My Aviation Week Commentary in the September 29, 2014 Issue

I provided Aviation Week an article for the September 29, 2014 issue which was released on the first day of the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. In the commentary I discussed some the ramifications of the Canadian federal election next year. Here’s an excerpt. You can read the full commentary on the Aviation Week website (paywall).

Canada’s Next Election Could Help Boost the Space Program

“Canada’s next federal election isn’t until October 19, 2015, but the unofficial campaign is already underway as parliamentarians returned to Ottawa this month for the start of the fall session. The Conservative Party currently holds a majority in Parliament and has seen the number of its seats increase in the past three elections. The party will have been in power for nine consecutive years, its longest uninterrupted period since the late 19th century.”

“The Conservatives, during their tenure, have kept a tight rein on finances in an effort to keep the Canadian economy moving forward during difficult years and to balance the books, eliminate the deficit and have a surplus heading into next year’s election. You might think that would be cause enough to get reelected, think again.”

Orbital Antares Rocket Explodes Shortly After Launch, Shocking Onlookers

“The launch was proceeding as expected. Across the board, the Orbital team manning their stations had green lights. The weather was almost perfect. There was a sense of anticipation after seeing the launch scrubbed the day before because a boat had wandered into the range. No one could have foreseen what would happen next.”
“Mere seconds into the launch the unexpected happened. As the rocket was barely several hundred feet off the ground, and having just cleared the assorted launch pad towers, an explosion rocked the bottom of the rocket. The rocket continued on a for a few seconds before it quickly fell back to Earth as gravity reasserted itself. It exploded as it neared the ground creating a huge fireball sending debris flying like missiles in all directions. No one was hurt. Next came the shock.”

“It wasn’t just the shock of what had just happened. It was the shock of the unexpected happening. It was obvious that Orbital mission control was in shock. It was obvious later that people who had gathered to watch the launch at a safe distance were in shock and some were scared. The intensity of the explosion, the light, the sound shockwave, took the spectators by surprise.”

“We know very little at this time as to what went wrong.”
“Nearly three hours after the rocket suffered a catastrophic anomaly NASA held a news conference. Here’s what little we know.”

Mars on Earth and Mars Analogs

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the science mission and rover planning session for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) CREATE 2014 ongoing two week Mars analog rover mission. It was fun and brought back some memories of my own experiences at Mars on Earth on Devon Island, home to the Haughton Crater and the Haughton-Mars Project which I was involved in for many years. It’s hard to believe but its been nine years since I last went up. I’ll have a story posted on Monday about the current CSA CREATE program but below are some of pictures of Mars on Earth on Devon Island. [My story on SpaceRef Canada]

From Google Maps, the Haughton Crater on Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada.

From Google Maps, the Haughton-Mars Project base camp just left of top centre of the crater.
HMP base camp 2005.

The Mars Society Flashline Habitat which I helped build and was in the first crew.
Looking into the Haughton Crater and fields of breccia.
The Arthur C. Clarke which my partner Keith Cowing and I built and donated to the project.
The greenhouse team in 2005. I’m the guy doing the peace sign.
The hard work of the Canadian Space Agency, Guelph University, Simon Fraser University and others who built-out the interior and performed the experiments.
A panorama of the HMP base camp area.

Could Canada’s Future Include Launching Rockets to Orbit?

There’s an effort underway by a new company called Open Space Orbital to raise funds to build Canada’s first small satellite launcher which would be based out of Nova Scotia.

It’s a long shot but does have a credible Board of Directors. Currently they’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to raise an initial $100,000.

With the funds they will do the following:

  • Prototype Development Project (PDP): Our first small rocket engine will be designed and assembled internal to Open Space and test key design concepts on a small scale. Outsourcing, particularly regarding the engine’s nozzle, will be deferred to one of the Canada-based aerospace composite manufacturers competing for the contract. 
  • Preliminary Launch Vehicle Design: In partnership with Continuum Aerospace, a preliminary design of our first mission-ready launch vehicle (whose normal configuration will demonstrate a maximum payload capacity of 50 kg) will be completed and considered for our first full scale rocket. 
  • Business Development: Planning is important. In partnership with CFC Consultants (Atlantic), we will be performing strategic refinements to Open Space’s business plan, concentrating primarily on tactical planning, funding requirements and communications strategies. The main objective of completing these refinements is to prepare Open Space for investment of any kind – commercial and governmental. 
  • Market Analysis: To gain an intellectual edge over international competitors, a Canada-specific market analysis will be completed by Rogue Thought Consulting, particularly Norman Deschamps, who received a Master’s in microsatellite design before founding RGC. This report will detail the market’s current status and future trends on a nation-specific basis, expected market and regulatory hurdles, the potential for new satellite manufacturing companies and universities to enter the industry alongside a low cost, domestic launch solution, and a survey of Canadian satellite manufacturers and academic/commercial aerospace programs pertaining to the impact that our solution would have on their goals and operations.
I wrote a story for SpaceRef Canada on their efforts which goes into more detail.