There’s no news this week in space for Canada, at least until we absorb and assess the comments and whispered gossip coming out of last weeks Canadian Space Agency Workshop on Suborbital Platforms and Nanosatellites, but there’s lots of stuff going on elsewhere and this week we’re going to inventory some of those stories.
As always, many of the most interesting items are coming out of that huge American elephant shifting uncomfortably just slightly to our south.
For example, “Hitting the Reset Button” was how Space Review editor Jeff Foust characterized President Barack Obama laying out his vision for the future of human space exploration at the Kennedy Space Center last week. The emerging consensus is that the US President focused on preserving American jobs by not completely canceling the Orion crew exploration vehicle (re-categorizing it instead as a space lifeboat) plus added a few new NASA goals relating to Mars and developing heavy lift vehicles but otherwise retained the essential focus on the original plan, which was first announced in February.
Canadian reactions to the Obama speech were mixed with Canadian Press writer Lee-Anne Goodman collecting examples both positive and negative under the headline “Canada likely left out in cold in U.S. plans for Mars exploration, expert says.”
But that’s not the only story coming out of the US of interest to Canadians.
Beginning in September, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (also known as DEXTRE), that remarkable Canadian built appendage to the International Space Station (ISS) will face stiff competition in the form of a robot designed by General Motors and NASA, according to the recent press release “NASA to Launch Human-Like Robot to Join Space Station Crew” on the NASA website. According to the press release:
“Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.”
The effect this will have on Canadian contributions to future NASA initiatives is unclear since robotics has always been considered an acknowledged area of Canadian expertise. The press release even goes so far as to state that NASA has dubbed R2 as the “next generation dexterous robot” which is probably not an intentional slight against our still functioning first generation dexterous robot and may even be a backhanded compliment on good old Canadian ingenuity.
But our most interesting story this week relates to new capabilities being developed outside the US in a country with ongoing and strong Canadian connections.
According to the NDTV news website article “GSLV failure: Work on cryogenic engine to continue,” the Indian government will continue work on what they call the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) using an Indian developed cryogenic rocket engine which is generally considered as one of the keys to developing a heavy lift launch vehicle. According to the article:
“India has no choice but to master this technology in the long run as it is technology that has been denied to the country, the sources said.
It took the country more than 15 years to develop the cryogenic engine as technology for this was denied when, in the 1990s, America put pressure on Russia and forced the cancellation of an Indo-Russian technology transfer deal. The argument given was that India would use these engines to make missiles.”
Of course, the Indian government ended up making missiles anyway and now has a comprehensive inventory developed through their Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). It looks like they’ll shortly master the core cryogenic technology as well.
Their goal is the large and lucrative global satellite market which has always been dependent on heavy lift launch vehicles using cryogenic rockets and is currently controlled by the United States, Russia, China, Ukraine and the European Space Agency.
The CSA and other organizations which already use facilities operated through the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) cannot help but benefit from the lower launch costs promised by this Indian initiative.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.