Monday, March 31, 2014

Traditional Manufacturing, Fabrication Rights and the Audio Cassette

          by Brian Orlotti

A discussion on the impact of 3D printing on traditional manufacturing was one of the highlights of the 2014 Canadian Space Commerce Association Annual Conference (CSCA2014), which was held on March 13th in Toronto, ON.

A portion of the display organized by the CRP Group USA at CSCA 2014, showing sales literature and 3D printed industrial parts for automotive and aerospace applications. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

Brett Slaney, a patent agent with law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, focused his talk on 3D printing’s effects on intellectual property (IP). The crux of his argument was that 3D printers will allow individuals to duplicate both patented and non-patented physical objects, necessitating a reconsideration in protection strategies which shift from patent-focused IP protection to a registered design focus.

Dexter, the open source action figure. Photo c/o Jason Welsh.
He noted that, subject to some exceptions, current Canadian copyright law allows someone to reproduce the design of an object having a utilitarian function (when produced in quantities greater than 50). 

In addition, he said that Canadian trademark law had no specific protection for unregistered designs. In Canada, protecting a design using trademark registration requires demonstrating its distinctiveness and proving that it enjoys a sufficient reputation. 

As outlined in the July 12th, 2013 Makerbot Thingverse post "Open Source Action Figure with 70 Points of Articulation (aka Dexter)," many examples of such open-source action figures already exist and and plans are even available for download. Slaney had commented that the easy reproduction of such action figures causes a potential concern for trademark owners, particularly because cheaper 3D scanning and printing capabilities allows potential infringers to be everyday consumers, which a company may not wish to sue.

Slaney then went on to address the need for protection directed to the instructions allowing for 3D printers and 3D design files. However, he remarked that such measures may end up being ineffective, citing the parallels with what happened in the digital music and software industries. He suggested that there could be a need for a ‘fair-use’ regime (like that used in the pre-digital music age), where individuals would be able to replicate a set number of copies of an object for personal use.

Science fiction and fantasy environments are also beginning to extrapolate the logical consequences of widely available 3D printing technologies. For example, a the popular Mass Effect computer games postulate a future where even complex physical mechanisms are easily reproducible and weapons like the ML-77 Missile Launcher (shown above) can only really be restricted via legal constraints, such as "fabrication rights technology." Graphic c/o Mass Effect Wiki.

According to Slaney, one of the biggest legal questions around 3D printing is that of where liability falls for patent/design infringement. Is it the individual who prints the offending object, the owner of the website where the offending file was downloaded from, or the person who created the infringing 3D design file? Slaney remarked that IP protection strategies may need to change to adapt to the new reality. Slaney also said that while 3D printers aren't yet technically capable of such large scale IP infringement, particularly where the objects are complex and require specialized materials, this question will become crucial in the future.

During the question period after Slaney’s talk, Rob Godwin, the Owner of Apogee Books (a leading space book publisher) asked if Slaney thought there were any parallels between 3D printing’s effect on manufacturing and the sea-changes in the music and publishing industries brought about by the Internet and MP3 technology.

"Oh, everything's stolen nowadays. Why the fax machine is nothing but a waffle iron with a phone attached!" ---Grampa Simpson from 'The Simpsons,' episode 'Krusty Gets Kancelled.'
Slaney agreed that the manufacturing sector is on the verge of a similar upheaval and went on to say that as 3D printing democratizes manufacturing while reducing the cost of producing goods to near-zero, the entire paradigm of foreign outsourcing could become challenged or even irrelevant.

Brian Orlotti.
In essence, we may one day swap products via Bittorrent and protest against ‘Fabrication Rights Management.’

Perhaps future generations will view big box stores with the same bewilderment as a millennial gazing at a cassette tape.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Our REAL Canadian "Secret Space" Program!

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea and Chuck Black

Walter Heikkila and Sid Penstone in 1960. Photo c/o NRC.
It's well known that Canadian space activities predate the 1989 formation of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) but its less well known that the history of those early years was mostly a history of the Communications Research Centre (CRC), the government department responsible for most of Canada’s early satellite launches.

Since 1994, this early history has come together into a fascinating window on post World War II Canadian science at the Friends of the CRC website.

The site, with its vast repertoire of Canadian space history curated and written by many of the same individuals who experienced it first hand, provides an unmatched look at some of the greatest early Canadian scientific accomplishments.

These include the Allouette satellite program, the Anik B pilot projects, the Telidon program (which from 1978 to 1985 served as the original Canadian internet), Hermes (an experimental satellite built to test early concepts for communications satellites), the development of which eventually became the Black Brant sounding rockets and even preliminary research into what became the first satellite based search and rescue systems.

Authors include J.N Barry (who begins his article on "Doppler Navigator Development" by referencing his first meeting in 1953 with other program participants), Bert Blevis ("The Pursuit of Equality: The Role of the Ionosphere and Satellite Communications in Canadian Development"), Leroy Nelms (DRTE and Canada's Leap into Space: The Early Canadian Satellite Program") and Gerald E. Poaps (who became the ninth member of the Radio Propagation Laboratory, the antecedent of the CRC, in 1947 and wrote about it under the title "Gerald Poaps' Scrapbook").

In essence, the website is a gold mine of first hand Canadian history generally lost to the public and well worth multiple viewings.

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
By checking it out, we help to preserve one of our few remaining links to our missing Canadian space history and past scientific accomplishments.

It's the REAL, "secret space" program.

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

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Vivisat Claims Orders for its Satellite Life-Extension Spacecraft

          by Chuck Black

The March 24th, 2014 Aviation Week Intelligence Network article, "Satellite-Servicing ‘Sea Change’ Coming Soon" has reported that Alliant Techsystems (ATK) subsidiary Vivisat, a "satellite-servicing startup developing life-extension vehicles for end-of-life commercial communications satellites in geostationary orbit," has booked "two customers for three missions, and expects to start building its specialized spacecraft by the end of 2014."

But details of the "final financing" to fund the missions are still to be settled, according to the article, which quoted both Vivisat CEO Craig Weston and COO Bryan McGuirk.

As outlined in the January 13th, 2011 Vivisat press release "ViviSat Launched - New Venture Will Provide Satellite Life Extension Services," as posted on the website, the plan uses a Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) to dock permanently to an orbiting satellite and take over operations from the original propulsion system.

The methodology is generally considered less complex than others, such as BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), which, as outlined in the February 19th, 2012 post "Details of MDA On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Proposal," is designed with the capability to refuel multiple satellites from a single vehicle. 

Of course, as outlined in the April 3rd, 2011 blog post "A Backgrounder for On-Orbit Satellite Servicing," the concept of orbital satellite refueling and repair has been around for almost as long as the modern space age with the strongest proponents always poised to move forward almost immediately.

Lets see how this latest announcement stands the test of time. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson in Canada Twice this Month!

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo c/o Wikipedia.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s best-known, and popular astrophysicists, gave two talks at Canadian universities this month, and his fan club is expanding across the country.

Though he often seems to be most well known for his role in the demotion of Pluto’s planetary status, incredibly interesting tweets, and a variety of of interesting internet “memes,” Dr. Tyson also does his fair share of educating, and strives to participate often in open ended Q&A sessions.

He began his Canadian talks at the University of Manitoba on March 13th, as keynote speaker for the their 2014 Dream Big conference, and his presence was greatly celebrated and appreciated. General WalterNatynczyk, president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and former Chief of the Defence Staff, introduced Dr. Tyson who opened for the week long, space themed event.

A week later, after a short detour to host the 2014 Isaac Asimov Memorial debate on "selling space" on March 19th, Dr. Tyson returned to Canada.

I had the pleasure of attending the University of Toronto based David Dunlap Institute for Astrophysics on March 21st, 2014 for their inaugural Dunlap prize lecture, given to none other than Dr. Tyson. His talk was definitely impressive and engaging, allowing for the interaction of a huge and diverse audience.

Our vision for the award,” according the Dunlap Institute’s interim director, Peter Martin, “is to recognize an individual whose remarkable achievements resonate with our goals for excellence in astronomy and astrophysics. As a reflection of the Dunlap Institute’s commitment to public outreach and education, the first Dunlap Prize is being awarded to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.”

With many books, videos, and other publications captivating audiences across the globe, Dr. Tyson definitely knows how to spark science and space interest in the hearts of many, and raise awareness of scientific illiteracy.

His latest endeavor, as the host of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, is a great representation of his constant attempt to popularize the sciences, and bring excitement rather than fear, to the dark corners of the universe. A continuation of the original COSMOS series by Carl Sagan, Dr. Tyson is working to inspire a new generation of thinkers and doers our societies need in order to continue their expansion and existence.

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
Few people have what it takes to engage the general public in the sciences, as they appear irrelevant to most daily engagements, but Dr. Tyson is right up there with Sagan, and other scientifically literate men and women, who want to make the world a better, smarter, place.

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

BC Launch Facility Advocate Now Has Satellite Payload

          by Chuck Black

Dr. Redouane El Fakir. Photo c/o Kosta Prodanovic/ The Ubyssey.
An organization promoting the idea of a Vancouver Island based commercial spaceport has signed a three-year contract with the University of Victoria (UVic) to build three small satellites for Earth imaging.

The current plan even calls for launching one of the satellites from Vancouver Island.

According to the March 15th, 2014 Alberni Valley News article "Agency plans satellite launches from West Coast," BC based Space Launch Canada has signed a three-year agreement worth $840,000 CDN for the satellites, which will be constructed at the the UVic Centre for Aerospace Research. The program will be underwritten by a $420,000 grant from the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and is contingent on raising the remaining funds from private sources.

The article quoted Dr. Redouane El Fakir, the head of Space Launch Canada as stating that the satellites will be intended to take high-resolution pictures from space for educational purposes. “People will be able to take pics of something real time instead of using old pictures of something that may be different now,” Fakir said. “These won’t be military grade super high-resolution but they’ll be good for what they’re used for.”

According to Dr. Fakir, the plan is to only launch the first of the three planned satellites from another country. 

LV Odyssey, at a graving dock in Esquimalt, BC in 2007. Home port is Long Beach, CA. Photo c/o Wikipedia. 

The second launch is planned to take place off the west coast of BC utilizing facilities similar to those utilized by Sea Launch AG, a commercial spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile maritime platform (the LV Odyssey in concert with the assembly and control ship Sea Launch Commander) for offshore commercial launches.

The final satellite is expected to launch from a dedicated BC based facility. If everything goes according to plan, the first satellite could be completed within the year and launched within two.

Of course, nothing in this industry ever goes completely according to plan.

As outlined in the December 7th, 2010 post "Muslim Pride Supporting Canadian Spaceport," previous Space Launch Canada plans have included private investors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates along with orbital telescopes and an unmanned Moon probe by 2015.

So lets be cautious for now and wait and see how the latest plan turns out.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Disruptive Innovation in Manufacturing, Aerospace and Space

          by Chuck Black

Clayton Christensen. Photo c/o Wikipedia.
On the heels of the 7th Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) National Conference, which was held in Toronto, Ontario on March 13th and focused on the highly disruptive topic of "New Technologies for New Space," its worth noting that some of the finest business and academic minds are currently studying how new technologies overwhelm the traditional market leaders.

Take, for example, the three excellent lectures presented below by Clayton Christensen, the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School on the topic of "disruptive innovation."

In his first presentation, Christensen discusses the path of innovations in the steel and automobile industries as low cost mini-mill produced steel from regional suppliers overwhelmed the better quality integrated steel producers in the 1970's and 1980's and low end Asian automobile manufacturers such as Toyota did much the same to Detroit automakers.

In both cases, the existing market leaders focused on the "deployment of capital" and calculations based on a variety of cash flow ratios designed to "maximize profitability," which led them down a path of ceding the less profitable market segments to the newcomers over and over again in favor of upmarket entrenchments in smaller and smaller markets (but with higher and higher profits margins) until they eventually ran out of markets.

Christensen went on to discuss US based Dell Computers and its relationship with Taiwanese subcontractor Asustek Computers (ASUS), which grew into the world's fifth largest computer maker by unit sales, simply by taking over the Dell supply chain.

Like the unnamed boss in the Dilbert comic strip, the unknown managers at Dell simply knew that their ratio of profits to assets would increase once they had no factories or assets, even if total profits dropped.

The second and third hours of the Christensen presentation expand and illustrate this train of thought plus provide insight into why managers act the way they do and the difficulties in developing a cogent theory to explain these actions.

How does this relate to aerospace and NewSpace business models? 

Only time will flesh out the details but it's worth noting the March 16th, 2014 Space Travel article, "Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services Announces Industry-Unique "Refund Or Reflight" Program." The article reported on the announcement of the industry's first (and so far only) 100 percent space launch vehicle "refund or re-flight" program, which is intended to protect customers from the up front costs of a launch vehicle malfunction. 

The program, offered by Lockheed Martin (LM) Commercial Launch Services, will also provide partial refunds for "partial malfunctions" and apply to all future non-US government contracts. It's certainly a first for the industry and will likely serve to differentiate LM launchers from their less costly counterparts.

But it's also a good indication that the venerable launch provider has decided it needs to move into guaranteed services, a new area with bigger profit margins, in order to avoid short term competition from NewSpace competitors like Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and others. SpaceX has already achieved much success competing against LM in the commercial market and looks poised to break into the lucrative US government launch market over the next few years.

In essence, the incumbent rocket firm, in this case LM, is already moving upmarket. The rest of the aerospace and space industry will soon follow. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Speakers at the CSCA National Conference on Thursday, March 13th.

          by Brian Orlotti

Space manufacturing, the production of goods in an environment outside of a planet’s atmosphere, has always been understood to have advantages over Earth-based industry. Space’s micro-gravity and vacuum allow for industrial processes not easily reproduced on Earth.

But now, new techniques in computer-aided design, solid free form fabrication (including 3D printing), selective laser sintering and other fast developing technologies promise to not only revolutionize Earth-based manufacturing, but space exploration as well.

What can space companies learn from domestic manufacturers today? What are the timelines, constraints, costs and opportunities for profit in this field and what can the manufacturing industry learn from space entrepreneurs? On March 13th , experts from government, industry, finance and academia will gather in Toronto at the 2014 Canadian Space Commerce Association Annual Conference to find answers to these questions.

Our current speaker lineup includes:
2014-LvA_headshot_smallLou van Amelsvoort – The president of Space 1 Systems Inc., Mr. van Amelsvoort worked previously at Canadian Arrow, a privately funded 1st generation NewSpace firm as their first director of spacecraft development. In 2009 Mr. van Amelsvoort founded Space 1 Systems Inc., a Canadian based, 2nd generation NewSpace company. He will be discussing the “fundamental methodologies” which NewSpace companies can utilize to best position themselves for success.
Alex BabutAlex Babut - Computer engineer and co-founder of Enceladus Imaging, a company focused on bringing high dynamic range capabilities to regular cameras, and which is currently a part of the TechnoLABS incubator at the University of Toronto. He’ll be speaking on the topic of “HDR – Revealing What Your Camera Can Really See.”
Mark BarfootMark Barfoot - As managing Director of Hyphen, which focuses on rapid prototyping, and a key member of the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG), Barfoot educates others on the uses and applications of additive manufacturing technologies. He’ll be discussing the variety of design considerations and prototyping methods available through additive manufacturing as part of his demonstration on ”How 3D printing is being incorporated into manufacturing parts for space.”

Alex Barlow
Alex Barlow - The business development manager for Mentor Works Inc. Barlow is a specialist in government grants and loans who works with executives and business owners develop a strategic approach to government funding, and supports the writing of grant applications. She’ll be discussing “Government funding as a cash flow tool for aerospace start-ups.”

DrewCox_smlDrew Cox – An inventor and developer who (along with Adam Brandejs and Trevor Townsend) created and crowd-funded the Matterform affordable high-resolution 3D scanner. He’s also a self described marketing “mad scientist” who has helped build mammoth brands such as Labatt, Budweiser, Audi, Honda, and Coca-Cola. He’ll be discussing "practical scanning applications in current and future space endeavours."

Stewart Davis
Stewart Davis – The chief of operations for the CRP Group USA. CRP Group offers automobile, racing and aerospace aerospace clients the advantages in hi-tech machining and 3D printing that few others can provide. He will discuss recent successes in parts fabrication for space missions including those for the collaborative KySat-2 project, in conjunction with students at the University of Kentucky, Morehead State University and in conjunction with Kentucky Space, along with Canadian projects organized through the UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory.
Rob GodwinRobert Godwin - The owner and founder of Apogee Space Books and the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series “The NASA Mission Reports.” He will be outlining new projects with NASA and discussing a unique, Canadian developed, content delivery container for space science and other publications and databases.

Estelle Havva – As aerospace sector team lead and industrial technology adviser at the National Research Council, Industrial Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Havva has a background as a technology and financial consultant and advised one of South Korea’s largest companies on raising a global venture fund. She’ll be discussing how to access sources of non-dilutive, non-reimbursable funding for innovative technology projects as part of her presentation on “Federal Government Investments in Innovative Technologies.”
David MacKinnonDavid MacKinnon – A research officer with the National Research Council of Canada’s Measurement Science and Standards division. MacKinnon is also an executive member of the ASTM E57 subcommittee on non-contact 3D imaging systems and a member of the Standards Council of Canada’s review committee for the ISO/TC213 on Dimensional and Geometric Product Specifications and Verification. He’ll be speaking on the topic of “The NRC and current status of standards development for 3D imaging systems.”
Andy Pratico bAndy Pratico – The business development manager for Synergy Resources, a firm focused on providing the expertise, guidance and training required to make full use of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for new and existing manufacturing processes and technologies. He’ll be speaking on the topic of “Aligning your ERP evaluation with your manufacturing methodologies.”
Yaroslav “Yarko” Pustovyi - The backup payload specialist for STS-87 Space Shuttle Columbia mission in 1997. In 2003 he joined a Canadian entry to the X-Prize competition and has been actively involved in the NewSpace industry ever since. Dr. Pustovyi will talk about his mission training experience at NASA as well as present his view on the future of the payload specialist astronaut profession in the new era of commercial spaceflight.

Brett SlaneyBrett Slaney – A patent agent at the Blakes Law Firm, with expertise in the area of patent drafting and prosecution, portfolio management, and opinion work regarding patentability, infringement, and validity and a practice focusing on patent-related issues in the software, electrical, and mechanical fields, with particular emphasis on multidisciplinary systems. Slaney will be talking on the topic of “IP Issues and 3D Printing.”
Nicole VerkindtNicole Verkindt - The CEO of Toronto based OMX Marketplace, an online platform to connect Canadian businesses with OEMs and track economic benefits to Canada. Verkindt will be speaking about the new Federal Defence Procurement Strategy and how the government plans to leverage a changed “value proposition” plan to drive increased investments into industrial technologies in the defence, aerospace and space sectors, what this means for the space industry and how space companies, particularly those with innovative technologies, can get involved.
Peter VisscherPeter Visscher – The space and robotics manager for Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG). With the expertise his firm has developed building the Canadian Artemis Jr. lunar rover to meet the requirements of NASA’s Regolith & Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) project, expected to hunt for water, ice and other lunar resources, Mr. Visscher will talk about the hardware and the manufacturing techniques available in Canada today.
Mihaela VlaseaMihaela Vlasea - As a researcher at University of Waterloo, Vlasea is working on an additive manufacturing 3D printing system capable of producing parts with a controlled porous internal architecture and complex external shape for applications ranging from bone implants to lightweight materials for aerospace uses. She will be speaking on the topic of “Additive manufacturing – from bionic bones to functionally customized materials.”

Brian Orlotti.
Further conference details and registration can be found at

Come join the CSCA as we discuss the tools and techniques that will literally shape our future.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

Friday, March 07, 2014

High School Students Compete in Robotics Competition

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

Robots at the ready! Photo c/o FRC.
This month, hundreds of high school students are coming together to participate in the annual FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional Competition, which will be held from March 21st - 23rd at the University of Waterloo.

Over 30 competition teams will design and build robots to compete for their schools and for a chance at a berth at the FRC World Championship, which will be held from April 23rd - 26th in St. Louis, MO.

As outlined on the FRC website, every January some 2,500 teams across the world join together to watch the unveiling of the new season’s robotic challenge, which will be attempted by high school teams across the world and culminate in the FRC World Championship.

Back when I participated with my high school team, “the Pace Invaders,” the competitions allowed us to create and construct robots that do anything from climb, throw balls, to hang inflatable shapes in particular orders and locations.

Normally broadcast on NASA TV, this year’s challenge, called "Aerial Assist," merges some old challenges with many new. Two teams, of three robots each, will be competing on a 25’ x 54’ foot field. On either side there are a set of goals, high and low, with a point system depending on the height of the goal, as well as the number of passes between robots to score the goal.

As usual, there is a 10 second autonomous period prior to the match, where robots are pre-programmed to score on their own. Bonus points are given throughout the match for passing and scoring goals across a truss in the center of the field. In general, this year’s challenge is meant to push teamwork between the robots and drivers, where higher bonus points are scored when more than one team has interacted with the ball prior to scoring.

The events are organized through the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), which was founded in New Hampshire in a high school gym and now spans across 13 countries worldwide.

The playing field. Graphic c/o FRC.
Established in 2001, FIRST Robotics Canada is a registered charity that strives to inspire students to be open and excited about science, technology, and engineering. With many high end sponsors, and $3 million from the government of Ontario in 2004 to spread across the province, they now have close to 10,000 participating students, from over 100 teams across the country.

According to Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, the object of the organization is "to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."

FIRST also has an elementary Lego League, allowing the engagement of younger students in a safe and effective way. Much like the Robotic Competition, the Lego League has thousands of students and mentors across the nation, engaging more and more youth every year.

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
Participating in the FIRST Robotics Competitions several years ago taught me countless, unforgettable lessons, from teamwork to the advanced technology of modern day robotics. I can thank my love of technology, in part, to some of these wonderfully ran science outreach organizations, FIRST being high up on the list.

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

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Canadian Space Agency is 25

Graphic c/o CSA.
          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) attained its 25th anniversary on March 1st.

Since its establishment in March 1989, the CSA has supported and participated in several milestones. Below are a few of the more notable high points:
  • December 15th,1989 - Bill C-16, which officially establishes the CSA, is passed by the Canadian House of Commons. Ratified by Royal Assent on May 10th, 1990, the bill came into force on December 14th, 1990 to tie together a series of disparate (and mostly independent) government funded satellite, rocketry and research programs, some going back to the second world war, into a centralized government program with a single budget.
The first team of Canadian astronauts in 1983. Back row, from left to right: Ken Money, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean and Bjarni Tryggvason. Seated: Robert Thirsk and Roberta Bondar. Photo c/o CSA
  • June 9th, 1992  - After a grueling recruitment process, 5330 applications are winnowed down to a handful and new astronauts and Chris Hadfield, Daffyd (Dave) Williams, geologist Robert Stewart plus Julie Payette joined the CSA roster. As outlined on the CSA "Space Milestones" website, Stewart resigns a week later for personal reasons and is replaced by air force Captain Michael John Mackay, who leaves the astronaut program in 1995 for medical reasons.

John H. Chapman Space Centre in  Saint-Hubert, PQ. Photo c/o Treasury Board.
  • June, 1993 - The new CSA headquarters is completed in Saint-Hubert, Quebec. Housing the astronaut training facilities, control rooms, devoted labs and robots, this facility is state of the art. Three years later the building is renamed in honor of scientist John Herbert Chapman, who many consider to be the author of the first Canadian long-term space plan, in 1967.
  • June 3rd, 1994 - The outline of the second long-term Canadian space plan is discussed and finalized. As explained on the CSA website, “For the next ten years, the Canadian Space Program will be allocated $2.7 billion, including $500 million as the Canadian contribution to the International Space Station Program and upgraded support facilities for the RADARSAT program. There are also provisions for an Advanced Communications research program, the development of space technologies in partnership with industry and with other space agencies, funding for space science research in Canada, in particular in the areas of atmospheric studies and microgravity, and assignments of Canadian Astronauts for space shuttle missions.
Graphic c/o www.crisp.nus
  • November 4th, 1995 - Canada’s first Earth observation satellite, RADARSAT, is launched. As outlined in the April 15th, 2013 blog post, "The End for RADARSAT-1?" the satellite, now considered as only the first in a successful series, will continue to operate for the next eighteen years, well past the end of its designed lifespan.
  • April 23rd, 1996 - The Priroda module was launched to the Mir space station. Priroda contained a Canadian experimental facility, called the Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM). MIM is one of many Canadian experiments that have flown on the shuttle to the Russian Mir space station or to the ISS.
Chris Hadfield. Photo c/o CSA.
  • April 19th, 2001 - Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian to walk in space when he installed Canadarm2 and the first part of the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) on the ISS. The MSS is another one of Canada's contributions to help astronauts service the exterior of the ISS.
  • June 30th, 2003 - The Microvariability and Oscillations of STars (MOST) became Canada's first scientific satellite in more than 30 years. A tiny nano-satellite called CanX-1 built by University of Toronto students to demonstrate technologies was launched at the same time.
  • August 12th, 2003 - SCISAT-1, a Canadian-built satellite designed to probe the changes that take place in the ozone layer and other parts of the Earth's upper atmosphere, was launched.
  • August 4th, 2007 - NASA's Mars Phoenix spacecraft, carrying a Canadian-built weather station, was launched to explore the climate of Mars.
    The Canadarm. Photo NASA.
  • May 27th, 2009 - Bob Thirsk became the first Canadian astronaut to undertake a long duration stay in space. 
  • July 15th, 2009 - Julie Payette became the last CSA astronaut to fly on the space shuttle as part of the STS-127 mission aboard space shuttle Endeavour. During the 16-day flight to the ISS, Payette marked the first time two Canadians were in orbit at the same time by working alongside Bob Thirsk. 
  • July 8th, 2011 - The Canadarm's 90th and final shuttle mission took place as part of the STS-135 mission. 
  • February 25th, 2013 - Four Canadian satellites - including Canada's first dedicated military satellite, Sapphire, a satellite aimed at detecting asteroids flying near Earth as well as orbiting space debris, NEOSSAT, and two BRITE nanosatellites carrying tiny space telecopes - were launched.
  • September 29th, 2013 - Cassiope, a Canadian satellite meant for the observations of solar storms on Earth's ionosphere, was sent into orbit.
Sarah Ansari-Manea.
Of course there are many more noteworthy accomplishments, but the above are meant to visualize the great work that the CSA has been doing, and to demonstrate the scope of its accomplishments.

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

DARPA Goes Open Source as Others Beg for Government Assistance

          by Brian Orlotti

DARPA turned 50 in 2008. Graphic c/o DARPA.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has created a new website to make software, publications, and experimental data from its various projects available to the public.

DARPA, an agency of the US Department of Defense responsible for the development of new military technologies (notable examples include the internet and the global positioning system), has over decades amassed a large quantity of research in fields as diverse as robotics, programming languages, advanced communication systems and even mind reading. Much of this data is open source, but hasn't always been readily accessible.

On Feb 4th, DARPA responded to requests from the research and development community by publishing the DARPA Open Catalog, a website that aggregates source code and other data for all public DARPA-funded projects. Currently, this includes 60 different projects, done in collaboration with a variety of organizations including Microsoft Research, Yahoo Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Examples of projects in the Open Catalog include "Vowpal Wabbit," a fast machine learning system sponsored by Microsoft Research and Yahoo Research and the MIT-developed dynamic programming language "Julia."

Sample DARPA challenges showing how often DARPA looks outside itself to develop new ideas. Graphic c/o DARPA.

DARPA’s rationale for creating the Open Catalog is two-fold. First, DARPA hopes to foster research and development communities around its research which could give birth to new technology companies and industries. Secondly, DARPA hopes to harness the strengths of the open source software model by allowing the public to contribute to its research, which could then be incorporated back into DARPA’s own programs. Call it crowd-sourcing for the military-industrial complex.

As outlined in the February 27th, 2014 article "DARPA Open Catalog Makes Agency-Sponsored Software and Publications Available to All," DARPA has stated that if R&D communities show sufficient interest, "they will continue to add information generated by its programs (including software, publications, data and experimental results) to the Open Catalog."

The rationale behind the program is similar to that of IT and NewSpace incubators, where individuals & small businesses are developed in the hopes of fostering larger growth. It's also a logical outgrowth of DARPA's recent quest to rebuild its original reputation to bring together academics and public workers from disparate areas to generate "outside the box thinking." 

But while DARPA seems attuned to this way of thinking and has embraced it, other communities appear less than receptive.

For example, the February 28th, 2014 Space Policy online article "House Hearing Underscores Lack of Consensus on Next Steps in Human Spaceflight," discussed the February 27th appearance of Denis Tito before the US House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee to present the newest re-branding of his ‘Inspiration Mars’ mission concept.

An artist's conception showing components of the new and improved Inspiration Mars spacecraft design. The stack now includes, from left, an Orion-derived re-entry pod, a Cygnus-derived habitat module and a service module for avionics, control and communications. A previous configuration, utilizing SpaceX and Bigelow components, seems to have been abandoned in the quest for government funding. Graphic c/o NBC News

In this iteration, all funding would come from the US government, the mission would now explicitly utilize the troubled NASA Space Launch System (SLS), thus providing SLS with what it has lacked until now (a mission), plus the launch date has been pushed out to 2021 instead of 2018 to allow the SLS to become operational.

Since there is no direct launch window for a Mars trip in 2021, the revised mission calls for a flyby of Venus for a gravity assist which would then propel the crew to Mars.

Brian Orlotti.
In the case of Inspiration Mars, we see a failed private entity now completely dependent on government resources for progress. In the case of the DARPA Open Catalog, we see government distributing its knowledge to private entities, enabling them to acquire resources and achieve for themselves. 

The contrast is a stark one and should not be lost on the space sector.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

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