Friday, November 17, 2017

9th Canadian Science Policy Conference Video's, Audio Recordings and Photo's are Now Online

          By Henry Stewart

For those who missed it, selected video's from the 9th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC2017), which took place in Ottawa, ON between November 1st - 3rd, 2017, have been posted online.

Posted items include:
  • A conversation with Canada's chief science advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer.
More CSPC 2017 videos and interviews are available on the CSPC YouTube channel. Audio recordings and photos are also available.

This annual event is organized by the Canadian Science Policy Centre to serve "as an inclusive, non-partisan and national forum uniting stakeholders, strengthening dialogue, and enabling action with respect to current and emerging issues in national science, technology, and innovation policy."

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More Rocket Shenanigans, Parts Problems at KB Yuzhnoye & Skyrora's Plan for a Scottish/ Ukrainian Spaceport

          By Chuck Black

For those who don't believe the hype from the Ukrainian government and others that the Ukrainian space industry is capable of rebuilding facilities rendered inoperative after the 2014 Crimean Crisis or remaining competitive in the face of growing challenges from low cost NewSpace launch providers like SpaceX, you may be right.

Here are four news reports which support your view:

A Soyuz rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ukraine has no indigenous launch capabilities but instead depends on facilities provided through the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and others.  Photo c/o Ars Technica.

  • The tests on the RD-861K engine, the Ukrainian built rocket engine expected to be used as the 2nd stage of Maritime Launch Services (MLS) proposed Canadian launched, Cyclone 4M rocket, are expected to resume this month, after a short break to assess tests performed in October, 2017. 
But there remain questions over whether the final engine can be built in useful quantities using domestically sourced, Ukrainian technology.
As outlined in the November 14th, 2017 RussianSpaceWeb post, "Ukraine resumes testing of the RD-861K engine," the earlier test also acted as sales aids to validate the program to potential investors and foreign buyers.
According to the post: 
The resumption of the tests should also boost the morale inside the beleaguered Ukrainian rocket industry, which has faced many problems after the breakdown of its ties to Russia in the wake of the annexation of Crimea in 2014. 
In particular, the Ukrainian propulsion systems depended on supplies of Russian structural materials and hardware. 
Experts familiar with the matter say that the RD-861K engine is almost ready for operational use, but its development and serial manufacturing still faces serious challenges due to lack of resources, personnel and propellant components. 
The engine burns hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide (carcinogenic hypergolic propellants) which are not currently produced in Ukraine and have to be imported from China. 
There are also problems with the production of new components for the engine, which forced engineers to recycle parts from older units and caused several delays in the latest tests. 
The post goes on to state that, "one industry source told that KB Yuzhnoye (the rocket designer) had been able to line up domestic suppliers of the structural materials necessary for the RD-861K program."
But according to others: 
... the production of the turbine for the RD-861K still depended on the EP742 heat-resistant alloy that KB Yuzhnoe had procured from the TsNIIMV material science institute based in Korolev, Russia. 
Each turbine in the RD-861K engine is certified to operate in up to a dozen live firings before being replaced.
Theoretically, a similar material for the turbine could be acquired elsewhere, but it would need to go through its own tests before being certified for use on the engine, an expert familiar with the matter said.
The Ukrainian-built version of the RD-120 engine (on the left) will be a basis for the next generation RD-870 engine (right), planned for use in the Cyclone 4M. As outlined in the September 19th, 2017 RussianSpaceWeb post, "RD-870 could become Ukraine's first booster engine," the RD-870 engine is "intended to propel the first stage of the Tsyklon-4M (Cyclone-4M) rocket' and "will be based on a Soviet-era second-stage engine but redesigned to lift the rocket off the launch pad", instead of firing in the stratosphere." The RD-120 was developed at NPO Energomash in Moscow, but built in the Ukraine by KB Yuzhnoye (design) and Yuzhmash (manufacturing), except for its combustion chamber, which was "supplied by a manufacturer in Samara, Russia." The RD-870 is yet to be built. Graphic and photo c/o Anatoly Zak.

  • The second stage of the Cyclone 4M rocket isn't the only stage with potential sourcing problems. There are also concerns over the Zenit rockets, which are intended to serve as the basis for the first stage of the Cyclone 4M.
Sea Launch, a multinational launch provider which, until 2013 used a mobile maritime launch platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit-3SL rockets, has plans to revive the mothballed service.
But they'd prefer not to use the Zenit because those rockets are getting hard to come by.
As outlined in the November 15th, 2017 Russian Space Web post, "Sea Launch seeks help from Roskosmos, proposes new applications,"  Sergei Sopov, the director general of the S7 Group which owns Sea Launch, has sent a draft of a potential cooperation agreement to Roskosmos head Igor Komarov. 
The latest plea for cooperation would open the Sea Launch platform to Russian satellite developers, who until now have relied almost exclusively on launch vehicles based in Kazakhstan or Russia. 
But it would also include, "the development of a new-generation cargo ship which could lift off from the Sea Launch to re-supply manned orbital stations."  
Cyclone 4M configuration, including the listing of the engines required for the program (four RD-870's and one RD-861K). The November 9th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Maritime Launch Services Targets May 1 to Begin Construction at Nova Scotia Spaceport," quoted MLS CEO Steve Matier as saying that the work remaining on the rocket is more of a simple "integration of parts. Some of them are already done, but the work that Yuzhnoye is doing right now is essentially all the design work for integration of these known quantity and proven heritage components into the vehicle itself." Graphic c/o MLS
This new rocket would likely be a variation of the next generation Russian medium class launcher which, as outlined in the November 13th, 2017 Russian Space web post, "Preliminary design for Soyuz-5 races to completion," will be known as the Soyuz 5, and is expected to replace the Zenit rocket.  
The first prototype for the new rocket is expected to be tested in 2022. 
The five or more year development period is typical in programs of this type and would certainly have to be duplicated in the Ukraine, where the existing RD-120 engine used in the Zenit second stage, would need to be upgraded to the RD-870 engine which is supposed to comprise the first stage of the Cyclone 4M.
If the Russians are taking five years or more to replace Zenit rockets and having trouble sourcing them now, what makes the Ukraine think that it will be able to source rockets for new Canadian customers?
And how specifically would the Ukraine propose to take any less time to develop a new rocket engine? What's so special about their development process?
As of now, no one knows.
A Soyuz booster is assembled prior to a crewed flight to the International Space Station. As outlined in the August 20th, 2015 Spaceflight New post, "Russia to build new eco-friendly Soyuz-5 rocket by 2022," the proposed new rocket should be able to solve all the problems associated with the previous rocket model. This suggests a certain "fuzzyness" in the design parameters and indicates that there is much work still to be done before the design is finalized. Photo c/o Bill Ingalls / NASA.

  • Speaking of Russia, it's worth noting that Roscosmos has a plan to compete with SpaceX, but that plan likely isn't going to work.
As outlined in the November 13th, 2017 Ars Technica post, "Russia has a plan to compete with SpaceX—but it has a flaw," the Russian rocket corporation, NPO Energia, has fast-tracked development of a new medium-class launch Soyuz 5 vehicle in the hopes that it to be able to remain competitive with the existing SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. 
But of course, five years from now, the Falcon-9 rockets are expected to be much more capable, reusable and able to launch nearly on demand for far less than the $60Mln US ($76Mln CDN) currently being charged.
So the Soyuz 5 won't be able to compete when it rolls out in 2022, because SpaceX will have advanced with its capabilities. 
Is the Ukrainian Cyclone 4M able to compete with current SpaceX rockets? Nothing in the published specs indicate that it can. And when the actual Cyclone 4M rocket is finally rolled out, the indications are that it will be as far behind as the planned Russian Soyuz 5.
Pavel Botsula, the head of design in Dnipro (oddly enough, the same city where both Ukrainian based KB Yuzhnoye and  Yuzhmash have their HQ's), with Mikhail Andrievskiy, the head of propulsion system department at Dnipro and Daniel Smith, the business development manager at Edinburgh, UK based Skyrora. Photo c/o ROOM.

  • But if all else fails, there are plans to relocate components of the Ukrainian space program to Scotland. 
As outlined in the  October 25th, 2017 ROOM post, "Firm announces plan to launch rockets from Scotland," Edinburgh & London UK based Skyrora, a privately-funded launch vehicle developer with a research and development hub in Ukraine, has announced "plans for entering the small satellite launch market during the Reinventing Space conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, this week."
The article quoted Skyrora business development manager Daniel Smith as stating that “Scotland is an ideal place from which to operate. Its launch suitability, strong manufacturing history and the fact that Glasgow, in particular, is a leading city within the European space sector are all positive factors.
Over the summer, "Skyrora worked with a research and development hub in the Ukraine and with individuals that have experience on a number of major Ukrainian space projects," and visited the Shetland Islands off the north east coast of Scotland as part of their search for a launch site. 
The 15th Reinventing Space Conference was held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 24th - 26th, 2017. It focused on "novel applications that are becoming commercially viable as space technology improves. These include space tugs; space tourism; satellite refueling; debris removal; debris exploitation; manufacturing in orbit; real-time video from space; space mining; etc."
Of course, as outlined in the September 11th, 2016 post, "Ukranian Based Yuzhnoye Design Office Eyeing a Canadian Spaceport for its Cyclone-4 Rocket," what the Ukrainians really need isn't a good location or strong manufacturing.

What they really need is money (and lots of it) to help fund their ongoing development and build out the final product. Any suggestions that Ukrainian rockets are capable of flying now, with only a little bit of "integration" to fit together existing parts is obviously in error, given the facts of the situation.

But the first country willing to provide money, lots and lots of money, will get a spaceport, eventually.

For better or for worse.
    Chuck Black.

    Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    The Economist Assesses the Space Industry

              by Allison Rae Hannigan

    It felt like the conference was spread over two days, as so much content was packed into the one day at the “Space Summit: A New Space Age,” event presented by The Economist Events, which came to The Museum of Flight in Seattle on November 9th, 2017.

    Waiting for A New Space Age at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on the morning of November 9th. Photo c/o Allison Rae Hannigan.

    A mix of inspirational, and entertaining, presentations with thoughtful discussions of pertinent issues to the current state of the space industry was offered for the well over 200 participants to enjoy.

    Big Name” headliners included Lori Garver (the former deputy administrator to NASA), Steve Jurvetson (an American businessman, venture capitalist and former partner at venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson), planetary scientist Carolyn Porco and Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist, physicist and DST Global founder Yuri Milner.

    A variety of formats was used to keep participants engaged, which was a refreshing change of pace from more typical conferences.

    Here are some highlights from the sessions, fireside chats, and “big bang disrupters” presentations and discussions.

    Putting the Space Back into the Space Industry

    Inspirational and informative talks were sprinkled in that served to remind everyone about the true wonder of the actual place beyond Earth’s atmosphere called space, as opposed to the economic sphere of activity usually referred to as the ‘space industry.’ 
    Famed planetary scientist, Carolyn Porco, who was imaging lead for the recently-completed Cassini Mission, gave a talk on that mission and some of its discoveries. She gifted the audience with beautiful pictures of Saturn and spoke about the moons Enceladus and Titan, and possible future missions there. 
    She recalled her connection to Carl Sagan, and his “Pale Blue Dot” moment from the Voyager mission, when we could see Earth from space from the far reaches of the solar system for the first time. 
    As outlined in the July 22nd, 2013 post, "NASA Releases Images of Earth Taken By Distant Spacecraft," the Cassini mission had a similar effect with its, “interplanetary salute” moment, when Earthlings were told to smile for the camera in July 2013. 
    Earth as viewed through Saturn's rings. Photo c/o Graham Looney on Twitter.
    A ‘fireside chat” followed her talk, with one of the two moderators, Oliver Morton, the briefings editor at The Economist. Another “chat” was held later in the day between George Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic and Tom Standage, the deputy editor of The Economist
    An inspirational talk and discussion was delivered by Susmita Mohanty, co-founder and chief executive of Earth2Orbit. She is a serial entrepreneur, who spoke of future space activities by private entrepreneurs. She shared her experiences to date, and also highlighted recent advancements in India’s space program. 
    Challenging the audience to think of space activities in an inclusive way, she does not accept the commonly-used term "space colony" for historical reasons, and a new term needs to be imagined. 
    Turning her vision to the future, Susmita said she will begin work on climate change research, and will eventually launch an earth observation constellation of satellites. 

    Susmita Mohanty, co-founder and chief executive of Earth2Orbit in Seattle on November 9th, 2017. Photo c/o WaSpaceGrant.

    No Business Like the Space Business

    In a more familiar format, the morning started with a panel discussion about tools and vision for the next “great leap.” NASA’s Voyager mission was used as a benchmark for standards of technology over time, looking back at how it was so very “primitive” 40 years ago, and comparing it with today’s technology, as well as to what the future holds.

    Tom Bradicich, the head of IoT and intelligent edge systems at the event’s sponsor, HPE, made the case for using new technology in distant space to decrease latency in communications and control, for example on future Mars missions.

    Project Extreme Edge is building technologies that are faster than fixed technologies, but they also are re-configurable on the fly,” he said, introducing the audience to his company’s newest space effort, putting a supercomputer, the HPE Apollo System (also known as the Spaceborne Computer) on the International Space Station (ISS).

    The concept is to use ordinary open standard technology, wrapped around with intellectual property and invention for added value. The innovation is with what he called the “software hardening.” Using predictive analysis and looking at problems such as memory leaks, resources being used in an exhaustive way, or even failing, the system is able to program around these issues and will have redundancy built into the software.

    As outlined in the November 9th, 2017 HPE Newsroom post, "Our Next Frontier: Taking HPE Technology to the ‘Extreme Edge’" the software hardening is configured to “manage real time throttling of the computer systems based on current conditions and can mitigate environmentally induced errors.”
    Jim Bell, the president of the board of directors of the Planetary Society, and Robyn Gates, the deputy director of the ISS at NASA were also on the same panel, titled, “A Space Odyssey: The Tools and The Vision Powering Man’s[sic] Next Great Leap.” Tom Standage, the deputy editor of The Economist moderated. 
    Another “space business” panel, “Down to Earth: The Global Economic Impact of Space,” featured Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA and current general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). In addition, Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, as well as Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation and Dario Zamarian, the group president of Space Systems Loral (SSL) participated under the guidance of moderator Tom Standage.
    The purpose of this session was to examine the space economy and whether some of Earth’s greatest challenges can be solved by space-based technologies; while also looking at future business opportunities for entrepreneurs. 
    One main track of the discussion about the role of public funds in space technology development was led by Garver, who explained at length the analogies between civil aviation and space. In the economy that relies upon drone technology, the government role at this point is limited to staying as far out of the way as possible, and not ‘over-regulating it.’  
    Speaking of space, she said, “I just really think that fundamentally we need to shift how we invest our public dollars in these areas.” She basically advocated government spending less on big missions and more on enabling technologies so that the private sector can play a more commercial role. 
    Dirk Hoke, Lori Garver and Brian Weeden. Photo c/o Allison Rae Hannigan.
    Carissa Bryce Christensen, the founder and CEO of Bryce Space and Technology, Peter Platzer the CEO of Spire Global, Chad Anderson, the CEO of the Space Angels Network and Pete Roney, the chief innovations officer at Thales USA were guided by Oliver Morton in a lively conversation during the business session about remote sensing called, “The Data Race.” The panel of experts and entrepreneurs all came to similar conclusions about the huge economic opportunities for extracting answers from all the imagery currently being collected.
    It’s big, getting bigger, and innovation is making the future come along faster than anyone can realize. The environmental benefits are also plain to see, as Earth’s resources are being monitored and managed more every day.
    Anderson cited the year 2009 as the “Dawn of the Entrepreneurial Space Age,” which is basically when SpaceX started operating commercially. His Space Angels fund has issued a new space investment report (the Space Angels Investment Quarterly Q3 2017) that makes this claim, and shows the rise of equity investment in the sector.
    With billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos putting their own funds into developing space transportation systems, the certainty in future markets gains legitimacy, and follow-on investment is happening in new systems, especially the Big Data remote sensing constellations. 
    As outlined in the October 31st, 2017 Ars Technica post, "New report: Entrepreneurial space age began in 2009," SpaceX launched its first commercial payload in July 2009, a date which marked the "a key inflection point between the "governmental" space age and the "entrepreneurial" space age." Graphic c/o Space Angels Investment Quarterly Q3 2017.

    Teach them well and let them lead the way” – Whitney Houston

    In a session designed to showcase the industry’s future leaders, but more likely succeeding in helping much of the audience feel old, three MIT Media Lab experts presented, “Our way to the stars: astropreneurships and space hacking.” 
    Barret Schlegelmilch and Steven Link, co-presidents of the MIT Astropreneurship and Space Industry Club and Ariel Ekblaw, Founder and lead, MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative, each presented about their initiatives for self-assembling in-orbit architecture, bioengineering genomes for space and blockchain-mediated satellite telecommunications as they look to democratize access to space exploration technology with the help of source materials from the MIT Media Labs.

    Scaring the (Expletive) Out of Us!

    Space junk: clean-up time” painted a grim picture not only of human impact on the orbital environment, but also the geo-political risks we face here on Earth as potentially threatening space assets. The United States’ Air Force Space Command is tracking around 22,000 pieces of man-made space debris, mostly bigger than 10 cm across, and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands more smaller fragments. 
    Twitter was also active in Seattle on November 9th. Image c/o @TheAerospaceCorp
    Nobu Okada, Founder and chief executive, Astroscale, Jamie Morin, Executive director, Center for Space Policy and Strategy, and vice president, The Aerospace Corporation, and Saadia Pekkanen, Associate director, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington each gave their perspective on the situation.

    Always Leave Them Laughing / Wanting More

    Although the final session, a “spotlight interview,” with Yuri Milner, the founder of  DST Global, finished the day, the lasting impression will be the quite lively and downright funny “Three Way Debate” between Naveen Jain, the founder and chairman of Moon Express, Chris Lewicki, the president and CEO of Planetary Resources, and John Logsdon, the founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute
    Elon Musk has joked that he wants to die on Mars, “Just not on impact,” and the debate premise asks what will he see from his deathbed 100 years from now? Habitation on the Moon, Mars/Asteroids, or neither? 
    Speaking on behalf of the Moon, Jain made the feistiest jokes and boldest statements, often peppering his claims with profanity which created an even larger impact on the audience. “Who the Hell wants to live on an asteroid?”  
    Lewicki presented his case with the calm, cool and snark precision of a planetary scientist and engineer, arguing that we will find many more riches in asteroids than those spread very thinly on the Moon. 
    As for Logsdon, well, despite his personal desire to see all of these scenarios succeed, he is convinced that humanity will not succeed at any of them. 
    He argued that we’ve had since Apollo to make the case to the public to fund future space exploration, and have failed to secure the support needed.
    Fortunately, most of the rest of the people attending the conference were much more enthusiastic.

    Perhaps we were simply more focused around the entrepreneurs and private sector rather than concerned over public funding for government programs, while Logston's focus was on the governments and the public policy decisions which define their role.

    But as outlined in the November 9th, 2017 Geekwire post, "‘New Space Age’ gathering sets the stage for commercial spaceflight’s big year," this year is supposed to be a big one for the private sector. That's where the energy and the ambition is currently concentrated.

    Welcome to the future.
    Allison Rae Hannigan.

    Allison Rae Hannigan is an impassioned space industry professional focused on development opportunities, marketing, and business related to microgravity and earth observation sectors. 

    She is also a free-lance consultant who has created marketing communications campaigns, as well as provided market research, and regulatory expertise to the international space community.

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