It’s that time of year again where we look back at the top Canadian space stories of the year. To say that 2020 was a remarkable year would be an understatement. The year started out full of promise and optimism, but was quickly overshadowed by the pandemic.
COVID-19 swept around the globe so fast that governments could hardly keep up, and economies everywhere took a significant hit. We end 2020 like we started it, with the promise of better times and the optimism that multiple vaccines may begin to slowly bring back some semblance of what we consider normal life.
There was a lot of news in 2020. By year end we will have published 351 stories. Picking 10 stories or topics was not easy, but here’s the list. There is one notable story we’ll mention here. The passing of Canadian legend John Spencer MacDonald, the co-founder of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, now known as MDA.
Our stories of the year are selected based on popularity, reader feedback, and editorial selection.
The top 10 Canadian space stories of 2020
10. Space and gaming, how much reality vs fiction?: Space has a strange position in modern gaming. Sure, many games are based on science-fiction settings, featuring spaceships blasting each other with lasers. SpaceQ featured Canada’s own Mass Effect series, where players jet from planet to planet in a growing war against ancient alien robots, as only one of countless examples. Games about a recognizable modern space program featuring realistic rocketry and orbital mechanics, though? They are vanishingly rare. Read: The Space Flight Simulator Gap.
9. Near-Earth Object close call: It was close, ok not like in the movie armageddon, but Asteroid 1998 OR2 came within several million kilometres of Earth and NASA says there’s “no possibility of impact for at least the next 200 years.” It could still hit us. Read: Asteroid 1998 OR2 makes a close pass of Earth
8. Can a Canadian company revolutionize access to space? An elegant jet taking off, flying through the atmosphere and launching into space. It’s been a staple in science fiction for decades. Modern space launches couldn’t look more different, though. The vision of a “space plane” seems like an artifact of the past, thanks to the the sheer difficulty of escaping earth’s gravity, and modern space flight is associated with the modern, vertically-launching, semi-disposable, liquid- or solid-fueled rocket. Even Elon Musk’s famed SpaceX still uses traditional rockets, albeit partially reusable ones. Read: Space Engine Systems’ Quiet Bid to Revolutionize Space Travel.
7. MDA is repatriated with Canadian ownership: Northern Private Capital (NPC) today has closed the deal to buy MDA from Maxar Technologies bringing the company back into Canadian control. The deal announced on December 30, 2019 took just over three months to close. It required approval by US and Canadian regulators, something that neither party thought would be an issue, and apparently wasn’t considering the quick close. Read: Northern Private Capital deal for MDA closes.
6. Telesat gets its $600 million LEO Constellation government deal: This story was more than one article but culminated in this announcement – The Universal Broadband Fund was to have been announced in the spring, but due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 it was delayed. That delay resulted in Telesat pushing back its plans to move forward with its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation program. Read: Telesat secures up to $600 million of $1.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund and other Telesat articles on this topic.
5. Say hello to Canada’s new space agency president, a woman: For only the second time in its history the Canadian Space Agency will have a smooth transition between presidents as the Government of Canada announced that veteran public servant Lisa Campbell will lead Canada’s space agency. Campbell moves over from Veterans Affairs Canada where she was Associate Deputy Minister. Read: Lisa Campbell is the new president of the Canadian Space Agency.
4. Canada is set to become the second country in history to send astronauts to the Moon: When we heard that the Government of Canada with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) was going to make a “major announcement” on space exploration today, we immediately thought of NASA’s Artemis program and that it related to Canadian astronauts going to the Moon. What we didn’t suspect is that through a new agreement with NASA, that Canada would be sending an astronaut on the first mission. Read: A Canadian astronaut will be on the first NASA Artemis mission to the Moon.
3. The Canadian government made a policy decision in 2020 to allow orbital rocket launches from Canada: The Government of Canada has made the decision that it wants to be a launching state. The day that rockets carrying satellites to orbit and beyond from Canadian soil is now closer than its ever been. Read: Canada decides it wants to be a launching state.
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2. A pandemic grips the world: In March SpaceQ began to cover the novel coronavirus COVID-19 the day before it was declared a pandemic. Our coverage included postponed or cancelled events, the economic disruptions, including supply chain, policies and anything else relevant to the space sector. We started live updates for a time and also had over 30 stories that were directly related to the pandemic. Our coverage is ongoing. Read and follow: The coronavirus archives.
1. SpaceX sweeps into Canada: No narrative resonated with our readers more than SpaceX entering Canada with its Starlink satellite internet service. While our coverage started in 2019, it wasn’t until this fall and the launch of beta service in Canada that we began to hear from readers on almost a daily basis. It helped that SpaceX founder Elon Musk responded to our questions with answers not found elsewhere. Read and follow: SpaceX Starlink articles.