Monday, November 29, 2010

Talulah Riley in Esquire
Mars Needs Women!!!

Talulah Riley, the new bride of billionaire Space-X owner Elon Musk has gone out of her way to remind us that our next great space race will likely have more than its fair share of sex.

According to the November 26th, 2010 London Evening Standard article "Talulah Riley: how to marry a billionaire" she's even made him a promise:
"I've told him I'll retire with him to Mars, if he has colonized it by then."
Musk (who's mother is Canadian) and his new wife are representative of the current generation of rich, ruthless and ever so slightly crazy space entrepreneurs who are building the next generation of space access using personal fortunes, technical expertise, grit, guts and a great deal of marketing savvy.

The Space-X Dragon capsule has just recently been cleared for commercial re-entry from Earth orbit by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) according to the November 23, 2010 MSNBC article "Space-X's spaceship cleared for commercial re-entry."

Guy Laliberte and Claudia Barilla
Another recent Canadian example of a true space entrepreneur is Quebec philanthropist, poker player and corporate CEO Guy Laliberté who used his 2009 trip to the International Space Station (ISS) not just to drum up interest in his One Drop Foundation (which fights poverty worldwide by ensuring access to water) but also used the resultant publicity to promote Eastern European events for his traveling Cirque du Soleil.

Laliberté also has two children with Montreal fashion model Claudia Barilla.

Other crazy space investors include Paul Allen (the billionaire Microsoft co-founder who funded Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne project), Robert Bigelow (who owns Budget Suites of America and has promised to spend up to $500 million over the next decade to develop a space based hotel/tourist business), Jeff Bezos (who founded and is said to be developing suborbital rockets), Joe Firmage (the founder of USWeb who has given funds to the Planetary Society, Carl Sagan Productions, and the Cosmos 1 solar sail project), Richard Garriott (vice-chariman of Space Adventures and an early investor and trustee of the X-Prize Foundation), Chirinjeev Kathuria (a telecom entrepreneur and MirCorp investor who joined with the Canadian Arrow X-Prize team to form PlanetSpace, a suborbital space tourism company, in 2005) and quite a few others.

According to the Wikipedia list of Canadian's by Net Worth, there are fifty five Canadian billionaires and many of them (including Frank Stronach, Seymour Schulich and Jim Balsillie) are already well known for philanthropy, funding science, supporting education and contributing research money for alternative "breakthrough" or "green" technologies.

It's also useful to note that, while Musk (who lived in Saskatchewan from 1989 to 1992) now lives in California,  Laliberté still lives in Canada and is only 35th on the list of billionaires so there are plenty more rich Canadian still available to run ideas past.

Someone should. There is plenty of Canadians with serious space expertise just waiting for the proper funding and opportunities for commercialization.

Of course, we wouldn't want to scare off any of the cautious billionaires so we shouldn't encourage anything too bizarre, strange, sleazy or just obviously too sexy in the marketing or the R&D mix.

After all, Mars doesn't really need women... Probably...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Second Day Space Summit Media Stories

Mike Gold
With all due respects to Marie-Claude Williamson (from the Geological Survey of Canada, who chaired the planetary exploration session), Alan Scott (from COM DEV International, who chaired the life sciences session), Minh Oh (from the Canadian Space Agency, who chaired the law and policy session) and the very capable Jaymie Matthews (from the University of British Columbia who chaired the astronomy session) the final day of the 2010 Canadian Space Summit (CSS) was pretty much all about Bigelow Aerospace and it's globe trotting corporate counsel who dropped in during chief architect Marc Bouchers commerce and commercialization session.

According to his presentation, Gold (who also runs the Washington, DC Bigelow office) just wants to remind Canadians that we have an alternative ride to orbit and a new place for scientific experiments after the shuttle retires next year.

According to the November 23rd, 2010 Canadian Press article "Vegas firm hoping to attract Canadian astronauts onto inflatable space station:"
"Bigelow Aerospace says it's working on a commercial space complex that will have the strength of a Kevlar bullet-proof vest. A company representative was in Ottawa last weekend, delivering a keynote speech and lobbying officials at the annual summit of the Canadian Space Society."

"Mike Gold, a Bigelow director, called it his first attempt to reach out to the Canadian government and the space industry. He argued that the facility will offer countries a cheaper way into space within five years."
The article goes on to paraphrase Gold as indicating that Canada "is exactly the sort of customer Bigelow is looking for as the entire industry works to fill the void that will be created once the U.S. space shuttles stop flying in 2011."

The Canadian Press article also indicates that Gilles LecLerc, the director of space exploration for the CSA, said that the agency is not involved, "in any way" with the Bigelow project.

The proposed Bigelow space station.
But of course, that doesn't mean that they can't talk. The CSA and it's federal government masters would be foolish not to at least entertain the option of alternative and potentially lower cost access to space.

Bigelow already has two prototype space-station modules in orbit, the Genesis I and Genesis II and has partnered with US aviation giant Boeing on a man rated commercial crew transport vehicle to ferry future astronauts to their Sundancer and BA 330 orbital modules, which are scheduled for launch and orbit around 2014-2015.

Of course, there were a lot of other fascinating topics going on Sunday that didn't make the "mass media" but perhaps should have.

For example, the pressing need to develop legal infrastructures to properly police the growing number of space faring nations and commercial space players like Bigelow resonated throughout the Summit but the law and policy sessions tackled these issues directly with presentations by James Ferguson (from the University of Manitoba's Centre for Defence and Security Studies), Doug Bancroft (from the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing) and Michael Dodge (from McGill University).
Grant Bonin

The glue tying the the law and policy speakers together is that the environment for industry and scientific growth is defined by law and policy and these areas should be a priority for government (and defining fair and equitable rules is the one thing that governments can do better than private industry).

I was also quite impressed with the presentation by Grant Bonin, who provided an overview of activities at the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) and its Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) where he seems to be bucking for a job in sales (he kept saying "if you'd like to have one of these items, you should talk with me after the session.").

PARS3C author Elizabeth Howell and Marc Boucher are covering the Summit over at all this week, so if you'd like to learn a little more about some of the other sessions, you're encouraged to go and take a look at what they've put together.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Telesat Sale Could Net up to $7 Billion

According to the November 20th, 2010 Bloomberg article "Telesat Said to Seek Buyers, Sale May Bring Up to 7 Billion," the closely held Canadian icon has brought in JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG to begin the formal sales process and offer so-called "staple financing" to interested buyers in order to help expedite the sale of the company.

According to Investopedia, staple financing is essentially a package providing a listing of the supposed benefits of an acquisition plus a prearranged financing component and normally allows bank funding the acquisition to garner fees from both sides of the merger by providing advice to the seller and lending to the buyer.

According to the article:
While an auction hasn’t officially begun, Ottawa-based Telesat has been approached by Intelsat SA, the people said. Intelsat, owned by private-equity funds BC Partners Ltd. and Silver Lake, has hired Bank of America Corp. as an adviser and may name others to pursue a bid..
With many of the prospective buyers for Telesat from outside Canada, the possibility exists that the Canadian government might block the sale.

Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government blocked a US$40 billion bid by Australia’s BHP Billiton for Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, the world’s largest fertilizer company. In 2008 the same government blocked the sale of the space focused assets from BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) to US firm Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

The Telesat Satellite fleet
Telesat is presently co-owned by New York-based Loral Space & Communications Inc. and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board. It is the world’s fourth- largest satellite company and one of the "Three Kings" of Canadian commercial space activities.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Media Notes from the 2010 Canadian Space Summit

The Lord Elgin Hotel in downtown Ottawa bills itself as one of the "nicest Ottawa hotels" with a location "directly across from Confederation Park and the National Arts Centre" which puts it steps away from the Rideau Canal, the Federal Parliament Buildings and the Rideau Centre."
Entrance to the Lord Elgin Hotel
Of course, I didn't get to see any of those places this weekend because I was inside the Lord Elgin attending the 2010 Canadian Space Summit. For those of us who couldn't make it, here are a couple of quick overviews of some of the more interesting Friday and Saturday sessions as described by our mass media:
  • "Multi-sized rovers could be Canada's Future in Space" according to Tom Spears in his November 20th 2010 Post Media News article of the same name. The article quotes Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, head of exploration planning at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), who laid out a variety of goals for Canada in his Saturday presentation. The article also quotes Canadian Space Society (CSS) president Kevin Shortt as stating that real  progress at the CSA is dependent on the development of a long term commitment from the Canadian government to fund future space activities. According to Shortt, no company wants to start the long, expensive job of designing new Mars rovers and find out later that the government wants satellites instead.
  • Others think that "Space may be first frontier for the next major conflict" according to Canadian Press author Peter Rakobowchuk in his November 20th, 2010 article. Colonel Andre Dupuis, the Director of Space Development for the Canadian Forces (CF) is quoted as stating that "the first line in the sand for the next major conflict may very well be in space or cyberspace, but probably not on the ground or in the air or in the sea." Also quoted is Dr. James Fergusson, the director of Canada’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies who stated that the public really doesn’t care much about what’s going on in space which makes policy development difficult. An updated (although not substantially changed) Canadian space defense policy is expected to be released by the federal government next March.
    The Friday and Saturday sessions focused on planetary exploration, education and outreach but my personal perception is that education and outreach were the most important topics covered given the quoted comments from CSS President Shortt (on the need for a long term commitment from government and an outline of expected future space activities) and Colonel Dupruis (on the expected military space policy update next March).

    The Sunday sessions, focused on Earth orbit, life sciences, astronomy, commercialization, law and policy will be the subject of my next post.

        Monday, November 15, 2010

        Quick Notes on Law Firms, Universities, the James Webb Space Telescope, Com Dev and the CSA

        Here's a quick summary of recent Canadian space focused activities, stories, gossip, rumour and innuendo:
        • Global Law Experts, the "premier guide to leading legal professionals throughout the world" according to their website, recently awarded Canadian based Blakes the 2010 Canadian intellectual property (IP) law firm of the year award, according to this October 10th, 2010 press release on the Blakes website. The Blakes IP Group is one of the largest intellectual property practices in Canada with thirty-five lawyers, patent agents, trademark agents and technical consultants in a combined practice. Among other things, the Toronto office hosts bimonthly Canadian Space Commerce Association public meetings so you just know that the firm is out actively encouraging new entrepreneurs and innovative business models.
        • Speaking of new entrepreneurs and innovative business models, two more teams (from Carlton University in Ottawa and Dalhousie University in Halifax) have just joined the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) according to Larry Reeves, the president of Geocentrix Technologies, which organized and administers the program. Reeves says that the main activity for the challenge now is to finalise the technical requirements and judging criteria before the end of the year. The CSDC is a competition between Canadian university students to design, build, test and launch a low cost operational small satellite using existing, off the shelf technology. The winner is expected to be announced in October 2012.
        • Speaking of satellites, the New York Times reported on November 10th, 2010 that the James Webb Space "Telescope Is Behind Schedule and Over Budget, Panel Says." The telescope is a joint project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) but no Canadian subcontractors (which include Com Dev and BC based Macdonald Detwiller) nor anyone at the CSA has so far weighed in on what needs to be done to salvage the project. Don't expect that to change soon since the CSA is only making a small financial contribution ($39 million so far with an expected total of around $148 million over the life of the project) and wants to remain friends with the US prime contractors.
        • Speaking of money, the November 12th, 2010 CBC News article "Canadian space flight dreams live on." quotes former Ansari X-Prize competitor Brian Feeney on his latest project to build a reusable, manned suborbital spacecraft to compete with Virgin Galactic. According to the article, Mr. Feeney is "extremely confident" that his latest project will fly just as soon as someone provides $15 million in venture funding to cover the initial prototype and two production craft. As outlined in my latest This Week in Space for Canada post on, the CBC article doesn't reference any tests Mr. Feeney may or may not have done, provides no context for assessing his statements and generally does no service to either his latest claims or the profession of journalism as practiced by the CBC. 
          • Still speaking of money, Calgary Herald writer Tim Giannuzzi wants the CSA to boldly go where no Canadian has gone before according to the November 14th, 2010 article "Giannuzzi: To boldly go where no Canadian has gone before" but feels that Canadian dreams are restricted by the CSA's budget. He forgets (or maybe just never knew) that the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (ITIAS) has launched more satellites into orbit over the last 10 years than the CSA and has done so with an annual budget in the range of millions of dollars rather than the hundreds of millions of dollars that the CSA can access.
          • Speaking of the Canadian space community, the CSA expects to release their 2009 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report within the next month. The 2008 report indicated strong growth among Canadian space focused companies with the top ten highest earning firms each showing double digit real growth ranging from 12% to 48%. It will be interesting to see if the new report is able to announce another solid year.
            Sometimes it's hard to keep up with everything going on. Hopefully, this will serve as a useful summary and suggest further avenues of research.

            Friday, November 12, 2010

            CSA, MDA, Com Dev, Telesat, DND, Neptec, Bigelow, Academics and Others at Space Summit

            Nobody goes to a conference without first knowing the topics being discussed and the speakers leading the discussions.

            It's therefore timely that the Canadian Space Society has finally gotten around to releasing the list of speakers for the 2010 Canadian Space Summit,.being held at the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa from November 19th - 21st.

            Keynote and featured speakers include Dr. Iain Christie, the president of the Neptec Design Group; Colonel Andre Dupuis, the director of space development for the Department of National Defence (DND); Dr. Jim Fergusson, the director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and professor in the department of political studies at the University of Manitoba; Douglas Bancroft, the director general of the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS); Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, the head of exploration planning at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA); Dr. Nadeem Ghafoor, the manager of planetary exploration at Macdonald Detwiller (MDA) and Mike Gold, the Director of DC operations for Bigelow Aerospace.

            The conference is structured around a series of distinct sessions, each focused on a specific area of expertise. Session chairs include:
            Altogether 36+ speakers are expected to give short presentations. The full speaker list should now be available on the Space Summit website but if it's not, send me an e-mail at and I'll send you out the spreadsheet I received from Wayne Ellis of Appspace Solutions, who is one of the organizers.

            As well, the Canadian Alumni of the International Space University (CAISU) are also setting up shop in the Lord Elgin on Friday, November, 19th where they will be holding their National Space Awareness Workshop.

            It's focused on "ISS to Commercialization: Canada's Future Contributions" and the speaker topics revolve around media awareness issues, the public perception of space, commercialization of space focused activities and the potential to utilize the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 (which seems to be a little later than it's officially scheduled to operate).

            Speakers for these sessions include Paul Bush, the VP of North American Sales for Telesat and Dr. Elliott Coleshil, the software systems lead of the Com Dev mission development group (which has control over the Com Dev exactEarth Ltd. subsidiary).

            Some tickets are still available at the door for those looking to attend both the CAISU and the CSS sessions but I'm told the Saturday night banquet is sold out (and I'm also told I'm having chicken).

            I'll also be speaking in the Sunday afternoon commerce and commercialization session on the topic of "Two Billion for the Canadian Space Agency: Historical Antecedents, Available Options and a Realistic Appraisal." I'll be right after the guy from ComDev who is right after the guy from Bigelow Aerospace.

            Hopefully, I'll be able to keep up with such illustrious company.

            Monday, November 08, 2010

            Updates from the International Space Frontier

            For those of us who aren't following international stories and how (or if) they relate to Canadian space focused industry, here are a couple of interesting updates on what others are doing:
            Antonio Tajani
            • The European  Space Agency (ESA) is focused on 'a new space policy for Europe' at the European Parliament according to the October 29th, 2010 article of the same name posted on the ESA Portal site which focuses on the recent series of discussions on the Lisbon Treaty, and how the treaty affects Europe's "exploitation and exploration of space." The article quotes Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission as stating “we must reinforce investments in space.” According to Tajani “space policy is not only about satellites and launchers, but is also about providing concrete answers to the needs of European citizens." Canada is an associate member of the ESA.
            The US president
            The ex-Indian President
            • Speaking of India and the US, the November 8th, 2010 Times of India article "India, America join hands to harness solar power" states that "India and (the) USA (have) teamed up on a space-based energy initiative aimed at turning both countries into net energy exporters, 48 hours before US President Barack Obama landed in India." The project will be led by Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, the former president of India and a respected scientist in his own right. Dr. Kalam once worked at ISRO, where he was known as the "missile man of India" for his work developing ballistic missile and space rocket technology.
            • Speaking of just the US, according to the November 8th, 2010 post on the Network World Blog Layer 8 titled "NASA picks 13 companies to help build it's next big space rocket" the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) will spend $7.5 billion across thirteen companies to research heavy lift concepts and new technologies to send the next generation of Americans to the asteroids, the Lagrange points, the Moon and Mars.This program is part of the Obama administrations ongoing focus on new "breakthrough" technologies that the CSA is going to need to address if it wants to participate in future US space focused activities.
            John Mankins
            George Whitesides
            Space Ship 2
            • In other UK space news, according to the November 8th, 2010 SiloBreaker article "UK space companies have defied the recession, growing by an average of 10% a year from 2007," UK based, space companies have essentially defied the recession and are growing by an average of 10% a year from 2007. This makes them typical of space focused companies in pretty much any jurisdiction and there are even specific areas of comparison with Canada, given that both economies until recently been mostly small niche providers with one or two large telecoms that distort the market.
            The Commercial Crew Initiative
            As you can likely tell, some of these stories have a Canadian component and some don't. Of course, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't stick our little back bacon smelling noses into more projects and places outside of our traditional comfort zones.

            Saturday, November 06, 2010

            Happy 15th, RADARSAT...

            Without a long term space plan, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is forced into the position of reacting to the initiatives of others.

            It therefore seems certain that CSA President Steve MacLean is watching closely for any public reaction to the Friday announcement that Canadian space focused icon MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) has just gotten out of the property information business by selling the assets to TPG Capital, a private equity firm formerly known as Texas Pacific Group, for $850 million.

            The sale does not affect the firm's position as prime benefactor of Canadian government contracts relating to Earth imaging and arctic sovereignty such as the RADARSAT Constellation program.

            Earlier in the week, Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement even wished Canadian satellite RADARSAT 1 (a predecessor program to the RADARSAT Constellation) a happy 15th birthday, according to the November 4th, 2010 Industry Canada press release "Minister Clement Celebrates the 15th Anniversary of the Canadian RADARSAT-1 Satellite."

            Now it looks like MDA has found an appropriate $850 million birthday present.

            For those who prefer primary source material, the official November 5th, 2010 announcement is posted on the MDA website under the headline "MDA To Divest UK and North American Property Information Business." According to the press release:
            MDA is currently reviewing its long-term business strategy and will retain the proceeds from the sale until this process is completed and future cash requirements have been fully evaluated.
            The press release also states that the deal is subject to the "customary regulatory approvals and other approvals and consents typical for this type of transaction."

            According to the November 5th, 2010 Dow Jones Newswire article "MacDonald Dettwiler: To Focus On Growth, Not Debt Paydown," MDA Chief Executive Dan Friedmann does not expect the deal to trigger a review by the Canadian government even though takeovers of Canadian companies by foreign-based firms are normally subject to a review if the asset value of the company being acquired exceeds C$299 million.

            The Dow Jones article also states that:
            Friedmann said the assets of MacDonald Dettwiler's property-information business are based primarily in the U.S. and U.K., not in Canada. "We have about 30 employees and some small assets in Canada related to this business. They amount to less than 10% of the Investment Canada threshold," he said. 
            In direct contrast to the MDA press release, the Dow Jones article states that the company intends to use the proceeds from the sale to make "strategic acquisitions" to allow MDA to "bring its technology to new sectors" such as oil and gas and mining.

            The November 5th, 2010 Globe and Mail article "MDA hopes to use cash for acquisitions" supports the Dow Jones assessment and indicates that the MDA geospatial services division will merge with the space operations division while new acquisitions will focus on businesses that could use existing MDA geospatial and space operations products:
   a unique way such as those automating a part of their operating process with complex software. MDA is also trying to build bridges with companies in the resource sector because oil and gas firms are now the largest buyer of their remote imaging services, management said on the call.
            The good news is that MDA just might be talking about building a sales distribution network for their Earth imaging systems (assuming, of course, that the mass media reports are more reliable than the materials on the MDA website).

            The bad news is that this makes the firm far less dependent on Canadian government contracts for ongoing revenue. Then again, maybe that's also good news for people, except for perhaps those government employees at the CSA.

            I wonder if Steve MacLean could tell us what he's thinking.

            Support our Patreon Page