Monday, October 28, 2013

Small Satellite Operator Challenges Established Rivals

Ceil II satellite. Photo c/o Ceil.

          by Brian Orlotti

A young Ottawa-based satellite operator is looking to challenge its established rivals through an old-fashioned mix of daring and innovation.

Ciel Satellite Group was founded in 2004 as a joint venture of Borealis Infrastructure (the investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)) and satellite operator SES S.A of Luxembourg to meet demand in the Canadian and US markets for satellite services. In 2007, the Canadian government granted the company 7 orbital slots in which to operate satellites. Ciel is currently focused on video content delivery in the Direct-To-Home TV, Cable/telco head-end, and IPTV segments.

Ciel Satellite Group first made its mark in December 2008 with the launch of its Ciel II satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This satellite, located in geostationary orbit, provides HDTV service to Canada and the continental US on behalf of Ciel’s customer, satellite TV giant Dish Network Corp.

In 2009, the company fought a brief battle with satellite TV giant (and Dish archrival) DirecTV. In an interesting interpretation of Canada-US free trade, DirecTV accused Ciel of operating outside its Canadian remit by providing service to US customers. DirecTV even alleged that Ciel’s satellite would interfere with DirecTV’s service, even though it had the sanction of both the Canadian government and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Although the wrangling continued for years, Ciel II remains in operation.

The Ciel II was built by Com Dev International of Cambridge, Ont. and Thales Alenia Space of Cannes, France. The satellite is operated by SED Systems, a satellite operations support provider based out of the Innovation Place Research Park at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. SED Systems itself has a storied history, having played a role in the research and development of both Canadarm 1 & 2, as well as the design and building of instrumentation for the Black Brant sounding rockets.

Ciel’s future plans to fill its 6 remaining orbital slots by expansion into markets such as delivery of government services (i.e. telemedicine, distance education) to remote/rural areas, Canadian Armed Forces communications, and broadband internet access.

To facilitate its plans, a new satellite (Ciel 6) was to have been launched in 2012. Although Ciel 6 has not yet been launched, the company is also investigating more novel means of expansion. Ciel Satellite Group has entered the satellite resale business, purchasing satellites near the end of their operational lives and repurposing them. Although innovative and cost-effective in the short-term, this strategy’s long term viability remains in question.

Whether Ciel 6’s delays are due to financial, technical, or legal issues, Ciel Satellite Group’s willingness to harness existing assets seems to prove the truth of the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention.

Integrating STEM Education into the STEAM Movement

          by Sarah Manea

A movement in education pushed mainly by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is working to create awareness of the necessity of art and design in innovation and society.

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) movement is not a new curriculum, but is instead described by advocates as being a framework for teaching, which can be combined with the current public education sector.

Founding researcher and educator of STEAM education, Georgette Yakman, believes whole-heartedly that the merging of arts is necessary in the STEM methodology, and wanted to incorporate an artistic element into STEM.

There are three main objectives to the STEAM movement, which are to transform research and make room for art and design in STEM, allowing for the integration of art and design in pre-school and high school levels, as well as encourage companies and employers to hire artists and designers.
Those advocating this new methodology believe that the additional focus and acknowledgment of the arts will transform North American economy, creativity and ingenuity, much in the same way science and technology did in the 20th century.
Renate Pohl. Photo c/o artspaceport.

Scientists and artists all around the world are already beginning to find similarities in this unlikely pairing of studies, many of them being Canadian, such as Renate Pohl, founder of, and member of the International Space Art Network (ISAN). She works to portray the artistic side of science and space visually, and is one few professional artists to have graduated from the International Space University (ISU).

I believe wonderful innovations happen when creativity meets space science, and am at my best when working in the "liminalverse" to connect seemingly unconnectable thoughts, objects, and people,” according to Pohl on her ISAN webpage.
Bocklins Tomb by Glenn Brown.

Several space themed art works are going up for auction, and selling for millions of dollars worldwide. A notable work by Glenn Brown, who embellished an existing piece by illustrator Chris Foss who is known for his space science fiction work, recently sold for $3.8M. Even though it is unrealistic and not to any scale, the work portrays a creative and imaginative side to the already beautiful unknown we call outer space.

The concept of merging these 5 important parts of the curriculum seems promising and exciting, and if successful in practice, will create a generation focused around ingenuity and creativity.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

3D Metal Manufacturing Waiting for Patents to Expire

The AMAZE 3D logo on display at the London Science Museum. Photo c/o ESA.

           by Brian Orlotti

On October 15th, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission unveiled the AMAZE (Additive Manufacturing Aiming towards Zero waste & Efficient production of high-tech metal products) project, a consortium of 28 institutions working to perfect 3D metal printing technology for use in space, aerospace and industrial applications.

The ESA made the announcement at the opening of a new exhibit at the London Science Museum showcasing various 3D printed metal parts produced as part of the AMAZE project. These pieces included an aerofoil made from layers of titanium, intricate hinges for the Airbus A320 aircraft and a stunning AMAZE logo printed in tungsten in a metallic mesh pattern. Parts made of tungsten alloys in particular were highlighted, as this metal can withstand extremely high temperatures (up to 3,000 degrees Celsius), making such parts ideal for use in spacecraft or nuclear fusion reactors.

The €20Mln Euro AMAZE project brings together 28 partners from across European industry and academia including Airbus, Cranfield University, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, EADS and Norsk Titanium. The ESA has stated that factories are being set up in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the UK in order to develop something new: a 3D printing industrial supply chain.

3D printing (aka additive manufacturing), a technology that some say is sparking a "second industrial revolution" has been hampered by being limited to making objects out of plastic. Although plastics are used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products, they are prone to wear and tear and are ill-suited for extreme conditions.

Several techniques have emerged for 3D printing in metal; most involving the use of lasers or electron beams to melt and fuse metallic powders (known as "laser sintering," among other names). Unfortunately, 3D metal printing has not seen widespread adoption for the same reasons that once held 3D plastic printing back: high costs and patent restrictions.

Change is in the air however, and in February 2014 key patents for laser-sintering technology will expire. Because of its high resolution in all three dimensions, laser sintering could produce high-quality metallic (and plastic) objects that could be sold as finished products.

AMAZE researchers have already printed metal jet engine parts and aircraft wing sections up to 2m in size. Typically, these high-strength components are made from rare & expensive metals like titanium, tantalum and vanadium. Using traditional casting/forging techniques to make these objects would waste valuable raw material. In contrast, additive manufacturing (building parts up layer-by-layer) could potentially achieve near-zero waste. A factory that could make a part with one kilo of metal rather than twenty would be very green, indeed.

For added eco-friendliness, printing metal aircraft parts as single pieces (without welding or bolting) can make them stronger and lighter. A weight reduction of even 1kg for a long-range aircraft would save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and many tons of CO2 emissions.
3D printed metal parts. Photo c/o London Science Museum.

ESA reps have even said that one of their goals is to print a satellite, in space, as a single piece. Large satellites built in this way could as much as 50% cheaper. To this end, the ESA aims to deliver the first 3D metal printer to the International Space Station (ISS) to allow astronauts to print satellites and other custom objects on demand.

For all its tantalizing potential, 3D metal printing has issues and inefficiencies that must still be overcome. These issues include porosity (small air bubbles inside objects), finishing of rough surfaces, and scaling up the technology to make large objects. Solutions will require close collaboration between industry and academia.

The first industrial revolution changed the face of the world and ultimately allowed human beings to take our first steps into space. How fitting it would be for the second industrial revolution to enable us to thrive in it.
"There never was a good knife made of bad steel." - Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Planetary Society Coming to Canada

Lightsail-1, a project of the Planetary Society.

          by Sarah Manea

The US based Planetary Society, one of the better-known and funded organizations focused on championing space science and technology, plans on establishing a Canadian chapter.

The society will begin their Canadian outreach with a display at the annual Canadian Space Summit, organized by the Canadian Space Society (CSS), which will be held in Ottawa, ON from November 14th - 15th.

Established in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman, the Planetary Society has members in more than 100 countries. On June 7th, 2010, executive director Bill Nye took over and has continued the legacy, with the help of seventeen member volunteers, formed into a board of directors. Together, they do what they can to fill in the gaps between government and business in space by seed-funding technology, SETI searches, and successful political advocacy for space missions. Public engagement and empowerment are key to their beliefs, and have been successfully demonstrated time and time again.
Throughout the years, the Planetary Society has run several projects and programs, in anything from new and innovative technologies, to search for extra terrestrial life. One of their largest projects consists of their work on LightSail-1, which will revolutionize space travel, and demonstrate a sunlight-propelled spacecraft. Many deployment tests have been conducted, and the mission is continuing forward faithful to the original mandate.
Louis Freedman. Photo c/o Planetary Society.

We are going to merge the ultra-light technology of nanosats with the ultra-large technology of solar sails in an audacious new program; setting a course to the stars,” 
stated Planetary Society co-founder Louis D. Friedman, in a recent society press release.

With more than 40,000 members worldwide, the Planetary Society is sharing its love for space exploration and outreach across the Nation. Anyone can join as an advocate, member or volunteer on the website, allowing them to participate and “reach out into the Universe to seek answers to those deep questions: Where did we come from? and Are we alone?” as stated on the website.

Of course, with all that said and done, US styled space and science advocacy from US based organizations have typically had a rough time moving into Canada with out strong local leadership, which normally requires a specialized advocacy focusing on specifically Canadian issues.

Anyone who doubts this need only look at the history of the National Space Society (active in Canada in the 1990's but inactive now and generally replaced by the CSS) or the Mars Society (active in Canada during the 2000-2007 period).

We are eager to see how this organization will merge and grow with the Canadian space sciences.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Next Canadian Space Mission is Targeting Italy and the EU

The Colosseum in Rome from the air. Is it "worth the trip?"

The Canadian trade commissioner in Italy, in conjunction with the Association of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) are soliciting Canadian space companies to participate in a trade mission to Italy focused on "space innovation and cooperation" and the development of business partnerships between Canada and the European Union

And, as of October 15th, there are "seven funded places" still open and waiting to be filled by delegates representing Canadian space companies.

The event is scheduled to occur from November 25th - 29th with funding provided through the Federal Government’s “Global Opportunities for Associations” program.

As outlined on the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service website, Canadian trade commissioners Joann Smith (responsible for space) and Tyler Wordsworth (responsible for science & technology/ innovation), will lead a "Pan European initiative in collaboration with Canadian and Italian space sector partners which will include Canadian aerospace national and provincial associations, the CME, the Canada Enterprise Network and in Italy the European Commission's Enterprise Europe Network."

The five day program will take in Turin, Rome and Capua, include meetings with executives from the Advanced Logistics Technology Engineering Centre (ALTEC), the AVIO Group, E-GEOS (a well known space imaging company), the Italian Space Agency, Telespazio, Thales Athena Space, various regoinal organizations and others plus include participation in the Horizon 2020 space information day and brokerage event scheduled for November 27th, in Rome.

Horizon 2020 is an €80Bln ($107Bln US) European Union program designed  to encourage innovation and science.

According to the event organizers, participation in the week-long series of activities in Italy will provide a unique opportunity to:
  • Receive the latest information from the European Commission on the Horizon 2020 Space calls.
  • Competitively position Canadian firms on lucrative R&D projects in advance of the first space calls.
  • Establish important linkages with Europe’s best in terms of space sector players.
  • Develop and define partnerships with project consortia.
  • Present, discuss and develop new technology and innovation projects at an international level
A full schedule of events for the trip, known formally as the Canada-Europe Space Innovation Mission to Italy is available online here. A schedule of events for the Horizon 2020 information day is available online here.

For more information on the mission and funding support, please contact Joanne Smith at

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

China as a Responsible International Actor in Space

IAC 2013 poster c/o IAF.

          by Melissa K. Force 

The 64th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) was held in Beijing in the last full week of September and the host location offered a rare opportunity for a view of China’s space law and policy. China’s academicians at the IAC revealed attitudes on space sustainability during a seminar on legal aspects of active debris remediation.

These discussions were provided through written papers, oral presentations, power-points, commentary and question and answer sessions by Xiaodan Wu, a postdoctoral fellow at China Central University of Finance and Economics, who evaluated whether China has fulfilled its international obligations in space environment protection, and Guoyu Wang, an associate professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology and a member of China’s delegation to the United  Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) working group focused on the  long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

Despite repeated attempts, none of the Chinese presenters would agree to be quoted by name.

China’s Attitude towards Space Environmental Protection

Generally speaking, China is aware of space debris as a threat to human activities in outer space. There are three aspects to its international position on safe and sustainable development of space.

First, the China National Space Administration actively participated in the discussion on space debris mitigation guidelines as a member of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee in 1995 and later, as part of COPUOS. But China opposes any attempt to make those guidelines binding because of the perceived disparity in the ability (and responsibility) of developed versus developing countries to devote the technology and financial support necessary to implement those measures. Implicit in this view is the culpability (“careless action”) of the United States and Russia for the majority of debris in space.
Chinese rocket boosters as per 2011. Graphic c/o Chinese National Space Administration.
Second, the mitigation of space debris is, in China’s view, strongly tied to international measures to prevent the weaponization of outer space, most recently embodied in a 2008 China-Russia draft “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space” (PPTW). The United States and others objected to the treaty because it is unverifiable and, as Dr. Wu’s paper recognizes, does not explicitly ban debris-generating ground-based direct ascent anti-satellites (that may contain characteristics of missile defense and space warfare – lasing and jamming).

Third, China is unlikely to sign the EU Code of Conduct. Although China agrees that its transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) are important, the EU failed to consult China in the drafting process. Some states believe that rationale is suspect and that, while China does promote the sustainability of outer space, it wants to do so through its own means. Indeed, according to one of the papers, one reason for abstaining from the Code of Conduct is that its goals overlap with those in the UN the Conference on Disarmament and the PPWT. Though the PPWT remains unsigned, China’s soft power within the UN framework has been enhanced, especially among non-space faring states. Although none of the Chinese academicians addressed this aspect of politics, a Code of Conduct could weaken PPWT and signing it would not benefit China’s geopolitical interests.

China’s Domestic Regulation of Debris Mitigation

China first established a national mechanism governing space debris mitigation in 2002, with “Interim Provisions on Licenses for Civil Space Launch Projects” and later in 2005, with “Requirements of Space Debris Mitigation.” Since 2008 there has been a supervisory mechanism for the mitigation of space debris during development, operation and post-mission disposal of spacecraft and launching vehicles through the auspices of the space industry, research institutions and governmental organs.
But there is a smudge on China’s credibility that is difficult to reconcile. In 2007, China executed an ASAT weapon test that generated more than 3,000 pieces of debris, representing more than one-fifth of all cataloged objects in Low Earth Orbit. Although Chinese presenters were understandably reticent about commenting on that incident due to the potential for tension between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the military, the ASAT test was denounced in the international community as violating Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty, in which states pledge not to interfere with the operations of other states and to consult when action might lead to interference.

Subsequently, a provisional regulation (“Interim Measures on Administration of Mitigation of and Protection against Space Debris”) was put into practice in 2010 (and summarized to the UN Working Group on national legislation in 2013) to fulfill China’s international obligations to establish coordination, emergency management and surveillance mechanisms. However, considering that China’s leaders ordered the ASAT test despite the existence of official regulations prohibiting it – including its 2002 and 2005 space debris mitigation mechanisms – the international community might well doubt that the 2010 Provisional Regulation would be any bulwark against future violations. This regulation has not been published (other than in a generalized summary to the UN) and, as a purely a governmental document, it is not legally binding.
Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman in space after her 2012 space mission. Ten Chinese taikonauts have currently flown in space. Photo c/o Quirky China News/Rex Features.
Scholars would only publicly acknowledge that China’s leaders “underestimated” the intensity of the international reaction, and explained it solely on the ground that the subject of debris “had not figured prominently in the briefings to the Chinese leadership” prior to ordering the ASAT test.

 But since 2007 China has accelerated the process of translating international agreements into domestic law and is gradually establishing a space debris standards system. The transparency of China’s debris regulations and standards needs to be improved but it appears things are heading in the right direction. Though China is an emerging space power, its status in the international community still feels new and its early missteps were due to an imperfect decision-making process, which is continuing to evolve and improve.
Melissa K. Force.

The takeaway is that China wants to been seen as a responsible member of the family of space-faring nations, especially since it has come to enjoy enhanced recognition for its accomplishments in space and a leadership role in curbing the weaponization of space. In short, China has learned its lesson from 2007 and is making efforts to improve. 
Melissa K. Force is an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School and Webster University, who teaches air and space law. She is also a legal consultant and Principal of MK Force Consulting in Los Angeles who advises commercial entities, government agencies and international organizations on legal, regulatory and policy issues concerning space activities. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, a J.D. degree and an LLM in Air and Space Law.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Upcoming 2013 Canadian Aerospace Summit

There's likely not going to be quite so many cozy comments about aerospace "...and space" belonging together as there were from politicians, bureaucrats and Aerospace Industry Association of Canada (AIAC) officials in 2012, but its still worth noting that the 2013 Canadian Aerospace Summit kicks off on Wednesday, October 16th, in Ottawa.

David Emerson. Batting 2 for 3? Photo c/o APFC.
As reported in the September 8th, 2013 post "Emerson Update: Aerospace is Go but Space Still Stalled,"the AIAC has just finished up a year of lobbying for Federal dollars with bankable Harper government promises of a new $110Mln CDN Aerospace Technology Demonstrator Program (ATDP) plus an additional $1Bln CDN over seven years to maintain the ongoing operations of the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI).

Both programs were recommendations from the first volume (focused on the aerospace industry) of the November 2012 Emerson Aerospace Review, an arm's length report mandated by the Government of Canada, led by ex-MP David Emerson and organized with the participation of the AIAC.

But the space industry, the subject of the second volume of the Aerospace Review, hasn't done quite so well.

Recommendations from the second volume to "stabilize" overall Canadian Space Agency (CSA) funding, add an additional $10Mln CDN to the CSA administered Space Technologies Development Program (STDP) and Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP) during each of the next three years plus provide ongoing and consistent funding afterwards have, so far at least, not been addressed.

Of course, all that is water under the bridge for at least the next few days.

Speakers booked for the event include former CBC newsman (and current senior strategic adviser for Blue Sky Consulting Group) Don Newman, ex-CSA astronaut (and current adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo) Chris Hadfield, Karen Corkery (the executive director of the industrial technologies office at Industry Canada), Stephan Germain (the CEO of Canadian based satellite chip manufacturer Xiphos Systems Corporation) and Federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services Diane Finley, along with quite a few others.

DARPA Phoenix Moves Forward Towing Canada Along

Screen capture from the DARPA website.

          by Brian Orlotti

A California based firm has been awarded a $40Mln US contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the next round of work on the DARPA "Phoenix" orbital satellite salvaging program.

The design, building and deployment of satellites has traditionally been a long, expensive process. Today, when a satellite fails, an expensive new one must be launched to replace it. This paradigm has resulted in a vast amount of "space junk" in Earth orbit, posing a serious threat to space infrastructure (as vividly portrayed in the recent hit film "Gravity"). The goal of the Phoenix program is to develop technologies that can salvage components from non-functioning satellites in orbit and use them to create new satellites at greatly reduced cost.

The Phoenix program is based around the concept of ‘satlets:’ small, modular satellite cores (similar to nanosatellites). The satlets would be housed inside a module called a payload orbital deliver system (PODS) which could then cost-effectively be sent into orbit as a piggyback payload on a commercial rocket. A separate servicing satellite (or "tender") would be built and launched into orbit separately.
Once the tender arrives in orbit, the PODS would be released from its host rocket and link up with the tender to become its "tool belt." Using the tender’s robotic arms, the satlets could then be attached to the antenna or chassis of a non-functional satellite, essentially creating a new system. During Phoenix’s first demonstration mission, tentatively scheduled for a 2015/2016 launch on a yet-to-be-determined rocket, a tender will attempt to remove an antenna from a satellite in a graveyard orbit and attach a satlet to it.

The latest contract, won by Novawurks Inc. of Los Alamitos, CA, included a $30Mln US base award with four options worth a combined $10Mln. The company’s contribution to Phoenix continues to be satlet development based on its customizable "HISat" platform. Novawurks had previously won a $2.8 million contract in 2012 to develop satlets for the program.
A Canadian connection to Phoenix was forged late last year when BC based MacDonald, Dettwiler (MDA) announced that it had been selected to join the program. Drawing on its extensive experience in space robotics, MDA will work with the US Naval Research Laboratory to provide the tender's robotic arms. MDA’s scope for this portion of the program is estimated at $27.2 million. MDA has also been awarded two other contracts from DARPA to develop key robotic satellite servicing technologies. These include advanced robotic tools, cameras, tool caddies, and designs for a dexterous robot similar to the the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (DEXTRE) already in use aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The original SIS orbital "mechanic." Graphic c/o MDA.

MDA had been promoting its own orbital servicing craft, called the Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicle to DARPA. Like the Phoenix, SIS would serve as an orbital robotic mechanic. However, SIS would also have the ability to refuel satellites in orbit, vastly extending their useful lives. MDA shopped SIS around to potential customers. In March 2011, satellite operator Intelsat SA agreed to pay $280 million for the SIS to refuel some satellites in its fleet, with the first mission flying in 2015.

However, in January 2012, the deal fell through. Company officials cited lack of financial commitment from the US government as one of the main reasons. Later that year, DARPA unveiled the Phoenix program, and the US government’s stance became much clearer.

Orbital satellite servicing holds the promise of greatly lowering the cost of orbital assets. Soon, orbital robot mechanics and gascans may make fixing a satellite on par with fixing a wayward cell tower.

SCISAT-1 is Ten Years Old

SCISAT badge listing collaborative institutions. Badge c/o CSA .

          by Sarah Manea

After the successful completion of its initial mission eight years ago, the Canadian built Scientific Satellite 1 (SCISAT-1) remains operational and recently celebrated its 10th year of service. The small satellite is used as a means of studying ozone depletion and general atmospheric composition.

On board, SCISAT-1 has many important atmospheric analyzing components, the most important being an optical Fourier transform infrared spectrometer (ACE-FTS Instrument) and an ultraviolet spectrophotometer (MAESTRO). Analysis of the chemical elements in the atmosphere can be done through recording the spectra of the sun as sunlight passes through the atmosphere.

This relatively small, drum shaped satellite, weighing 150kg, with a diameter and depth of 5 feet, was designed, built, and operated by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). SCISAT was sent into lower Earth orbit by a Pegasus rocket, on August 12, 2003, from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The total estimated cost of the development of SCISAT was approximately $60Mln CDN.

Stratospheric ozone is destroyed by many industrial activities on Earth, particularly above the Antarctic, every year. Average ozone levels have dropped by 6% above Canada, with 20-40% depletion over the Artic. SCISAT observations have helped with many scientific studies and have led to a greater understanding of the effects of these industrial human activities (such as aerosol particles) on the overall climate of the Earth. Its frequent path over the Artic helps with the close monitoring of the ozone holes, and allows scientists to get a closer than ever look at the reason behind the ozone depletion.
Originally expected to run between 2-5 years, it has long surpassed the mission requirements, and is still one of the more important remote-sensing missions in understanding Earth’s lower atmosphere. It has proven to be effective in comparison to other methods of research and data capturing, in places too high to be reached with the average weather balloon, and too low to be reached by orbiting satellites. Because it is continuing to function extremely well, SCISAT is now moving past its original task of gathering ozone related data, to also aid in the studies of the effects of climate change due to pollution.

The design, testing and experimentation of this revolutionary satellite were due to the collaborations of several Canadian universities and scientific institutions, such as The University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, and York University, which will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first data download from the satellite this month.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Monday, October 07, 2013

TV Producers in Spaaace!!!

The Lynx Spacecraft. Graphic c/o XCOR.

          by Brian Orlotti

Within a month of each other, two NewSpace companies have announced deals with TV producers to make reality TV shows focused on space tourism.

On Sept 25th, the Hollywood trade websites Variety and Hollywood Reporter announced that Sony Pictures Television is developing a new reality show where celebrities will compete for a ride into space aboard XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx spacecraft.
Jeff Greason. Photo c/o Moonandback.

The series, titled "Milky Way Mission," will feature ten celebrities living at a boot camp where they will undergo an intensive astronaut training program. Each week, the aspiring astronauts will face a series of physical and mental challenges to avoid elimination, with the final round taking place at the Mojave Spaceport in Mojave, California.

The show’s producers are working with Netherlands-based Space Expeditions Corporation (SXC), the firm tapped by XCOR CEO Jeff Greason last year to market the Lynx (and on whose advisory board Buzz Aldrin sits). The first season will feature Dutch celebrities, but future episodes would be recast if the show succeeds internationally.
Mark Burnett. Photo c/o

Dutch television network Nederland 1 has ordered a run of eight 1-hour episodes, to be produced by Tuvalu Media and Simpel Media (also based in the Netherlands). Sony will be offering the series to international markets at the MIPCOM tradeshow in Cannes next month.
Rick Tumlinson.

On Oct 23rd, NBC announced an exclusive deal with Virgin Galactic, backers of SpaceshipTwo, to produce a reality series called "Space Race." This series will also feature an astronaut training camp format, where contestants will compete for a ride into space aboard SpaceshipTwo.

The show is being produced by One Three Media, a television and web content firm headed by Mark Burnett, producer of CBS’ "Survivor" (considered the original "reality" show). One Three Media’s other projects include The Voice (NBC), The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC), Sing Off (NBC), Shark Tank (ABC) and The Bible (History Channel). The company also produces various awards shows including the MTV Movie Awards (2007-2011), and the People’s Choice Awards since 2010.
Walt Anderson. Photo c/o Space Daily.

Burnett has tried to make space-based reality TV shows before. Back in 1999, he signed an agreement with MirCorp, the firm founded by Rick Tumlinson and Walt Anderson to privatize the Russian space station Mir, to produce a show called "Destination Mir." Unfortunately, the show’s development was cut short by the hornet’s nest of ills that befell MirCorp, including a NASA-orchestrated smear campaign, the de-orbiting of Mir itself, and the imprisonment of Walt Anderson for tax evasion.

Many decry reality TV shows as crass, sleazy, contrived and intellectually bankrupt. Others defend them as unique, imaginative, engrossing and entertaining. Whatever your personal views may be, there is no denying their profitability and appeal to millions around the world. Decades ago, lushly-illustrated magazines, funny cartoons and provocative films were used to broaden space’s appeal to the public. The reality shows of today could go a step further, planting a crucial seed in the public consciousness; that they can be a part of the adventure, too.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Original Canadian Space Program

John H. Chapman.

          by Sarah Manea

September 28th marks the 34th anniversary of the passing of Canadian space legend, John Herbert Chapman, the man credited with building the Canadian space program.

John Chapman was born in London, Ontario, on August 28th, 1921, to Lt. Col. Lloyd P. Chapman and Kathleen Saunders Chapman. His love of physics and spatial science pushed him to begin his career by working on radio broadcasting technologies, which is now considered as the initial steps of Canadian satellite technology.

He received his PhD in physics from McGill University, in Montreal, PQ, and began working at the Defense Research Board (DRB), later promoted to the Shirley's Bay location, in Ottawa, ON as a superintendent.

While working at Canada's Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE), Chapman began, and perfected his team’s work on Canada's first satellite, Alouette. Initially intended to be a supplement for an American satellite, it was Chapman’s passion and persistence that lead to Alouette becoming the first Canadian satellite, launching successfully on the U.S. Thor-Agena rocket, in 1962, and allowing Canada to be the 3rd nation in space.

Because of this, Chapman could push to have three more Canadian satellites launched (Alouette 2, ISIS 1 and ISIS 2) to study the ionosphere and aurora borealis (Northern Lights).

The John H. Chapman Space Centre.
A report named the "Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada," later referred to as “The Chapman Report” in his honour, laid the foundations for the direction in which the future Canadian Space Agency (CSA) would take. It was in this work that John Chapman, and another brilliant man, Dr. Philip Lapp (who also contributed largely to the Alouette satellite, amongst other Canadian technological advancements), argued that our satellite technology should be used as more than just scientific experimentation, but as a tool to help patch up the communication problems across our very widespread and large nation.

He helped unite the far-fetched corner’s of the country, and in doing so, has saved and helped the lives of hundreds of Canadians that would have otherwise had no connection to major cities or populated areas. Canada’s space program was redirected thanks to this work, and the building of the Canadian Space Agency was named John H. Chapman Space Centre, out of respect to his contributions.

Because of Chapman’s efforts and life work, Canada is well known internationally for its communication technology and remote sensing satellites.

He contributed significantly to the progression and redirection of Canadian space science, and is in many cases treated as the father of Canadian space science.

Sarah Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Accessing Government Funds for the Aerospace & Space Industry

Bernadeen McLeod. Photo c/o Mentor Works. 

An expert in Canadian small business grants and loans wants to assist aerospace firms to access new funding opportunities.

According to Bernadeen McLeod, the owner and CEO of Mentor Works, an Ontario based business consultancy, the real secret to both government and private funding is that "funding is best developed by forward thinkers as part of the initial business development process."

McLeod spoke at the Ontario Aerospace Business Opportunities and Government Funding Forum, which was held in Toronto, Ontario on October 2nd. The event was sponsored by the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC).

In an interview after the event, McLeod explained that recent federal and provincial commitments to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and development (R&D) activities have led to the development of a range of provincial and federal funding programs focused around jobs and revenue growth, which can be accessed by aerospace firms.

These programs are often "stackable," in that federal and provincial programs can be added together and focused around four core areas relating to business expansion, capital equipment, R&D, HR hiring and training.

"The HR hiring programs are smart ways to reconsider how you continually secure top young graduate talent under 31 years old into your firm. The funding is typically a $20k non-repayable contribution for new graduates," according to McLeod.

The programs are also designed to fund R&D activities even if the manufacturing operations end up being eventually located elsewhere. This makes them especially useful in the aerospace industry where, as outlined in the September 16th, 2013 post "Government Should Support Small Aero & Space Firms," Canadian players typically outsource their manufacturing to lower cost international markets.
An example of how aerospace firms outsource aircraft manufacturing to a variety of international subcontractors. Graphic from the July 29th, 2011 Wall Street Journal article "the New LearJet: Now Mexican Made."

Well known as a business coach, McLeod was even listed in the March 7th, 2013 post on the Smart Business Trends website as being one of the "9 Business-people, Influencers and Extremely Successful People to Follow on Twitter," along side other luminaries such as Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson.

For those interested in learning more, the next Mentor Works workshop is on November 5th.

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