Friday, October 20, 2017

Inuit Leaders Ignored as ESA Satellite Launched Over the Arctic

          By Chuck Black

The European Space Agency (CSA) ignored Inuit concerns by launching a hydrazine loaded rocket last week, using a second stage which fell to Earth in the waters between Nunavut and Greenland after launch with up to a tonne of its unburned toxic fuel still onboard.

The Sentinal 5P being launched on a Russian rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on October 13th, 2017. As outlined in the October 15th, 2017 Spaceflight Now post, "ESA details construction of Sentinel-5P satellite and Tropomi instrument," the satellite carried the Dutch/ UK built TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (Tropomi), a spectrometer that measures ultraviolet, visible, near visible, and short-wavelength infrared to monitor trace gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Photo c/o ESA.

As outlined in the October 13th, 2017 APTN News post, "European Space Agency ignores Inuit concerns, launches hydrazine loaded rocket," the Sentinel 5P satellite was launched from a site in northern Russia on October 13th, 2017.

We condemn Russia’s actions and demand that this launch be halted,” said Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna. “Our people rely on the marine ecosystem to support our families, communities, and livelihoods.” The Inuit Circumpolar Conference, an organization that represents Inuit around the world, also protested the satellite launch.

The Canadian Federal government in Ottawa also protested the launch as did Kuupik Kleist, the former Prime Minister of Greenland. According to the article:
Hydrazine is so toxic that almost every space program in the world, including Russia’s, has moved away from it. 
That area falls within Canada’s exclusive economic zone and is within the jurisdiction of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
The second stage of the rocket, containing up to a tonne of unburned hydrazine, splashed down in water between Greenland and Baffin Island.

According to the March 2017 Cambridge University Press paper, "Toxic splash: Russian rocket stages dropped in Arctic waters raise health, environmental and legal concerns," at least 10 similar launches have discarded rocket stages in Pikialasorsuaq or in the Barents Sea, off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia, since 2002.

As outlined in the October 13th, 2017 Russia Space Web post, "Rockot delivers Sentinel-5P," the Rockot launch vehicle used for the mission is a re-purposed Soviet era ballistic missile.

More modern launchers, typically don't use hydrazine or other hypergolic and highly carcinogenic fuels to power their rocket launchers.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Don't Let Canada's Chief Scientist Fool You: Today's Publicly Funded Science Absolutely Demands Political Activism

          By Henry Stewart
Chief scientist Nemer. Photo c/o Alex Tétreault.

It's worth noting that Mona Nemer, Canada's new chief scientist, works out of an office suite in the CD Howe Building in Ottawa which "used to house Canadian Space Agency (CSA) personnel," according to staff members.

But she's not immediately going to champion the cause of the scientists at the CSA. That's not trendy or politically astute.

Nemer's main focus as she settles into her new position is the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research program (CCAR), which supports seven independent projects in climate science and is due to run out of funds at the end of the year.

At least that's the story in the October 19th, 2017 National Observer Post. "Top scientist teases 'solution' to climate funding crisis," which quoted Nemer as stating that, "My understanding is that a solution (for funding both the CCAR and one of the projects it supports, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory) is actually in the works, and things are on track and the community will be pleased.”

Not that there's anything wrong with coming to that conclusion, especially if the evidence supports it. But the major impetus to revisit funding for the CCAR, at least according to the article, doesn't come from academics or those curious about the research and data being collected by CCAR.

It instead comes from organizations like Evidence for Democracy, which describes itself and an organization "standing up for science and smart decision-making in Canada."

Their "issue-based campaigns tackle emerging issues affecting science and evidence-based public policy in Canada" and they work with "national and local partners to organize events, raise awareness, and engage the public directly with policy-makers."

Many of their members are even scientists, but they're not performing scientific experiments or political advocacy on behalf of science. Instead they're engaging national and local partners to organize events, raise awareness and engage the public directly with policy makers.

In essence, they're telling the politicians what they feel is important and needs to be addressed.

And again, it's not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just that political advocacy is something the Canadian space community doesn't really know how to do.

If we did, there would be far fewer empty CSA offices for the newer and trendier political appointees to move into.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Game Changer for Canada: Airbus Takes a Majority Stake in Bombardier's C Series Program

          By Henry Stewart

Here's something which, over the next few weeks, will completely destroy several very, very traditional "Chinese Walls," erected decades ago within the Canadian aerospace industry.

Until today, those information barriers (originally erected around business verticals to prevent exchanges that could lead to conflicts of interest with the Federal government) separated not just Canadian aerospace military and civilian providers, but also the aeronautical and space focused providers which traditionally populated the Canadian aerospace industry.

But not anymore. Airbus, a European multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells civil and military products for both the aerospace and space sectors, is poised to buy a majority stake in the Bombardier C Series program.

As outlined in the October 16th, 2017 Globe and Mail post, "Bombardier teams up with Airbus to secure C Series future," Bombardier Inc. has struck an agreement "to sell control of its marquee C Series airliner program to Europe's Airbus Group SE, a bet that handing the keys to a better-financed global giant will ensure the Canadian plane maker's future in the face of relentless competition and punishingly high tariffs imposed by the United States."

As outlined most recently in the October 8th, 2017 post, "Au Revoir, Bombardier," the C Series program has been at the centre of major political and investor drama in Canada since its inception, and has driven Bombardier to the brink of bankruptcy.

According to the Globe and Mail article, the Quebec government supports the transaction with Airbus, as does the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a major Bombardier shareholder. Ottawa has also offered a preliminary endorsement of the transaction, saying "it would require review under federal investment law."

As outlined in the article:
Although Bombardier itself has not been sold, the deal is an acknowledgment that the company could not go it alone in the global market for passenger airlines.
Under the agreement, Airbus will take a 50.01-per-cent interest in the C Series limited partnership for no cash consideration.

In exchange, it will offer Bombardier's 100- to 150-seat plane its global procurement, sales, marketing and customer support expertise. Bombardier's stake will be 31% and Quebec will own about 19% when the deal is finalized.

Of course, Airbus is comprised of both military and civilian subsidiaries, as well as aerospace and space components and possesses an aggressive Canadian subsidiary which would surely like to expand its list of successful contracts. Boeing's fight with Bombardier over the C Series has already influenced the Canadian military procurement of new Boeing F-18's.

This is certainly a novel situation for Canadian industry to be in. As outlined in the October 12th, 2017 post, "Osborne Steps Down at Canadian MDA as it Responds to Questions About its US Based "Maxar" Future," US based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) president Howard Lance even called Airbus the only company able to compete with MDA/ MAXAR across the various business verticals.

And now both companies are well entrenched in the Great White North and able to use a wide variety of both domestic and international business resources to influence procurement decisions. Will the Federal government be strong enough to control the power these two behemoths bring to the table?

Time to queue up the explosions and stand by for action. Anything can happen now.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

Researchers, Heal Thy Selves!

          By Brian Orlotti

According to Alan Bernstein, the president and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the Canadian scientific and research community needs more than money. It needs a "bold new vision" of how to perform scientific research.
Bernstein at the 2015 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), which took place in Ottawa, ON on November 25th - 27th, 2015. As outlined in his Wikipedia entry, Bernstein has received a variety of awards and accolades including "the McLaughlin Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the Robert L. Noble Prize from the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Genetics Society of Canada Award of Excellence, the 2001 Australian Society of Medical Research Medal, four honorary degrees, the 2007 Medaille du merite from the Institut de Recherche Clinique de Montreal, the 2008 Gairdner Wightman Award and the Order of Canada in 2002. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto. In 2015, Bernstein was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame." Screenshot c/o Canadian Science Policy Centre.

As outlined in his October 12th, 2017 MacLean's post, "It’s time for a bold new vision for Canadian fundamental science," Bernstein made the point that aside from the need for more funding, the Canadian research field has large barriers to entry, especially for young researchers.

He questioned why ambitious young researchers would choose a career in science when the odds of securing a grant are only between 8-12% in health research, or when average funding for physical sciences has remained nearly unchanged for the past decade at less than $35,000 per year and is lower today than in the early 2000s. Bernstein warned that Canada risks losing an entire generation of scientists unless it finds ways to attract and fund the best young researchers.

Bernstein provided two examples for Canada to learn from.
  • The first was the last "golden age" of Canadian science funding i.e 1997-2007 which saw large across the board funding increases. According to Bernstein, "that transformation wasn’t just about money: It also profoundly changed the landscape for research in Canada. New agencies to fund research infrastructure, health research and genome science were created as were new programs like the Canada Research Chairs, the Indirect Costs Program and the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. These changes were not easy; real change rarely is. For example, the creation of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in 2000 was the culmination of an intense and difficult national discussion that lasted almost two years."
  • The second example was more recent, more difficult and occurred in the UK, whose government recently introduced major changes including the merging of eight separate agencies into a single entity overseen by a single board and chief executive; UK Research and Innovation. In essence, the second example produced a fast-moving system composed of increasingly international, interdisciplinary, and collaborative units operating under a centralized structure. 
Bernstein noted that the UK model appeared too ambitious for Canadians given that the committee that wrote the 2017 Canada's Fundamental Science Review, which was headed by Canadian physician David Naylor, rejected similar changes for Canada as being "too risky."

But he thinks we should do it anyway.

Bernstein did agree with the crux of the 2017 Naylor report’s findings, namely that Canada’s scientific research structure suffers from 20 years of balkanization and bloat, with too many agencies (in traditional academic style) at each other’s throats with varying cultures, rules, grant levels and partner requirements.

This disunity and lack of coordination has compromised the Canadian research establishment’s ability to plan and act strategically.

Bernstein stated that Canada’s research system must place far more emphasis on interdisciplinary and international research teams, rather than the current individualist "superstar/prima dona" oriented approach.

This notion has met resistance from senior researchers who fear encroachment on their individual fiefdoms. Bernstein himself sees no conflict between individual  and team-based research, arguing that the Canadian system should utilize both.

There are hundreds of academic space science conferences going on every month in Canada and around the world. Most focus not just on publicizing and promoting new research and developments, but also depend on driving revenue generating and fee paying undergrad admissions to the faculties and organizations being promoted, whether or not there are jobs available for the surviving graduates and post docs. This particular, just concluded event was sponsored by a variety of universities, colleges, institutes, associations and private organizations. After all, low cost, well trained and pliable help is hard to find. Graphic c/o MSSA

While streamlining bureaucracy and bringing squabbling fiefdoms into line are positive steps, the Canadian research field must take more immediate steps to make itself more attractive to young talent.

After all, we live in a time when the tech industry is using multiple incentives to entice new talent (bonuses, catered meals, gym memberships, paid training) and senior academics draw six figure salaries at their respective institutions, but Canadian graduate students live in poverty and squalor..

Researchers heal thy selves.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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