This Week in Space for Canada

NASA follows ESA to put out a call for “commercial suborbital flight services” for microgravity testing, Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) continues its exceptional run of good luck with government contracts relating to space and military surveillance technologies up 71% from fiscal year 2009 and DEXTRE finally rolls out for duty on board the ISS. All that and my personal best wishes to everyone during the holiday season, this week in space for Canada.


According to the December 21st, 2010 press release “NASA Seeks Proposals For Technology Flight Demonstrations And Information About Suborbital Flight Services” the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is now seeking research proposals from those interested in testing new technologies during suborbital flight. Furthermore, NASA is looking for commercial sub-orbital reusable launch vehicle providers in order to perform those experiments.
The press release also indicates that the program “is designed to foster development of a commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry while developing new technologies and improving microgravity research.
Earlier in December the European Space Agency (ESA) also began looking at commercial suborbital vehicles and the possibilities they might offer for microgravity research according to the December 7th, 2010 Spaceref.com article “The new – suborbital – frontier.
No Canadian companies are likely to actively bid to supply suborbital vehicles to either NASA or the ESA, which is a bit of a shame given the credible bids that Canucks were able to make for the Ansarii X-Prize in the recent past.
Of course, Canadian companies are certainly doing well in other, more lucrative space focused areas which brings us to our next story.
Canadian space icon Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) continues its exceptional run of good luck, according to the December 13th, 2010 Canadian Press article “Quebec invests $9m to aid MacDonald, Dettwiler expand Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue plant.”
According to the article, the money comes on top of a no-interest loan of $9 million and “an additional $900,000” to help train employees. The funds will “allow MDA to make investments they would not have done otherwise,” according to Quebec premier Jean Charest who is quoted in the article.
According to an earlier December 3rd, 2010 Ottawa Citizen article “The $25-Billion Question Who gets what… and why” a total of $158.6 million had been spend up until that time in fiscal year 2010 by the various Canadian government departments for a series of MDA contracts relating to satellite and military surveillance technologies.
This is up 71% from fiscal year 2009, when the government halted the sale of the BC firm to a US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) for security reasons and the subsequent December 13th announcement will only add additional revenue to MDA bottom line.
Of course, MDA doesn’t just make money. They also build robots for the International Space Station (ISS) and one of those MDA built robots is receiving its “final exam.”
According to the December 17th, 2010 NASA press release “Dextre’s Final Exam Scheduled for December 22-23, 2010″ the scrappy little Canadian contraption officially known as the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), a component of the Mobile Servicing System on the ISS will finally roll out for duty.
As outlined in my October 3rd, 2010 Commercial Space post “DEXTRE Corner Cutting, Com Dev Deal Making and IAC Storytelling” the final checkout had been delayed because of a July 2010 failure when DEXTRE simply didn’t have the capability to remove a failed power controller on the ISS, due to the use of “low fidelity” hardware in order to save money.
Hopefully, this final series of tests will allow NASA to begin using DEXTRE to the limit of it’s capabilities.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada. Happy holidays.

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