This Week in Space for Canada

Engineering job fairs proliferate all along the Florida “space” coast as the US shuttle program winds down, while in Canada alternative space propulsion gains momentum and I personally have to “apologize profusely” as the Canadian Space Agency becomes a paying customer to launch the upcoming “CASade, Smallsat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer” (CASSIOPE) satellite on a Falcon-9 rocket. All that and more, this week in space for Canada.


Our first story this week comes to us via the Spaceref.com story posted June 21st, 2010 titled “Space Coast and National Groups Align to Help Aerospace Workers” which states:
With some 8,000 space workers facing layoffs at the end of the shuttle program, groups in and around the Kennedy Space Center area are aligning to provide assistance and guidance to help those facing unemployment find new employment.”
According to the article, job fairs and employment assistance programs are being provided by a company called Brevard Workforce Development which was recently provided with a $15 million dollar federal government grant to help these workers find new jobs after the US shuttle program concludes. According to the document titled “Aerospace Workforce Outlook Report – Phase III” which is available on the firms website:
“The phase-down of the Shuttle workforce reduction has already begun, with the layoff of 538 workers in October 2009 including 70 security workers at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This represented the start of what is expected to be a total of an approximate 7,000 aerospace worker reductions after the Shuttle is completely retired. Adhering to the current program of record, the workforce reduction is expected to be dramatically more visible in 2010, with a decrease of approximately 2,100 workers before October 2010 followed by the remaining decrease of 4,000 occurring between Oct 2010 and March 2011.”
A reasonable person would expect those numbers to be on the low side once subcontractors and support facility job losses are included but the advantage for Canada is the creation of opportunities in other areas.
For example, according to the June 17th, 2010 article on the Parabolic Arc website titled “Ad Astra Completes Testing Round on VASMIR Rocket Engine” the Ad Astra Rocket company has just completed a six month series of engine tests to improve the performance of their VX-200’s 30-kw. commercial propulsion engine.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has called the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (or VASMIR) one of the “Top Ten Emerging Technologies for 2009” and it’s being designed and built at least in part, by Nautel, a small firm based out of Hackett’s Cove in Nova Scotia.
Prime contractor Ad Astra Rocket company is being funded as part of the “breakthrough propulsion” investments by NASA. These are perceived by the American’s as the “game changers” needed to keep ahead of other countries who can certainly compete on costs using existing technology, which was mostly developed in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. More Canadian firms will likely show up as subcontractors to US firms attempting to commercialize new technologies over the next little while.
And finally, I “apologize profusely” for my September 22nd, 2009 Commercial Space blog post titled “Space Scientists and Contractors Thumbing Rocket Rides” where I indicated that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and others are “waiting patiently for someone to provide extra, free space aboard an appropriately pointed rocket” in order to launch their “CASade, Smallsat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer” (CASSIOPE) satellite.
Kieran A. Carroll in particular took me to task and stated “last I heard, CASSIOPE was still booked (as a paying customer) to launch as a dedicated payload on a Falcon 9, next year. Where had you heard that it was looking for some different (free) launch?”
I said that a colleague told me and was obviously wrong because this week the CSA announced that CASSIOPE was “hitching a ride — for $10 million — aboard a commercial space rocket built by a private U.S. company” according to the June 22nd, 2010 Canadian press article titled “Canadian Space Agency becomes third customer of commercial U.S. rocket firm.”
The CSA will officially become the third paying customer for the Falcon-9 rocket after NASA and Iridium Satellite Communications.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.

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This Week in Space for Canada

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  • SpaceGuy99

    I’m pretty sure that CSA is not the customer. Cassiope is partially financed through a contribution program from the federal government (through CSA). In this arrangement, MDA is the Falcon-9 customer, not CSA. It is up to MDA to select a launcher not CSA.

  • Chuck Black

    Hello spaceguy99
    If you could give me a context for the statement youve made about CSA not being the formal customer for Space-X or some publicly available documentation to reference the presumed MDA role Id be more than happy to update the article.
    All the documentation Ive come across (including the referenced June 24th Canadian Press article) seems to indicate that CSA is considered to be the Falcon-9 customer.
    You are correct in your statement that Cassiope is partially financed through a contribution program from the federal government.
    As outlined in my September 22nd, 2009 Commercial Space blog post titled “Space Scientists and Contractors Thumbing Rocket Rides” the contributors include the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), various contractors and suppliers (including Bristol/ Magellan, Burley Scientific, EMS, Magnametrics, MDA, Novatel and what used to be Routes AstroEngineering), multiple universities ( including the University of Calgarys Institute for Space Research, the University of Alberta, the University of Athabasca, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Saskatchewan the University of Western Ontario and York University) plus even the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).
    The Canadian Space Agencys, Cassiope ePope probe website (http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/satellites/cassiope.asp) lists Andrew Yau of the University of Calgary as the Director of the project with Bristol Aerospace, constructing the satellite platform and MDA acting as prime contractor.

  • The Flying Dutchman

    Partially financed is an understatement. Last time Ive heard is that CSA is funding 95% of the program. It is correct that CSA is not the direct customer. However, they are financing the program, hence they should have a say on how the money is spent. I know in the past that MDA was negotiating with SpaceX for the launcher. Since, Cassiope was supposed to be launch a while ago, maybe CSA is paying directly SpaceX in order to avoid extra cost from MDA