As the holiday season slowly sneaks up on us and others begin to climb cautiously aboard our Canadian space prediction bandwagon (most notably this week, Peter Rakobowchuk in his recent article “Canada’s space program made history in 2009, but 2010 could be an even bigger year“), this week in space for Canada is all about looking back at what we’ve done as a space faring nation over the last few decades in order to learn lessons applicable for our future activities.
Early Canadian space ventures were almost invariably partnerships with the United States and part of what the US brought to the table was their launch capabilities. This historic partnership, while probably the main thing that allowed Canada to become a major space player in the 1960’s has been strained by various events over the last fifteen years but still continues with Canada’s astronauts Robert Thirsk and Julie Payette taking part in recent missions to the International Space Station.
According to Wikipedia, nine Canadians have participated in 13 NASA and two Soyuz manned missions with eight of them under the authority of the Canadian Astronaut Program (initially part of the National Research Counsel but since 1990, the responsibility of the Canadian Space Agency) and one (Guy Lalibert) acting independently as Canada’s first space tourist.
This gives Canada more astronauts than that just about anyone else except for the US (with 327), Russia (with 104) and the European Space Agency (with 33 if you includes cosmonauts from countries formerly allied to the USSR and now part of the ESA). Unfortunately, with the expected winding down of the American Space Shuttle program over the next several months, the only Canadian likely to get into space soon is John Criswick, who recently signed up as one of the first 300 paying customers for a ride on board the recently unveiled Virgin Galactic suborbital SpaceShip 2.
Canadian satellite launches go back to the 1960’s when the Canadian Alouette 1 became the first satellite constructed by a country other than the USSR or the United States.
Canada has launched satellites under a variety of organizations and banners including Telsat (13 Anik satellites, the 3 Nimiq satellites, M-Sat 1 and maybe one or two others), the COSPAS/ SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking) satellites launched in partnership with the other signatories to the Cospas-Sarsat International Programme Agreement and even the Can-X series from the University of Toronto, Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS).
Canadian government satellite launches (initially organized through the Communications Research Centre of Canada and later through the Canadian Space agency) include the following:
1. Alouette 1.
2. Alouette 2.
3. ISIS I and II.
While our American partnership endures, Canada is moving away from our traditional close reliance on the US space program (at least for our launch vehicles). If we include the various Telsat satellites (with a wide range of US and other launchers being used) and the multiple UTIAS microsats (which use almost entirely non-US launchers) then we must conclude that Canadian satellite launches are not tightly tied to US organizations or corporations. The COSPAS/ SARSAT launches were a Canada US partnership with the participation of France and the old Soviet Union.
As for our manned space program, even the CSA now promotes tourists launched through the Russian Federal Space Agency so they do seem to be at least considering their options for moving forward when the shuttle is retired.
Now that everyone is up to speed on our history, that’s all for this week in space for Canada.