Monday, March 20, 2017

Helios Wire is a Canadian Space Based Internet of Things Startup

          By Brian Orlotti

Scott Larson. Photo c/o BC Business.
Vancouver-based Helios Wire, a startup founded by former Urthecast CEO  and co-founder Scott Larson, has announced plans to design and build a space-based Internet of Things (IoT) network using a constellation of 30 low-cost satellites.

Total cost for the constellation is estimated by Helios as being less than $100Mln CDN.

As outlined on the Helios website:
Helios is building a fully disruptive, global, and vertically integrated satellite-enabled monitoring and messaging service that will track and provide communication with up to 5 billion transmitters.   
It will be a space and terrestrial-based Internet of Things and Machine to Machine service specifically designed for ultra-high volume market applications requiring low bandwidth and low service costs."
But while the company promises the system will reduce the cost of IoT enough to make it affordable to small and medium sized businesses, IoT’s inherent security issues may prove a roadblock to their plans.

As outlined in the March 10th, 2017 Helios Wire press release, "The Internet of Things is Ripe for Democratization," the IoT is "primed for democratization, and promises to go beyond the evolution of modern-day conveniences, including refrigerators that can order groceries and have them delivered to your door. Already, big businesses like Virgin Atlantic, Farmers Insurance, and UPS harness IoT data to optimize their business operations. And soon, small and mid-size organizations will be in a better place to reap some of those same rewards." Helios hopes to take advantage of that pent up demand from small and medium sized businesses. Graphic c/o Helios Wire

Currently one of the tech sector’s biggest buzzwords, the IoT refers to the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items with embedded electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity enabling them to collect and exchange data.

The IoT is a means of directly integrating the physical world with computers, allowing objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure (i.e. the internet). IoT also encompasses other technologies such as smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. IoT advocates argue that such physical/computer integration will result in greater efficiency, accuracy and economic benefits while reducing the need for human intervention.

Helios’ plan calls for a constellation of 30 low-cost satellites to be launched over three years beginning in 2018.

UrtheCast image over company co-founders Wade Larson (now UrtheCast CEO), Scott Larson (now CEO of Helios Wire) and George Tyr (now UrtheCast CTO). The February 10th, 2016 BC Business post, "UrtheCast's Scott Larson proves a B.C. startup can make it in space," quotes the new Helios CEO as stating that he was “a start-up guy and I am proud to say that UrtheCast is no longer a start-up,” although he remains a shareholder. UrtheCast focuses on a variety of high bandwidth Earth imaging technologies while Helios focuses primarily on the transmission of low-bandwidth data collected by others. Photos c/o UrtheCast, Twitter & Linked-In.

The 30 satellite Helios constellation will use 30 MHz of S-band spectrum to enable its satellites to receive low-bandwidth data from billions of embedded sensors on Earth and then relay the data back to the surface, bypassing terrestrial internet availability, latency and cost issues.

The system’s first two satellites will only be able to receive and relay data three times daily, so applications requiring more timely data (such as transportation logistics) will come later.

When the full constellation is deployed, data packets will be received every five minutes as successive satellites pass over sensor locations on Earth. Helios envisions its system monitoring and controlling fixed and mobile assets in a wide range of sectors, including transportation, consumer products, logistics, security/public safety, energy, mining, manufacturing, wildlife management, and agriculture.

But the enthusiasm surrounding IoT is dampened by serious concerns over security and privacy.


In October 2016, a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks caused a massive disruption of major internet services including Twitter, Netflix, PayPal, Pinterest and the PlayStation Network.

The perpetrators did this by compromising thousands of endpoint IoT devices, most notoriously, as outlined in the October 24th, 2016 PC World post, "Chinese firm recalls camera products linked to massive DDOS attack," the compromised devices included a series of internet cameras manufactured by Chinese firm Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology.

The attackers used the ‘Mirai’ malware to transform the compromised devices into a botnet which then flooded traffic to DNS hosting provider Dyn (a cloud-based internet services provider recently acquired by Oracle Corp).

The attacks were staggering by internet standards, at one time measuring nearly one Terabit per second, according to the October 24th, 2016 WeLiveSecurity post, "10 things to know about the October 21 IoT DDoS attacks."

Here's hoping that, by hopping aboard the IoT bandwagon, Helios Wire won't end up having a bumpy ride.
Brian Orlotti.
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Brian Orlotti is a network administrator at KPMG and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Part 1: A History of the Canadian Space Program - Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets

Abstract, Introduction & The 1950's



By Graham Gibbs & W. M. ("Mac") Evans
Canada's contribution to the ISS. Photo c/o CSA.
This paper, first presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014, is a brief history of the Canadian space program, written by two of the major participants. 
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first Counselor for (US) Space Affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 
W.M. "Mac" Evans, a career public servant, has provided vision in planning and implementing Canada’s space plans for many decades and was president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from 1994 - 2001.
The paper is reproduced with the permission of the authors. As outlined by Gibbs, "Re the interesting Canada150 series you are running, you might be interested in posting the Paper (attached) Mac Evans and I wrote for the International Astronautical Congress that was held in Toronto in 2014." 
We are. Part 1 begins below.


Abstract

The Canadian Space Program began at the dawn of the space age during the International Geophysical Year in 1957-1958. 
With the launch of the scientific Alouette 1 satellite in 1962 Canada became the third nation in space. Since then Canada has achieved many “firsts in space” and has established itself as a world recognized space faring nation. Thirty years after entering the space era in 1988, Canada formally became a partner in the then G-7 Space Station program with the signing of the Agreements governing the program, which in 1998 became the International Space Station (ISS) when Russia became a partner. Canada is a leader in radar-based Earth observation, upper atmosphere research, advanced satellite communications technologies, space robotics and much more. 
Canada’s space program, despite its modest beginnings and continuing modest funding, has achieved unprecedented success. This success is largely due to reasoned government space policies during the most formative years of Canada’s space program. 
This paper is, for the most part, an update of a paper authored by W.M. (Mac) Evans and published in the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) Journal (CASJ) [i].
The current paper also provides an analysis of the lessons we have learned from these thoughtful earlier government space policies of how a small space faring nation, from a funding perspective, can hold its own and cooperate with major space faring nations such as the United States/NASA and Europe/European Space Agency.

 Introduction


It is remarkable that today the Canadian Space Agency partners’ with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in all the major public space sector disciplines, which are:
  • Human space flight (robotics for the US space shuttle, now retired, and the International Space Station) 
  • An astronaut program
  • Life and microgravity science research 
  • Earth science and observation (with instruments on NASA space craft and our own RADARSAT program) 
  • Astronomy, including our contribution to the US led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and our own Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars telescope (MOST)
  • Heliophysics, and planetary exploration through contributions to NASA’s robotic exploration of Mars
In addition we collaborate with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (supporting the Canadian and US Ice Services to ensure safe shipping in the arctic), and the US Geological Survey. 
Canada is also the only non-European cooperating member of the European Space Agency (ESA) a partnership we have enjoyed since 1979. The Canadian Space Agency cooperates with other space faring nations, such as Japan, on a case- by-case or mission-by-mission basis.
There is no question that Canada has “punched above its weight” in space, whether it be in the realm of communications, earth observation, science or robotics. This phenomenal achievement has been possible through informed space policy development in Canada especially during the first thirty years of Canada’s space program. 
We now address the history of the development of space policy in Canada as first articulated by William (Mac) Evans in his paper for the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Journal of March 2004. The underlying thesis is that these policies have been fundamental to the technological and operational success of our national space program for more than four decades.

The 1950's

While the concepts of space flight had been around for centuries it wasn’t until after the Second World War that rocket technologies needed for such adventures were successfully tested.
While primarily driven by the post-war race between the Soviet Union and the United States to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, the development of rocket technology gave the world’s scientists a new tool in their on-going research into the earth and its environment. Thus, it is not surprising that when the International Geophysical Year (IGY) was designated (July 1957 to December 1958) as a comprehensive series of global geophysical activities; this new tool provided the most significant findings of the IGY. Indeed, it was during the IGY that both the Soviet Union (1957) and the United States (1958) launched their first satellites. 
For decades prior to the IGY, Canadian scientists had been conducting extensive research into the ionosphere in order to improve radio communications between the northern and southern regions of Canada. Communications between these two areas relied on bouncing high frequency radio waves off the ionosphere. But disturbances in the ionosphere associated with magnetic storms and the aurora caused considerable havoc with these essential communications links. 
Since the northern auroral zone passes over Churchill Manitoba our scientists were intrigued with the possibility of probing the ionosphere with scientific instruments mounted on rockets launched from Churchill. They were able to convince the government to offer Churchill Manitoba as a site for launching sounding rockets and in 1955 the Churchill Rocket Range was established with the assistance of the United States. Churchill became a significant site during the IGY and 95 (45%) of the 210 sounding rocket launches made by the US during the IGY were from Churchill. Between 1957 and 1984 (when the range was closed) more than 3,500 sounding rockets were launched from Churchill.
Canada’s first forays into the lower reaches of space were sounding rocket payloads designed and built by research establishments of the Defence Research Board (DRB). Instruments to make measurements of atmospheric chemistry that had been designed by the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment (CARDE) in Valcartier Quebec were launched from Churchill in 1958. The next year, the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE) in Ottawa designed and built instruments to measure electron density and the temperature of the ionosphere and these were launched on sounding rockets from Churchill. 
During this same period, CARDE had been developing solid rocket propellants for military purposes. This technology was incorporated into a sounding rocket called Black Brant. The first Black Brant rocket was launched from Churchill in 1959. The technology was transferred to industry (first Canadair and subsequently to Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg) and since then more than 800 Black Brant rockets have been launched from sites all over the world. 
Early in 1958, in response to the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik in October 1957, the United States consolidated its entire civilian aeronautical and space activities into a new organization called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA was impressed with the success of international cooperation during the IGY and made international cooperation one of its major objectives. 
Consequently, in 1958 the US invited international participation in their scientific space program. The scientists at DRTE who by this time had developed an interest in sounding the ionosphere from above (i.e. from space) responded quickly with a proposal near the end of 1958 to build a satellite to carry a top- side ionospheric sounder – a satellite later to be called Alouette I. 
In April 1959, NASA and DRTE jointly signed an agreement whereby Canada was to supply a satellite and NASA was to provide the launcher. The leader of the Canadian team was John H. Chapman. 
The official announcement of Canada’s intention to build a satellite was made by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on the occasion of the official opening of the Prince Albert Radar Laboratory in June 1959. 
Looking back, one has to marvel at the audacity of the Canadian proposal and the confidence the Government placed in its scientific community. The Alouette program was approved at a time when rockets were still regularly exploding on the launch pad and those few satellites that actually made it in to orbit were lasting for only a few weeks or months. At the time of the signing of the Alouette agreement, the US had only successfully launched seven satellites. 
While Alouette I was a scientific satellite, its objective was to provide scientific information needed to provide more reliable communications between the northern and southern regions of Canada. Thus Canada entered the space age with a very practical proposition to use the advantages of space to help meet important domestic needs here on earth. Pursuing space applications to meet Canada’s needs has been the hallmark of our space program ever since.
________________________________________________________________________

Graham Gibbs & Mac Evans. Photos c/o MyCanada & CSA.
Graham Gibbs represented the Canadian space program for twenty-two years, the final seven as Canada’s first counselor for (US) space affairs based at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of "Five Ages of Canada - A HISTORY from Our First Peoples to Confederation."

William McDonald "Mac" Evans served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from November 1991 to November 2001, where he led the development of the Canadian astronaut and RADARSAT programs, negotiated Canada’s role in the International Space Station (ISS) and contributed to various international agreements that serve as the foundation of Canada’s current international space partnerships.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast.

Footnotes

[i] The Canadian Space Program — Past, Present, and Future (A history of the development of space policy in Canada), W M. (Mac) Evans, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Journal, 2004, 50(1): 19-31, 10.5589/q04-004. Used and updated with permission.
Next Week: "The 1960's," as part two of "A History of the Canadian Space Program: Policies & Lessons Learned Coping with Modest Budgets" continues.

American MDA Subsidiary Promotes "DEXTRE" for US as NASA RESTORE-L Satellite Servicing Budget Slashed

          By Chuck Black

Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) is having a bad week. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) "2018 Budget Blueprint," has slashed funding for the NASA RESTORE-L on-orbit satellite servicing mission from $133Mln USD ($178Mln CDN) to $45Mln US ($60Mln CDN) for fiscal year 2018.

The cutbacks reflect the fact that there is at least one other major corporation competing against MDA (and its US based surrogates) for multiple US government on-orbit satellite servicing contracts.

This competition will also affect how MDA treats its crown jewels, the legacy Canadian government funded Canadarm derived technology generally considered essential to any realistic on-orbit satellite servicing development program. Until now, MDA has insisted that technology hasn't been used to support any new US contracts.

As outlined in the July 21st, 2009 post, "Even Werner von Braun was Wrong Once in a While...," the driving personality behind our first great space race once laid out a plan to send men to the Moon and Mars, using reusable spacecraft and a space station big enough to sustain and pay for itself plus support the extra repair/ refueling capacity needed to construct a lunar and planetary expedition fleet. Unfortunately for that plan, printed circuits superseded the fragile and short-lived vacuum tube used in the 1950's and we ended up building much more durable and capable satellites which didn't require the additional on-orbit satellite servicing capabilities envisioned by von Braun. But this situation might be changing. Two companies are currently battling over a variety of US government contracts related to on-orbit satellite servicing and more are waiting in the wings to see which way the wind is blowing. Graphic c/o Commercial Space blog

Here's what we know so far.

The 2018 US Budget Blueprint cites the "duplication" of effort between NASA and other agencies, the need to keep costs down and to "better position" NASA "to support a nascent commercial satellite servicing industry" as justification for the RESTORE-L cutbacks.

The cutbacks directly effect MDA partner/subsidiary Space Systems Loral (SSL). Late last year, as outlined in the December 12th, 2016 post, "Will the New Space Systems Loral $127Mln NASA Space Robotic Servicing Contract Help Canada?," SSL announced that it had been awarded a $127Mln US ($170Mln CDN) contract to build components for the NASA RESTORE-L mission.

The current cutbacks, although not yet formally approved by the US Congress, will likely spread out disbursements on the RESTORE-L program over multiple years, slowing down progress, cutting into SSL's bottom line and adding administrative costs to a program which will remain in existence, but do less and less each year.

RESTORE-L is currently scheduled for launch in "mid 2020."

As outlined in the September 18th, 2016 post, "Rocket Companies, But Not SpaceX, Are Collecting Rocket Patents," nations with active manned space programs, such as the United States, China and Russia, "represent three-fifths of all patent protection with a worldwide total of more than 4,300 patented space innovations filed since 1960." The only real exception to this concentration of space focused patents is Canada. As outlined in the article, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) possesses substantial patents related to its Mobile Services System (MSS), which includes the Canadarm2 and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), also known as DEXTRE, which currently performs a variety of functions on board the International Space Station (ISS). MDA has served as prime contractor for Canadian government contracts related to the SPDM for most of its existence. Graphic c/o Commercial Space blog.

The 2018 Blueprint also reflects the fact that there is at least one other major corporation competing for US government on-orbit satellite servicing contracts. As outlined in the February 12, 2017 post, "Look Ma! No Canadarms!!! MDA & Orbital ATK Battle for US On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Contracts," the very competitive Virginia based Orbital ATK, might slowly be gaining the upper hand.

For example, as outlined in the December 16th, 2016 post, "MDA says No Sale of Canadarm Technology to the US Government in NASA RESTORE-L, DARPA RSGS or "Any Other" Project," the official MDA position has been that no Canadian derived technology has ever been used in any US based projects.

But that position seems to have been reversed with the release of the March 15th, 2017 SSL press release, "MDA Recognized by NASA for Robotic Servicing of International Space Station,"

The SSL press release explicitly references contributions made by the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), also known as DEXTRE, during "a robotic upgrade to the International Space Station’s (ISS) power system which took place in January (2017)."

The press release also quotes SSL senior vice president of government systems Rich White as stating that the "team," at SSL and MDA US Systems, a division of MDA specifically referenced as being "managed by SSL," was honored "to be recognized by NASA for its contribution to this mission.”

According to White “SSL and MDA have a long history of collaboration in robotics work for NASA and we continue to work together to design innovative advanced robotic augmentation and servicing systems for future missions.”

A short video highlighting SSL capabilities and competencies in June 2012, about the time when then MDA CEO Dan Friedmann announced that MDA would be acquiring SSL for $875Mln US ($1,169Mln CDN), plus a further $112Mln US ($150Mln CDN) in dividends and other payments from SSL. As outlined June 27th, 2012 post, "MacDonald Dettwiler buys Space Systems Loral for $875M," SSL was purchased by MDA in order to "buy a space company with US roots to gain a foothold in the lucrative US market," and not because of any space robotics expertise possessed by SSL. Screen shot c/o SSL.

According to the press release, "SSL and MDA have the ability to build on robotics technologies proven on the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station (ISS), and Mars landers and rovers."

Canadian contributions to the space shuttle, the ISS and the various Mars landers and rovers are not mentioned once in the press release. The press release closes out by mentioning that "as a Silicon Valley innovator for more than 50 years, SSL’s advanced product line also includes state-of-the-art small satellites, and sophisticated robotics and automation solutions for remote operations."

That may be true now. But it wasn't true four years ago when MDA purchased SSL.

And it's also not totally clear why MDA needs to hide the Canadian origins of the technology which is seemingly becoming more and more critical to a successful SSL bid on US government satellite servicing contract. No doubt that information will come out over time.

But as for now, e-mail requests for clarification to both MDA corporate communications manager Wendy Keyser and SSL director of communications Wendy Lewis have gone unanswered.

According to Lewis, "We appreciate you giving us the opportunity to respond to your inquiry (but)... We need to gather the facts to make sure we provide an adequate explanation."

This post will be updated as that "adequate explanation" becomes available.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Part 1: 150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History

Before Canada: HMS Agamemnon, the Telegraph Cable, William Leitch & "The Fur Country"




Graphic c/o Pixabay.
         By Robert Godwin
Canada's aerospace raison d'être has always derived from its immense size, its location in the far north as a vast, barely-tracked wilderness of incalculable resources and the logical requirements relating to defence, communications, utilization and exploration which naturally follow from its size and location. 
It's also worth noting that the beginnings of Canada's aerospace history predates Canada itself...
Just over 150 years ago His Majesty's Ship Agamemnon took on the daunting task of trying to lay a telegraph cable across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken, and if it worked, for the first time in history there would be almost instantaneous communication between Europe and North America. 

At first, both the British and United States' governments saw little purpose to the project, but several years later, when the first telegraph message arrived via the eastern coast of Canada, an awakening took place, and politicians and businessmen alike suddenly realised the power and benefits of instant communication over ocean-spanning distances. 

HMS Agamemnon, a 91-gun Royal Navy battleship ordered by the Admiralty in 1849, was part of the British contingent of the 1857-1958 cable laying expedition, along with HMS Leopard and HMS Cyclops. As outlined in the undated Atlantic-cable.com post, "Cabot Strait Cable and 1857-58 Atlantic Cables," the United States Government provided USS Niagara as their cable layer with USS Susquehanna to assist. Although their first attempt in 1857 was unsuccessful, the project was resumed the following year and Agamemnon and Niagara successfully joined the ends of their two sections of cable in the middle of the Atlantic on July 29th, 1858 . Graphic c/o Atlantic-cable.com.

Still living under the rule of British authority, Canada was a vast barely-tracked wilderness of incalculable resources - almost ten million square kilometres of ice, trees, rivers, lakes and granite. It was divided into Lower and Upper Canada and had yet to combine into the Confederation that exists today. The cable across the Atlantic was successfully laid and by 1866 it had begun to earn money, but it would be decades before the great Canadian wilderness would relinquish its secrets and allow similar telegraphic communication to pass from coast to coast. 

During the 19th century thousands of immigrants from Scotland and elsewhere came to British North America to find a better life. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome was the fragmentation of the country into different jurisdictions. Two émigrés from opposite sides of Scotland, fought on opposite sides of the political aisle, until it became clear that the only way to truly breach the wilderness was the grand vision of a united country. Those two men, John Alexander Macdonald and George Brown, put aside their differences, and along with the native-born Canadian George-Étienne Cartier, set about confederating the disparate parts of an immense country. 

Another Scottish émigré, and a friend of Macdonald's, was a minister named William Leitch. Leitch was that most unusual of things, a Presbyterian scientist; a man of God and a polymath who was steeped in the lessons of natural philosophy, physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. In 1859 Leitch was invited to come to John Macdonald's hometown of Kingston Ontario to take on the role of Principal at one of the new Canadian universities — Queen's College.  In 1860 he arrived with his telescope and books and set about the task of bringing science to his small roster of students. 

William Leitch (ca. 1861). For more on Leitch, check out the October 4th, 2015 post, "Rocket Spaceflight Accurately Described by Scottish-Canadian Scientist in 1861." Image c/o The Space Library

Leitch had worked and studied at the Horslet Hill optical and magnetic observatory in Glasgow at a time when a global initiative had been undertaken by the Royal Society to try and understand why the earth's magnetic field seemed to fluctuate and change over time. The Royal Society established a string of magnetic observatories around the Empire and built one of them in Toronto — it was Canada's first observatory. 

As this research program began to bear fruit in the early 1850s it became apparent that Canada played a unique part in this great cosmic puzzle. The north magnetic pole was located somewhere in the frozen wilderness of Canada's arctic. This random quirk of fate would be a major factor in everything that was to come in Canada's aerospace future. 

To tame such a huge swathe of our home planet was going to take generations of work by scientists and engineers, and the key to success was being able to communicate over wide tracts of territory, when much of it had never even been explored. New technologies like the telegraph would have to be deployed, but it was soon learned that the long cables, even those laid in the dark depths of the ocean were subject to interference from cosmic sources, in particular the cycles of the sun. 

Astronomers like Leitch had been lecturing for years on astronomy and also on the sun's disturbing prominence's, and he had even had a hand in teaching astronomy to Lord Kelvin, the man who had been responsible for laying that first cable across the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada.  


After it had been determined that the sun was interacting with the earth's drifting magnetic fields it was not long before those same fields were also proven to be the source of that most magnificent aerial display, the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.  The first peoples to arrive in Canada in prehistoric times had marvelled at these displays of ionized particles, and their oral history attributed them to the place where their ancestors went to play a sort-of primitive version of soccer. 

Another story suggested that the fall of night was caused by a huge animal skin being drawn across the sky and the auroral lights were the skin catching fire. As terrifying a prospect as that might seem, the enigmatic lights would prove to be a somewhat less lethal but much more intractable problem to solve. 

When William Leitch arrived in Canada he had already begun to imagine a future where it might be possible to investigate solar prominences and other phenomena by travelling into space. In the late summer of 1861 he wrote an essay entitled "A Journey Through Space" in which he postulated that the best way to make such a journey would be by using a rocket, operating under the simple principals of action and reaction. 

Leitch realised that a vehicle powered by such a device would be more efficient in space. His insight seems to represent the first time that anyone had considered such a trip, using the right device, for all of the right reasons. William Leitch would not live to see his imaginary rocket-ship venture into the cold depths of space. He died at the age of 49 and was buried with honour in Kingston Ontario exactly 93 years to the day before the first real spacecraft would fly.


Six years after Macdonald, Brown and Cartier had agreed on a vision of a united Canada, the great French novelist Jules Verne wrote a book about scientists exploring the untracked Canadian wilderness. It was called "Le Pays des Fourrures" (The Fur Country) and it told the story of a group of adventurers who are sent above the 70th parallel to a location named Cape Bathurst, where the astronomer in the group is seeking out information about the night sky. Like so many of his other stories, Verne seemed to have an uncanny knack for recognizing the best places to set his scientific romances. 

Just seven years after his novel, in 1879, a group of scientists gathered in Germany to propose just such a campaign, but it would involve contributors from around the globe travelling and establishing research stations in the Polar Regions. By the summer of 1881 the newly united country of Canada was being asked to contribute to this great undertaking. 

The year of 1882 would be designated the first International Polar Year and its legacy would ultimately herald the space age. 
Robert Godwin.
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Robert Godwin is the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books. He is also the Space Curator at the Canadian Air & Space Museum
He has written or edited over 100 books including the award winning series "The NASA Mission Reports" and appeared on dozens of radio and television programs in Canada, the USA and England as an expert not only on space exploration but also on music.  
His books have been discussed on CNN, the CBC, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes. He produced the first ever virtual reality panoramas of the Apollo lunar surface photography and the first multi-camera angle movie of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. His latest book was written with the late Frederick I Ordway III and is called "2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey" about the history of spaceflight at the movies.
Next Week, "The International Polar Year, the Silver Dart, Canada's First Air Show and Aerospace Becomes Serious Business," in part two as "100 Years of Canadian Aerospace History" continues.

On sale now, at Apogee Books.

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