This Week in Space for Canada

Mutually assured exclusion (MAE) certainly seems less crazy than mutually assured destruction (MAD) as a space war doctrine, but both could end up poking eyes out and four papers (three space focused) are retracted amid charges of “self-plagiarism” and “bogus authorship” at Queens University plus launch companies beg NASA to “save the space planes.” All that and more, this week in space for Canada.

Our first story comes via the always informative Space Cynics blog and their November 26th, 2010 post “It’s a MAE MAE MAE MAE MAE MAE World….” which comments on recent remarks made by Colonel Andre Dupuis, the man in charge of space development for the Canadian Forces (CF), at the just concluded Canadian Space Summit.
According to the article, a new international military doctrine is playing out in space that supersedes the old concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD). For want of a better name, it’s been termed mutually assured exclusion (MAE). The article states: “If we were to get into a shooting war with another major power, the first thing that the “weaker” of the two would do is to level the playing field as much as possible – in this case, by taking out our space-based superiority. After all, depriving the US of GPS and spaced based imagery capabilities would have a non-trivial impact on our ability to wage a war…”
The article goes on to equate the recent Chinese anti-satellite missile test (which blew up a defunct satellite and generated large amounts of difficult to track orbiting space debris) to a demonstration of the Chinese capability to exclude space access using debris created by the satellite destruction which must be avoided by other other orbital objects.
The article then takes a truly Dr. Strangelove type turn by suggesting that: “The problem is that, unlike MAD, this doctrine is not well known or possibly actually factored into policy thinking as it should be – the fact that we already have 600,000+ pieces of debris is clear evidence of our lack of foresight and planning when it comes to littering the space around our planet.”
Space debris is already considered to be a potential collision risk and the recent Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announcement that it was joining the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee plus other ongoing activities (including the Canadian military managed Sapphire program and even the recent lobbying by Macdonald Detwiller for funding of its satellite in-orbit servicing project, which has debris clearing applications) suggests that Canadians are at least aware of the problem, even if no one else is.
But of course, sometimes things come up from behind and bite you in the bum anyway which leads us into our second story.
As outlined in the November 26th, 2010 Montreal Gazette article “Queen’s University papers at centre of self-plagiarism dispute” three Queen’s University papers dealing with micro-gravity experiments conducted on the space shuttle and Russian space stations are included with the four scientific reports retracted because of concerns over “self plagiarism” and “bogus authorship.”
According to the article “the dispute highlights problems with the way scientific misconduct is defined and dealt with in Canada.”
Reginald Smith, the researcher at the center of the controversy, has worked extensively with the CSA on how gravity affects glass and alloy production. CSA president Steve MacLean was one of the astronauts to operate special furnaces in space for Smith’s team.
Only time will tell if this little tempest can eventually outgrow its teapot and whether it will effect the CSA or the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) where most of the funding for the retracted reports came from.
Which brings us to our final story this week.
It seems that American’s are lining up to insure access to high frontier even if that access requires used equipment. According to the November 30th, 2010 Wired article “Launch Companies Beg NASA: Save the Space Planes:”
(NASA) would make the mid-1990s-vintage X-34s available to space entrepreneurs, in line with the Obama Administration’s “commercialization” of space exploration. “It would be helpful if they had a vehicle,” NASA official Alan Brown said of the growing ranks of space companies.
According to Wikipedia, the Orbital Sciences X-34 space plane was intended as a low-cost testbed to demonstrate “key technologies” which could be used in a reusable launch vehicle program. The project was canceled in 2001 but could be resuscitated, if the above article is any guide.
It might also be helpful if Canada had a vehicle, but we don’t yet and it will be interesting to see how our lack of access will affect our space commercialization activities.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.

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