Friday, April 20, 2018

Telesat Moves Forward with New Offices, New Plans, New Challenges and New Funding

         By Chuck Black

It's twenty years older than the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) so Ottawa, ON based Telesat has more than a little experience putting together useful commercial deals funded from a variety of sources without the need for a domestic space agency to act as the prime contractor.

Out with the old and in with the new. As outlined in the March 12th, 2018 Ottawa Business Journal post, " Ottawa satellite firm Telesat moving downtown with new Place Bell lease," the satellite technologies firm "is preparing to move from its east-end campus to two floors inside the office tower at 160 Elgin St. (in downtown Ottawa) as part of a bid to attract new talent " Younger employees generally prefer a more vibrant downtown environment, according to the article. Photo c/o Telesat.

In the post Emerson Aerospace Review landscape, that skill-set will come in handy. The company has announced that it expects to begin the first trials on its new low Earth orbit (LEO) communications constellation sometime later this year.

As outlined in the April 18th, 2018 Via Satellite post, "Backed by Government, Telesat to Initiate First Customer LEO Trials This Year," Telesat will be depending on Federal government contributions from the $100Mln CDN Strategic Innovation Fund, allocated in the 2018 Federal budget to support upcoming LEO satellite projects to bolster a $20Mln CDN direct contribution from the government of Ontario, to help fund the constellation.

As outlined in the post:
The investments seem to reflect the government’s confidence in LEO constellations as a solution to bridging Canada’s digital divide. 
There, the issue of rural broadband is a salient one due to the country’s distinct, often harsh geography and population distribution. At least half of its approximately 36 million citizens live south of the Washington-Oregon border, while most of the remainder live in sparse communities scattered across a 3.5 million square mile landscape. 
Telesat believes blanketing these rural regions with satellite-based connectivity is a profitable niche, and will work hand-in-hand with the Canadian government to do so.
The Souyz-2 spacecraft with Meteor-M satellite and 18 additional small satellites, including one from Telesat, launches from Russia's new Vostochny cosmodrome, near the town of Tsiolkovsky in Amur region, Russia, on November 28th, 2017. As outlined in the November 28th, 2017 Associated Press post, "Canadian satellite lost after Russian rocket fails during launch," the failure of the booster's final stage prevented the satellites from entering orbit and led to the failure of the mission. It was one of two Telesat satellites designed to test out concepts for the Telesat LEO constellation. A second test satellite was launched successfully on January 12th, 2018 aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Photo c/o Stringer/Reuters.

As outlined in the April 16th, 2018 Telesat press release, "Telesat Canada Announces Preliminary Revenue and Adjusted EBITDA1 for the Quarter Ending March 31, 2018," the company revenues are expected to keep even with last year’s performance.

The projections were released early in connection with a potential amendment to its US$2.43Bln CDN loan facility, a formal financial assistance program offered by lending institutions to help a company that requires operating capital. Telesat intends to file "full interim unaudited consolidated financial statements for the period prepared in accordance with IFRS" on or about May 3rd, 2018.

The loan modification might not just be for new operating capital. It could also mean that a corporate restructuring is in store for Telesat.

As outlined in the March 16th, 2018 Space News post, "Loral warns of possible Telesat legal battle, Xtar restructuring," New York, NY based Loral Space and Communications has indicated that it wants to move ahead with a “strategic transaction” involving fleet operator Telesat that may spark a legal fight with Telesat’s other major shareholder, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments), a Canadian crown corporation established by an act of parliament in September 1999.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The 2018 Listing of Canadian Space Lobbyists, Advocates, Activists and Groups

There are a lot of space advocates in Canada.
Some of them are affiliated with academic institutions while others are more business focused. Some are wrapped around specific ideas and concepts such as the "open source" development of space missions/ equipment or "working in space" or something else. 
A few are tied to activities such as launching rockets, building satellites, raising money for scientific research or organizing public presentations.
Below is a representative sampling of some of the more interesting examples in this category.


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The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) - The biggest and most important player in this list. 
A not-for-profit business association and lobby group focused on aerospace policy issues that have a direct impact on aerospace and space companies and jobs in Canada.
AIAC was heavily involved in the November 2012 Aerospace Review (the second volume, titled "Reaching Higher: Canada's Interests and Future in Space" focused almost entirely on the Canadian space industry and has become the default operational manual for current Canadian Space Agency activities). Also of note is the September 2016 AIAC white paper on "The Future of Canada’s Space Sector: An Engine of Innovation For Over Fifty Years." 

AIAC has strong connections with the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ), the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC), the British Columbia Aviation Council (BCAC), the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) and most of the other Canadian industry advocacy groups. Membership lists are available through the annual AIAC guide to Canada's Aerospace Industry. AIAC organizes a variety of events, including the annual Canadian Aerospace Summit, typically held each November in Ottawa, ON.
The Astronomy and Space Exploration Society (ASX) - Engineering and science students often receive their first opportunity to meet industry executives and university academics by participating in campus clubs like this non-profit, student run organization at the University of Toronto. ASX is best known for its annual "Expanding Canada" symposiums held in Toronto every January.

The AstroNut's Kids Space Club - A space focused educational group for elementary school students created in May 2010 by the father/ son team of Ray and Brett Bielecki. The various "missions" of spaceship "Mercury One" and its successor "Mercury Two" have been profiled on CBC, CTV, CITY-TV, A-Channel, the Daily Planet (for the Discovery Channel) and Rogers TV. Best known for its annual "What's Up in Space Camp and STEM Conference," which is targeted to elementary and secondary school students.

The Calgary Space Workers Society - A local, Alberta based advocacy group focused on how "to live and work in space." which rose to prominence 2007 after hosting the "2007 Canadian Space Summit," at the University of Calgary, but maintained a lower profile since then. Still active and operating as a "science club."

The Canadian Association of Rocketry and its listing of affiliated organizations - Who says that Canadian's don't build rockets? Certainly not the members of these self-supporting, non-profit clubs focused around building rockets and promoting the development of amateur rocketry in Canada.

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance) – The largest hi-tech association in Canada.
Not specifically an aerospace or space focused organization, but knowledgeable on many of the same taxation and innovation issues faced by aerospace.

Originally focused on software and telecommunications, the organization also provides good background material on government programs related to innovation, such as the Federal government Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit and the CATA Innovation Nation National Campaign (designed to boost Canada’s competitiveness and innovation rankings).
The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) - A nonprofit technical organization for aeronautics, space and remote sensing.
CASI is another of the big players straddling the Canadian landscape, with a storied history built around strong business and international partnerships.

CASI hosts and contributes to a variety of local and international events including the 65th International Astronautics Congress (IAC), which was held in Toronto from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014; the 2016 CASI ASTRO conference, which was held in Ottawa, Ontario from May 17th - 19th, 2016; and the upcoming 2018 CASI ASTRO conference, which will be held in Quebec City, PQ from May 15th - 17th, 2018.
The Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC) - An organization promoting and encouraging public involvement and funding for Canada's public science centres. CASC includes over forty member institutions and organizes a variety of events through out the year. 

The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) – Academic focused organization founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of astronomers devoted "to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education."
The CASCA Joint Committee on Space Astronomy advises the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on matters pertaining to the space astronomy segment of the CSA space science program, including priorities, areas of research, selection mechanisms, funding areas and the extent of funding.
The Canadian Remote Sensing Society (CRSS-SCT) - Focused on Canadian activities relating to geomatics (the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic information, or spatially referenced information), this scientific association organizes conferences and publishes (in conjuction with CASI) the Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing (CJRS)

The Canadian Satellite Design Challenge - A privately funded, biannual event focused on teams of Canadian university students (undergraduate and graduate) who design and build an operational small-satellite, based on commercially-available, "off-the-shelf" components.
As outlined in the November 30th, 2017 post, "Update on the 2017 Canadian Satellite Design Challenge," while the CSDC is still active, there is quite a bit of overlap between what the CSDC has been doing with university student run teams since 2011 (without large amounts of funding) and the Canadian Cubesat Project, a recent CSA proposal to fund and launch university designed and built cube-sats.
The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) - Passionate professionals from industry, academia, and science-based governmental departments focused on "building bridges between science, policy and society."
The centre also organizes the annual Canadian Science Policy Conference, a well attended event featuring a variety of knowledgeable academic and government experts.

Until now, the CSPC hasn't really focused on private sector research and development (R&D), which is kinda odd since, as outlined in the recently released Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) report, "Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada," the majority of Canadian based R&D is performed by the private sector. Perhaps that focus will change over the next little while.
The Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) – A registered Canadian not-for-profit industry organization existing "to advance the economic, legal and political environment for space and aerospace focused companies." Organizes meetings for the hobbyist, the academic and (sometimes) the entrepreneur. Recently resigned executive director Michelle Mendes was a member of the ill-fated Space Advisory Board (SAB).

The Canadian Space Society (CSS) – A small, but well respected charity created to promote Canadian space activities. Functions mostly as a "big tent," for those with a general interest in the CSA and space activities. Has organized the annual Canadian Space Summit since 2008.

Engineers Canada - The national organization of the 12 provincial and territorial associations that regulate the profession of engineering in Canada and license the country's more than 260,000 members of the engineering profession. The organization also issues national position statements on key issues relating to the public interest, including infrastructure, labour mobility and regulating the profession.

The Geological Association of Canada - A national geo-science society, publisher and distributor of geo-science books and journals.
The association also holds a variety of conferences, meetings and exhibitions for the discussion of geological problems.
Hacklab.TO - One of a number of small Canadian organizations like the Interaccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, the Kwartzlab Makerspace, the Makerkids non-profit workshop space for kids, Think|Haus, the Site 3 coLaboratoryUnLab and others who focus on the technologies associated with open source additive manufacturing/ 3-D printing. These techniques show great promise for a variety of low cost space manufacturing technologies.

The North York Astronomy Association (NYAA) - This Ontario based club is the organizer of the annual StarFest star party, which is recognized as one of the world's top 10 gatherings of amateur astronomers for the purpose of observing the sky.

The OpenLuna Foundation - A privately funded public outreach program (officially a US based 501(c) 3) to encourage the use of open-source tools and methodologies (open design) for space focused activities.
Once quite active, but has mostly slipped under the radar since 2010. The founding member and project manager/ director of the organization is Paul Graham, who lives in London, Ontario.
The Planetary Society Canada - A subgroup of the larger US based Planetary Society. a non-government, nonprofit organization involved in research and engineering projects related to astronomy, planetary science, exploration, public outreach, and political advocacy, which was founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman.
The current CEO is Bill Nye who, as outlined in the March 6th, 2018 Global News post, "Justin Trudeau, Bill Nye talk pipeline politics, Kinder Morgan in post-budget meeting," recently shared the stage with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to talk science and politics.

Planetary Society global community outreach consultant Kate Howells was also a member of the ill-fated Space Advisory Board (SAB).
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) - 4,800 members, including about 500 "unattached" members from remote parts of Canada and around the world and strong chapters in Vancouver and 28 other centres across the country makes RASC one of Canada's largest space and astronomy advocacy groups.
Since 2009, the organization has purchased the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario and SkyNews; the Canadian Magazine of Astronomy and Stargazing. An underrated and successful gem, mostly hiding in the much larger, Canadian landscape.
The Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) - The oldest scientific society in Canada, founded in Toronto in 1849 by a small group of civil engineers, architects and surveyors led by Sandford Fleming. The current membership is focused around events and lectures promoting scientific advancement.

Science Rendezvous - A "grassroots" not-for-profit organization and public platform to promote science awareness and increase science literacy in Canada. Holds the yearly, spring Science Rendezvous at the University of Toronto, St. George campus.

Space Canada – A not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of solar energy from space.
Organized the 2009 Symposium on Solar Energy from Space and currently promoting the 2018 International Symposium and Workshop on Space Solar Power, which will be held in concert with the National Space Society (NSS) International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2018), being held in Los Angeles, CA from May 23rd - 27th, 2018.
Space Canada president and CEO George Dietrich has a long history of supporting and funding US and Canadian space activists and their activities. 
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Canadian chapter - Part of an international group of student-run organizations dedicated to promoting public interest in space through the use of unique projects, research programs, and professional development opportunities in the Canadian space industry.
SEDS was founded September 1980, primarily by Peter Diamandis, Scott Scharfman, Richard Sorkin, Robert D. Richards and Todd B. Hawley.

Other countries with active SEDS groups include the US, the UK and India.
The Toronto International Space Apps Challenge - An annual "hackathon" organized each spring as part of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge.

The Toronto Students for the Advancement of Aerospace (TSAA) - Another of the multitude of inter-university student organization striving to promote the advancement of aerospace through student leadership and hands-on initiatives.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Struggling to Capitalize on R&D, Branch Plants & CDN Space Agency Budget a Little Higher than Expected

         By Chuck Black

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has just released early estimates for its next budget. As outlined in the April 16th, 2018 government of Canada post, "2018-19 Departmental Plan for the Canadian Space Agency," at an estimated $349Mln CDN it's a little higher than expected at least when compared to the planned spending for this year.

But that short term "stay of execution" won't last.


Without a major new Canadian focused project, such as the billion dollar RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) to bolster CSA budgets, most science and innovation funding will continue to default to other government organizations like the National Research Council (NRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) which, oddly enough, also report to Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister Navdeep Bains.

Those organizations, as outlined in the March 1st, 2018 post, "'Patent Boxes,' our Canadian Space Agency and the Lack of Real Innovation in the 2018 Federal Budget," are currently flush with several billion additional dollars, courtesy of the latest Federal budget.

However, as outlined in a report released last week by the Ottawa ON based Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) under the title "Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada," our problem isn't with the science.

According to the report, our country is struggling to capitalize its admittedly strong science sector and turn inventions into commercial products:
  • While Canada remains a leading global contributor to research, and is making important contributions across a wide range of fields, our international standing as a leading performer of research is at risk "due to a sustained slide in private and public R&D investment.

Gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD), as a % of gross domestic product (GDP) for Canada as compared to the average of member states in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) an intergovernmental economic organisation with 35 member countries (including 22 of the 28 European Union member states, Australia, Canada, the UK and the US). As demonstrated by the graph, Canada’s total investment in research and development (including government, business and academic sectors) has been dropping as a percentage of its GDP since 2001. Graph c/o John Sopinski/ Globe and Mail/ The Council of Canadian Academies using data supplied by OECD.

  • Canada is not producing research at levels comparable to other leading countries on most enabling and strategic technologies and the research is "comparatively less specialized and less esteemed in the core fields of the natural sciences and engineering."
  • Canadian industrial R&D spending is declining and concentrated in industries that are intrinsically less R&D intensive. Despite poor overall performance, Canada has pockets of R&D strength across several industries.
  • The barriers between innovation and wealth creation in Canada are more significant than those between R&D and innovation. The result is a deficit of technology start-ups growing to scale in Canada, and a loss of economic benefits.
  • Data limitations continue to constrain the assessment of R&D activity and excellence in Canada, particularly in industrial R&D and in the social sciences, arts, and humanities.
As outlined in the April 10th, 2018 Globe and Mail post, "Canada struggling to capitalize on research and development sector," Canada’s current innovation efforts "may not amount to even that much, as other countries surge forward with investments that leverage science and technology and reap the economic rewards."

The article quoted Max Blouw, a former president of Wilfrid Laurier University, who chaired the panel that produced the report, as stating that, "We’re now at a stage where we’d almost have to double our investments in order to catch up to the leaders.”


Of course, there are those like serial entrepreneur Tony Lacavera, who feels that real solutions lie outside the realm of simple spending.

According to Lacavera, at least some of our problems have to do with being too deferential, our oligarchical business structure and our need to subscribe to a "branch plant mentality" where we think that attracting giant foreign firms like Amazon and Boeing (and NASA) is better than developing our own expertise or taking on the mantle of leadership ourselves.

Surely the CSA is also riddled with this perception.

As outlined most recently by career public servant Graham Gibbs (who spent his final seven years in public service as Canada’s counselor for US space affairs in Washington DC) & retired CSA president," W. M. ("Mac") Evans in the June 4th, 2017 post on "A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets," the Canadian space program:
... because it is and always has been a modestly budgeted program, has learned that leveraging international cooperation is a necessity, not a luxury...
That sort of sounds like our space agency is happy enough seeking out opportunities to build components for NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) missions.

That could also be why the CSA, as outlined in the March 22nd, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?," will most likely end up primarily as a subcontractor for future US space exploration efforts.


But it could also be why, as outlined in the February 28th, 2018 post, "'Big Winners' in Tuesday's Federal Budget," $100Mln CDN was allocated in the 2018 Federal budget for "low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites intended to bring internet services to rural parts of the country." but wasn't allocated through the CSA.

Maybe we shouldn't give the the CSA (or any other ISED managed program, for that matter) any more money until they figure out that we don't need to become simply a branch plant for foreign concerns, figure out how to commercialize our IP and learn how to scale our admittedly innovative start-ups.

We could even an build an entirely original space program. Something unique and designed to address Canadian requirements such as communications over large distances or taking inventory of our assets in the far north.

You know, like Telesat did back in the 1970's and is currently doing today to access the latest $100Mln CDN allocated for funding LEO satellite constellations and what others did in the 1980s -90s with RADARSAT 1 and 2 programs.

Those projects were complete systems, not just components, which were built by Canadians to solve Canadian problems.

We could do that again. What a concept. If the idea was a good one, we could even fund it through the space agency.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

SABRE Surges Ahead With New Investments from Boeing, Rolls Royce & BAE Systems

          By Brian Orlotti

Oxfordshire, UK based Reaction Engines Limited (REL) has announced that it has raised £26.5 million GBP ($48Mln CDN) from three of the most powerful and influential firms in aerospace to support its development of the synergistic air-breathing rocket engine (SABRE), a revolutionary new type of engine combining jet and rocket technologies. The move bodes well for the burgeoning space industry and the opening of the space frontier.


As outlined in the April 12th, 2018 REL press release, "Reaction Engines secures £26.5m investment from new industrial and financial investors," the new investors include:
  • Manchester, Lancashire based Rolls-Royce, the legendary UK based aerospace manufacturer.
  • Farnborough, UK based BAE Systems, the defence, aerospace and security giant, which had previously invested £20.6Mln GBP ($37Mln CDN) in REL in 2015.
These new investments bring the total capital raised by REL in the last three years to over £100Mln GBP ($180Mln CDN), including UK government funding. This capital will move the SABRE development program forward, with the objective of ground-testing a SABRE engine in 2020.

REL is currently building a new facility in Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK for this purpose.


In 2011, REL had secured $350Mln USD ($446.5Mln CDN) from the UK government for SABRE. In July of 2013, the UK government pledged an additional £60 million GBP ($118.5Mln CDN), enabling a full-scale prototype of SABRE to be built.

By 2015, REL had attracted attention in the US, with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), throwing its support behind SABRE by offering the use of its facilities to support the engine’s development.

Also, in September 2017, REL signed a contract with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to conduct testing of SABRE’s heat exchanger.

The SABRE is being developed by REL to propel its planned Skylon single-stage-to-orbit space plane at hypersonic speeds (Mach 5.5+ or approximately 6800km per hour) while in Earth's atmosphere, then switch to a purely rocket mode (around Mach 27+ or just over 33,000 km per hour) in order to reach low Earth orbit.

Once in orbit, the craft would deposit its payload of up to 15 tonnes in a 300 km equatorial orbit, then reenter the atmosphere (protected by a ceramic composite skin) and land on a runway. Skylon could also carry up to 11 tonnes of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).


In addition to its cargo-carrying potential, REL also stresses the SABRE’s advantages for commercial passenger aircraft. In the 2000’s, the EU funded the long-term advanced propulsion concepts and technologies (LAPCAT) I and II studies, which examined the potential for hypersonic aircraft.

The studies showed that hypersonic airliners would be capable of flying from London, UK to Sydney, Australia in 4.6 hours, compared to 22 hours for an Airbus A380.

The key to SABRE's ability to function as both aircraft and rocket ship is a complex heat-exchanger system that allows oxygen to be drawn directly from Earth's atmosphere to oxidize the on-board hydrogen fuel.

The SABRE's heat-exchanger (using methanol as an antifreeze) chills incoming air from more than 1,000C to -150C in less than 1/100th of a second before passing it through a turbo-compressor and into the rocket combustion chamber, where it is then burned with liquid hydrogen.

Maybe someone should give this guy some money. Canadians are also involved with researching the next generation of single stage to orbit (SSTO) space planes. As outlined in the May 30th, 2016 post, "The 'Most Interesting Man in the World' is Building a SSTO Spacecraft in Edmonton," AB based Space Engine Systems (SES), under the leadership of CEO Pradeep Dass, is also working on the project. For his assessment of how the SpaceX Falcon-9 compares with the proposed SES DASS GNX engine, check out the SES web-page on the topic. Graphic c/o Commercial Space Media.

With REL now on secure financial footing, other game-changing firms like Hawthorne, CA based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are also raising new funds.

Hot off the success of its Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX is seeking to raise up to $507Mln USD ($636Mln CDN) in a new funding round, according to documents filed with the US state of Delaware two weeks ago.

As outlined in the April 12th, 2018 Geekwire post, "Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims to raise $500M as it makes progress on its Big F’n Rocket," SpaceX has authorized 3 million shares of stock for this Series I round, valued at $169 USD ($212 CDN) each.

This round could bring SpaceX to a valuation of approximately $23.7Bln USD ($30Bln CDN) if all shares are sold.

With REL’s game-changing technology entering the fray, the space frontier will open faster than ever before.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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