Elon Musk has his fully functioning Falcon 9 rocket. South Korea has their Space Launch Vehicle-1 (NARO-1) on the pad at the Naro Space Center, the Indians are busy perfecting their cryogenic liquid fueled rocket and even the English are beginning to wonder why the Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise is scheduled to take off and land “only in America, you say” as Canadian space focused activities temporarily wind down for the long summer doldrums, at least for this week in space for Canada.
Of course, the first flight of the Falcon 9 has certainly been discussed elsewhere the regular media and online in posts such as this June 4th, 2010 article on SpaceRef.ca by Marc Boucher titled “SpaceX Falcon 9 Makes it to Orbit on First Attempt.”
But the interesting part is just how many different players have developed an orbital launch capability over the last few years.
For example, in South Korea, the “Smooth Launch of Naro-1 Expected Wednesday” according to the Korean news website The Dong-A-ILBO which also considers last years launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) successful “except for the separation of a fairing that protected a satellite.”
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), after failing last year with their first attempt at building a liquid fueled “cryogenic” rocket on April 15th of this year is attempting to learn from their mistakes and “go for another launch with the year” according to the April 16th, 2010 post “ISRO’s cryogenic fuel mission fails” on the ZeeNews.com website.
In fact, according to Wikipedia, there are ten countries presently capable of putting satellites in orbit and this list doesn’t include private corporations like Space-X, or countries who look likely to be able to do so soon.
In Canada our expertise lies in the area of sounding rockets, which inhabit an interesting intermediary stage somewhere between the short range hobby rockets used by enthusiasts such as the Canadian Rocket Society or the Canadian Association of Rocketry (CARWeb) and launchers capable of putting payloads into orbit. Sounding rockets are normally used to carry instruments from 50 to 1,500 kilometers above the surface of the Earth.
We have a long history in this area with the Black Brant sounding rockets and their two stage Excalibur variants. However, Alberta-born designer Albert Fia, who developed the Black Brant rocket in the 1950’s for Bristol Aerospace (and thus enabled his firm to become an industrial-scale rocket manufacturer) died in 2004 and recent development in this area has languished.
The Fort Churchill rocket launch site, built in 1954 by the Canadian Army to study the effects of auroras on long distance communications was essentially shut down and abandoned in 1985, although in 1995 a private company called Akjuit Aerospace made an unsuccessful attempt to reopen the facility.
A series of Canadian Space Agency (CSA) requests for proposals (RFP’s) were issued beginning in 2008 for assessments of both potential launch sites and possible Canadian built launchers but nothing has been heard from the CSA since on this topic.
It’s expected that nothing will be heard from the CSA before September so that’s all for this week in space for Canada.