US based Bigelow Aerospace comes to Ottawa to remind our astronauts that they have an alternative ride to orbit and a new place to visit after the shuttle retires. Meanwhile, back in the bureaucracy, our proud Canadian military waits patiently for a new, but not terribly different, space defence policy update and in Saint-Hubert, others prefer to ignore astronauts and businesses to instead focus on robotic rovers. All that and more, this week in space for Canada.
Our first story this week comes to us via the November 23rd, 2010 Canadian Press article “Vegas firm hoping to attract Canadian astronauts onto inflatable space station” which states:
Bigelow Aerospace says it’s working on a commercial space complex that will have the strength of a Kevlar bullet-proof vest. A company representative was in Ottawa last weekend, delivering a keynote speech and lobbying officials at the annual summit of the Canadian Space Society (CSS).
Mike Gold, a Bigelow director, called it his first attempt to reach out to the Canadian government and the space industry. He argued that the facility will offer countries a cheaper way into space within five years.
Bigelow already has two prototype space-station modules in orbit, the Genesis I and Genesis II and has partnered with US aviation giant Boeing on a man rated commercial crew transport vehicle to ferry future astronauts to their Sundancer and BA 330 orbital modules, which are scheduled for launch and orbit around 2014-2015.
The article also states that the Canadian Space Agency‘s (CSA) director of space exploration, Gilles Leclerc, said that the agency is not involved, “in any way” with the Bigelow project.
But of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t talking and by this point they’re certainly aware of each other. The CSA and it’s federal government masters would be foolish not to at least entertain the option of alternative and lower cost access to space after the shuttle retires.
Which brings us to our second story this week. “Space may be first frontier for the next major conflict” according to Canadian Press author Peter Rakobowchuk in his November 20th, 2010 article, which quotes Colonel Andre Dupuis, the Director of Space Development for the Canadian Forces (CF) as stating that “the first line in the sand for the next major conflict may very well be in space or cyberspace, but probably not on the ground or in the air or in the sea.”
Dupuis made these comments during an interview while attending the annual conference of the CSS in Ottawa (the same one Mr. Gold attended).
According to the article, an updated Canadian space defense policy is expected to be released by the federal government next March. “A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1998 and the environment has changed,” according to Colonel Dupuis and an updated policy is needed to reflect these changes.
Which brings us to our final story this week. “Multi-sized rovers could be Canada’s Future in Space” according to Tom Spears in his November 20th 2010 Post Media News article.
The article quotes Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, head of exploration planning at the CSA, who laid out a variety of goals for Canada in his Saturday presentation at the very same CSS meeting that Mike Gold and Colonel Dupuis attended.
Is this a small world or what?
The article also quotes CSS president Kevin Shortt as stating that real progress at the CSA is dependent on the development of a long term commitment from the Canadian government to fund future space activities. According to Shortt, no company wants to start the long, expensive job of designing new Mars rovers only to find out later that the government really wanted satellites instead.
In other words, the CSA needs the same sort of policy update that the Canadian military is expecting to receive next spring.
As outlined on this website, a number of recent contracts for the development of rover type vehicles and their robotic appendages have recently been awarded by the CSA. It remains to be seen if the CSA is serious about the Canadian development for foreign sale of lunar rovers that have as yet no obvious markets, missions or launch dates.
Hopefully the CSA is not just intent on cleaning out the $110 million economic stimulus package for supporting new space technologies that the federal government included in their FY2010 budget before it ends in March 2011.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.
I see two, major, forward looking points.
Space as a battleground needs to be examined. Especially given our ever growing dependence on space technologies. We don’t need to weaponize space, but we should certainly be examining our vulnerability defense and possible counter-strike capabilities.
The other is the lunar rovers. The next moon race is heating up…China will attempt to place people on the moon, and when they do it will prompt the US and Allies to follow suit. Canada can’t bring much money to the table relatively speaking, but being on top of Lunar rover technology is a seat we can afford.
Canada doesn’t have the economic resources to dump billions into programs at the last minute to “catch up,” we need to make smaller investments over a longer period.
“The best time to plant an Oak Tree is 20 years ago…the second best time is now”
I wonder if there’s some type of space construction that’s much cheaper than ISS that Canada could get into before it’s too late?