7th and are expected to be approved at the next open FCC meeting on September 26th, 2017. Goldberg and others may be positioning themselves to take advantage of the new rules, once they take effect.

Telesat’s 1st prototype test LEO satellite is currently scheduled for launch in November on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket. A second LEO prototype is also scheduled for launch before the end of the year.

The satellites are built by UK based Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) and Palo Alto, CA based Space Systems/Loral (SSL).

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

The Commercial Space Blog will be at the 18th CASI ASTRO Conference; May 15th - 17th, 2018 in Quebec City, PQ

          By Chuck Black

As outlined by Geoffrey Languedoc, the executive director of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI), the upcoming 18th CASI ASTRO Conference, "promises to be the must-attend space event in Canada next year. We expect top-level speakers from Canadian industry, government and academia, international panels and keynotes, a technical program including over 200 oral and poster presentations and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss."

With a heartfelt promo like that, its no wonder that this blog often attends and covers CASI organized events.

But this year, we decided to try something a little more adventurous. Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black has volunteered to speak and help organize some of the conference sessions relating to commercial start-ups, social media marketing of space activities and maybe even one or two other areas.

In exchange, Languedoc has promised (perhaps only half jokingly) a "small private, soundproof room" where members of the industry can give Commercial Space media representatives an off the record "piece of their minds."

On a less "cathartic" note, participation will also provide the opportunity for this publication to delve a little more deeply into upcoming space focused initiatives in Canada and around the world, and to help push those initiatives out on to the world stage.

The upcoming conference is the latest in a series of astronautics and aeronautics events that CASI holds every year. They are renowned for offering unparalleled opportunities to delegates from industry, academia, defence, security and government to meet and network with colleagues from Canada and around the world.

Another CASI organized and sponsored event. The fourth plenary of the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014), which was held in Toronto, ON from September 29th - October 4th, 2014.  As outlined in the undated CASI IAC 2014 website, IAC 2014 "was a fantastic week of meetings, knowledge sharing and networking with a great line up of events, social programs and informative technical sessions involving industry leaders and heads of space agencies." Several of the most popular and interesting Commercial Space blog articles, including the multi-part, "A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," and the multi-part "150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History," originated as presentations at IAC 2014. This blog is hoping to push out many new stories based on knowledge gained from the upcoming CASI ASTRO. To see the complete video, simply click on the photo above. Photo c/o IAF.

ASTRO 18 will focus on Canadian capabilities, current activities, and prospects for growth domestically and in the international space arena. Five parallel tracks will be offered, as well as a robust Interactive Poster session.

The co-chairs of the ASTRO’18 Technical Committee are Dr. Christian Lange, the deputy of exploration strategic planning at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)  and Dr. Michele Faragalli, the space exploration and advanced technologies manager at Mission Control Space Services Inc.

The deadline for abstract submission is November 1st, 2017. Authors submitting abstracts will be notified by December 15th, 2017. For more information on the 2018 CASI ASTRO, check out the web page at

This blog looks forward to the upcoming ASTRO 18 and the opportunity to meet and greet with the finest of Canada's space community.
eveChuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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