This Week in Space for Canada

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) remembers it’s past and ponders it’s future, COM DEV International subsidiary exactEarth Ltd. successfully launches its automatic identification system (AIS) payload from India and campaigning ex-astronaut and current politician Marc Garneau discusses innovation, entrepreneurship and public policy this Wednesday. All that and more, this week in space for Canada.

Our first story comes to us via April 19th, 2011 Canadian Press article “Space head says discussions ongoing to use Canadarm technology on private spacecraft” which states that “the head of the Canadian Space Agency says discussions are taking place about how the Canadarm can be used on commercial spacecraft.
Of course, the real story is what MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) plans to do with the technology developed through their Brampton based Canadarm program as the US space shuttle program (which uses three of the four Canadarms) winds down.
As outlined in my January 18th, 2011 post on the Commercial Space blog titled “MDA and the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft,” there are several automated space craft that already use the Canadarm2 for docking at the International Space Station (ISS) and the firms that make these craft are obvious places to solicit future Canadarm derived technology sales.
But while the CSA will certainly have some input into these sales the core impetus will come from the MDA corporate offices and the Brampton facilities that once built and currently maintain the Canadarm. The MDA on-orbit satellite servicing program is also expected to use Canadarm derived technology and this MDA program happens to be a totally private sector initiative since the Canadian government refused to provide financing in 2010.
Only time will tell how much input MDA will allow the CSA into future Canadarm derived technology sales and programs without an ongoing financial commitment from the Canadian government and this might or might not be a change welcomed by the CSA, which currently spends a lot of time telling people that they remain the core of the Canadian space program.
Which brings us to our next story.
According to the April 20th, 2011 CNW Newswire press release titled “exactEarth announces successful launch of satellite” the COM DEV subsidiary had its automatic identification system (AIS) payload orbited. The payload, integrated onto the Indian Space Research Organisation‘s (ISRO) ResourceSat-2 earth observation satellite will orbit the globe every 90 minutes and generate over one million AIS messages per day.
The firm expects the AIS payload to enter service on June 1st, 2011, after a six-week commissioning period. The company also plans to deploy three additional high performance AIS satellites later this year as it continues to build out its constellation.
This is good news for the company which can’t afford any delays as it builds out it’s satellite-based ship monitoring for global coastal authorities. As outlined in my March 26th, 2011 Commercial Space blog post “COM DEV Faces Challenges and Direct Competitors” the company is in a race with Orbcomm of Fort Lee, N.J. to see who can deploy this capability first.
And speaking of races, our final story this week is more of an announcement than anything else. Campaigning politician, Canadian astronaut and ex-CSA president Marc Garneau will be leading the Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 Canadian Advanced Technology Association (CATA) Teleforum conference call focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and public policy.
Callers will have an opportunity to provide their guidance on issues and concerns so I’d encourage all interested in innovation, entrepreneurship and public policy (and not just telecom issues, which is the generally recognized CATA core constituency) to call in and add their comments.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.

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