Monday, May 15, 2017

Space Advisory Board Meets Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

          By Brian Orlotti

The notes from the first and the second Canadian Space Advisory Board (SAB) Roundtables on Canada's Future in Space, held on April 21st in Ottawa and April 28th in Halifax, have now been posted online.

A friendly reminder that rocket science very rarely has anything to do with politics (or media production). Image c/o @Cmdr_Hadfield.

At first blush, the SAB, rather than seizing the opportunity to restructure Canada’s space efforts in accord with new global realities, has simply opted for the status quo with some added drum-banging for further funding.

Notable excerpts from the SAB notes include a variety of interesting, but generally vague comments, which certainly benefit from the appropriate unpacking. For example:
In an era of fast technological advances and dynamic business models, there is no one size fits all solution.
There is a new business model emerging – often referred to as New Space – that is transformative and government policies and regulations need to adapt to this reality in order to support growth in the sector. 
It may be important to ensure that the Government is equipped to find solutions and has more modern tools (public private partnerships, purchasing services as opposed to assets)
  • This comment, from the April 21st Ottawa meeting, while acknowledging the existence of the NewSpace industry, provides little in the way of exploration of the private-sector funding mechanisms such as the Space Angels Network or Globalive Capital which could enable the Canadian space industry to operate more independently of government.
Globalive Capital, a tech angel investment firm founded in 2013 by Canadian telecom entrepreneur Tony Lacavera, has helped finance at least two Canadian NewSpace companies; Toronto, ON based Kepler Communications and Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast.  
Tony Lacavera at the MaRS Discovery District in January 2017. As outlined in the February 3rd, 2017 Mobile Syrop post, "Tony Lacavera shares the story of building and selling Wind Mobile," the core concept of entrepreneurship is the understanding and acceptance of risk. Photo c/o Mobile Syrup.  
As stated previously in the January 16th, 2017 post, "Quantum Computing Is Real; A Canadian Company Now Offers Open-Source Tools & the Chinese are Building Spacecraft," Lacavera has publicly stated his view that Canada has the potential to become a world leader in such fields as artificial intelligence, fintech, machine-learning, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing, though its institutions must step up their efforts to do so.  
Lacavera also said that Canada’s efforts must go beyond mere presentations and broad allocations of resources; Canada must narrow its actions and focus  specifically on areas where it can win. 
A focus on developing homegrown launch vehicles, for example, would reduce the time-to-market for Canadian space products and services, protect Canada’s space industry from other nations’ punitive trade actions, and place Canada on a more competitive footing vis-a-vis emerging space powers such as China and India.
Canada is viewed as a reliable international partner; re-affirming or affirming international engagement is important for continued long term success. In addition, while collaborating with traditional international partners (NASA, ESA) remains important, there may be greater opportunities with non-traditional and new space faring nations. 
  • This comment, also from the April 21st Ottawa meeting, allows the SAB to reaffirm Canada’s traditional role as a supplier of components and systems for other nations’ space projects. 
Although the rise of new space-faring nations (i.e. China & India) is acknowledged, the SAB avoids mentioning their specific homegrown capabilities, which include domestic launch vehicles. Those indigenous capabilities (rather than the mere ability to manufacture "components") are what facilitate the independent actions these states currently enjoy.
This lack of interest in expanding Canadian space capability also seems rather myopic in light of the current political upheavals in Europe, rapidly expanding Chinese space efforts and trade-related punitive actions taken (and threatened) against both Canada and Mexico by the US’ ultra-nationalist, protectionist Donald Trump administration. 
Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) Executive VP Iain Christie discussing the AIAC's perception of what a "balanced" space program would be like at the 2016 Space Policy Symposium, which was held in Ottawa on November 8th, 2016. As outlined in the November 22nd, 2016 SpaceQ post, "A Balanced Space Program from the 2016 Space Policy Symposium," the AIAC presentation focused on complaints about the lack of "a long term plan or vision for what Canada will be doing in space," plus concern for space companies "that rely in-part on government programs" and are “rapidly running out of short term money with no new significant programs being created." Evidently, asking for more money for the existing players is "balanced." Photo c/o SpaceQ.
There is the need for a balanced space program and for a range of activities – flagship programs (e.g. International Space Station), smaller mission activities, science, technology development and capability demonstration - necessary to provide critical flight heritage while sustaining and maintain talent/capabilities in the Canadian space sector. 
Dedicated funding to support new space activities help to grow the sector – many space firms have been created, or established through government programs, which provide important seed money...
This statement, also from the April 21st Ottawa meeting, and apart from the dubiousness of phrases like ‘balanced space program’ (which seems to suggest a hope for continued Canadian Space Agency "dominance" of the domestic space industry and the expectation of the existing players that they will continue to be funded), contains a curious error of omission 
The oversight is NASA’s stated intention to sell the ISS to the private sector by the mid-2020’s. 
As outlined in the March 23rd, 2017 Wired post, " Somebody Just Buy the ISS Already," the International Space Station (ISS) is a $70Bln US ($95Bln CDN) engineering marvel that "no one has any idea what to do with." According to the article, "spending $3 billion to $4 billion annually to keep the ISS running conflicts with NASA’s other ambitions, like visiting Mars."
Touting the ISS as a “flagship program” in which Canada should continue the status quo when NASA itself is willing to let private industry take control and move on to other challenges would seem a non sequitur at best and deceitful at worst.
There is considerable optimism and excitement regarding plans for a spaceport in the Province of Nova Scotia. 
Developing Canadian launch capabilities may provide new opportunities for economic and regional development (e.g. , jobs creation, skills and talent hub); increased access to space to deploy technologies in space; and public interest and support for the Canadian space program.
This statement, from the April 28th, 2017 Halifax meeting, refers to Maritime Launch Services’ (MLS) thus far unfunded effort to construct a commercial launch facility for Ukrainian-built Cyclone-4M rockets in Nova Scotia. MLS is essentially acting as a local agent for Ukraine-based Yuzhnoye Design Office, which had originally designed the Cyclone-4M rocket for Brazil and requires at least $100Mln CDN in cash or credits to fund any NS based facility.  
As outlined most recently in the February 6th, 2017 post, "Europe Will Fund the Prometheus Reusable Engine; Canada Pitched Cyclone-4's," the Cyclone rockets use hypergolic engines--a system in which two components (a fuel and an oxidizer) spontaneously ignite when brought into contact with each other, producing thrust. 
Once used extensively in both US and Soviet ICBMs, hypergolic engines were eventually replaced in both nations’ arsenals by solid-fuel systems. Although simple and reliable, hypergolic engines pose difficulties due to the extreme toxicity and corrosive nature of their fuels. 
Because of this, Western rocketry has largely moved away from hypergolic systems and towards higher performance liquid hydrogen/oxygen engines. 
It is a sad state of affairs indeed for Canada’s space efforts when, in an age of $5Mln US ($6.8Mln CDN) 3D-printed rockets (such as those now being made by California based Rocket Lab), hope is being placed in a company of doubtful financing flogging toxic 1970’s Soviet technology. 
Canada, the third nation on Earth to place a satellite in orbit and a pioneer of robotic, radar and lidar technologies, should demand better of itself

The first SAB Roundtable on Canada's Future in Space, held on April 21st in Ottawa, was hosted by SAB chair Marie Lucy Stojak, William MacDonald ‘Mac' Evans, and Michael Pley.

Attendees included Al Conrad (IMP Aerospace), Arthur Ruff (ISRU Tech Inc.), Sarah Goldfeder (Earnscliffe Strategy Group), Chris Kitzan (Canada Aviation and Space Museum), Christopher Dodd (Airbus Defence & Space Canada, Inc.), Daniel Goldberg (Telesat), David McCabe (Honeywell Aerospace), Eric Choi (Magellan Aerospace), Eva-Jane Lark (BMO Nesbitt Burns Midland Doherty Ltd.), Geoffrey Languedoc (Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute), Iain Christie (AIAC), Ian Scott (Telesat), Jason Palidwar (Iridian Spectral Technologies), Jim Quick (AIAC), John Detombe (ADGA Group), Larisa Beach (Neptec Design Group Ltd.), Leslie Swartman (MacDonald Dettwiler), Lori M. Wickert (Newmont Mining Corporation), Matt Ivis (MacDonald Dettwiler), Rick Pitre (Terizons Consulting Inc.), Robert A. “Bob” Ryerson (Kim Geomatics Corporation), Ryan Alan Anderson (QShift) and Stewart Bain (NorStar Space Data).

The second SAB Roundtable on Canada's Future in Space, held on April 28th in Halifax, was hosted by Jim Drummond and Gordon Osinski.

Attendees included Bradley Farquhar (Space Generation Advisory Council), Carl Kumpic (IMP Aerospace and Defence), Desmond Power (C-CORE), Duncan McSporran (Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada), Harvey Doane (Nova Scotia Business Inc.), Howard Moyst (AIME Consulting Inc.), Jeff Burlock (Xplornet Communication Inc.), Luigi Gallo (St. Mary's University, Department of Astronomy and Physics), Monique Arsenault (Nova Scotia Government), Penny Morrill (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Sciences—Earth Sciences), Rich Billiard (Atlantic Alliance of Aerospace and Defense Associations), Rob Thacker (St. Mary's University, Department of Astronomy and Physics) and Stephen Matier (Maritime Launch Services).

The SAB Roundtable is winding up its formal, semi-public meetings over the next few days, but will continue to meet at undisclosed locations and by invitation only, in preparation for the expected release of their proposal for the Canadian space industry sometime this summer.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

  1. Given that today is the last day for comments to be sent to the Space Advisory Board it may be a bit soon to say what its conclusions will be (as in your newsletter that just arrived)!

    My experience at the meeting in Ottawa was positive. There was open discussion, members of the board listened and asked questions and those attending were encouraged to submit their ideas and suggestions. Everyone got their opportunity to speak. One got the idea that they would listen.

    It was the best space-oriented consultative meeting I have attended in more than fifteen years. It was closer to the old Canadian Advisory Committee on Remote Sensing (CACRS) that guided so much of the successful work done in the remote sensing field.

    Indeed we are still reaping the benefits of CACRS almost 20 years after it was shut down.

    Dr. Bob Ryerson, CMS, FASPRS
    President, Kim Geomatics Corporation


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