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LUNAR GATEWAY: Crash of Canada’s Space Biz

PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:16 am
by Oscar
Crash of Canada’s Space Biz

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Why BC firm’s sale to Americans leaves huge crater.

By Chris Gainor , 28 Jan 2008 |

Chris Gainor is a historian in Victoria specializing in the history of technology and is the author of three books, including Canada in Space: The People & Stories Behind Canada’s Role in the Exploration of Space (Folklore Publishing, 2006).

The news that Canada’s largest space contractor is selling its space-related assets to an American corporation means far more than Canada losing the Canadarm, something that appears at first glance to be a plaything for astronauts and far away from everyday concerns here on Earth.

The sale involves a giveaway of a major high technology success story for Canada and could lead to another hemorrhage of jobs to the United States in spite of the many benefits claimed for the North American Free Trade Agreement of more prosperity for Canadians. The sale also involves an important national security asset for Canada that monitors our Arctic sovereignty.

The Richmond-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) announced on Jan. 8 that it was selling all of its space operations to Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) of Minneapolis for $1.3 billion. MDA is the contractor that builds the shuttle Canadarm, the Mobile Servicing System, including Canadarm2, on the International Space Station, and a large share of Canada’s communications satellite contracting business. MDA also operates the recently launched Radarsat-2 under an agreement with the Canadian government.

The gravity of MDA’s decision was underlined the next day when the federal government announced that the president of the Canadian Space Agency, Laurier Boisvert, had resigned a few days earlier after just nine months on the job. Although the resignation was said to be related to personal reasons, others have suggested that it was sparked by the MDA sale.

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Canada’s Pride, the Canadarm, Now Has a Massive US Company in Its Orbit

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April 10, 2019

In a few years, we’ll be transfixed by the new Canadarm, with its national branding and a propaganda and marketing campaign that presents it as a celestial symbol of international co-operation, job creation and inspiration for the next generation to pursue science.

As we celebrate, we need to remain grounded with the reality that Canadian taxpayers helped an American company that capitalized on our love for our country for their pursuit of private profits. MORE . . . .

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MDA Applauds Canada's Commitment to NASA-led Lunar Gateway

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February 28, 2019

BRAMPTON, ON, Feb. 28, 2019 /PRNewswire/ - MDA, a Maxar Technologies company (NYSE: MAXR) (TSX: MAXR), today applauded the announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) minister Navdeep Bains that Canada will join the Lunar Gateway program, a major international initiative led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to return to the Moon. Canada will provide artificial intelligence-based robotics for the Lunar Gateway, extending the Canadarm program for another generation. In addition to the Lunar Gateway announcement, the government announced a number of other space initiatives and committed to unveiling a long-term space strategy in the coming days. Canada's commitment to the Lunar Gateway program totals CAD $2.05 billion over the duration of the program.

The Lunar Gateway will be a Moon-orbiting outpost that will support persistent human activity on the lunar surface and serve as short-term habitat for astronauts, a communications node, a science laboratory and a staging ground for exploration into deeper space. The first elements of the Lunar Gateway will launch in 2022, and construction will take place over the next several years.

"We are extremely pleased to see the Government of Canada continue our country's leadership role on the international space team, and to advance Canada's unique world leadership position in space robotics," said Mike Greenley, Group President of MDA. "MDA is honoured to have been the provider of space robotics to the Canadian government for over 35 years on the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station."

The "Canadarm3" robotics on the Lunar Gateway will be essential for critical operations and maintenance of this new international space station, on both the outside and inside of the station, and will consist of a larger manipulator arm and a smaller dexterous arm. Whereas the current International Space Station (ISS) operates approximately 400 kilometres from Earth, the Lunar Gateway will orbit the Moon approximately 400,000 kilometres from Earth, requiring a significant advancement in robotic and autonomous control systems and capabilities. Because of this great distance, the highly specialized Canadian contribution to the Lunar Gateway program will leverage the Canadian industrial base expertise in both space robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) – two areas where Canadian firms and academic organizations are established international leaders.

"Over 500 companies across Canada participated in the ISS robotics program," added Mr. Greenley. "We expect a similarly robust and diverse pan-Canadian supply chain will form to execute Canada's commitment to the Lunar Gateway, including Canada's strong AI community."

MDA has conducted a number of early concept studies for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on the Lunar Gateway robotics solution over the past several years, as well as a survey of Canadian firms that could be engaged to deliver this capability. In 2018, MDA conducted its own industry day to meet with key industrial suppliers across Canada to explore this potential space robotics opportunity. MDA estimates that the Lunar Gateway program will create 10,000 person-years of employment over the duration of the program involving high quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs in Canada as a result of this commitment by Canada. Furthermore, this flagship program will enable follow-on exports and commercialization in the new space economy and enhance industrial competitiveness on the global stage.

Canada's world-renowned space robotics and on-orbit servicing capabilities span more than 35 years, including more than 90 on-orbit servicing missions with Canadarm as part of the Space Shuttle program, plus 18 years of continual robotic operations using Canadarm2 and Dextre to build and maintain the International Space Station. In return for Canada's contribution of space robotics, Canada was offered astronaut flights – to date, nine Canadian astronauts have flown on 17 spaceflight missions.

MDA has been part of an initiative called Don't Let Go Canada, a coalition of close to 70 space companies, associations, student groups, academia and labour that has called on the government to announce a long-term space strategy and investment in Canada's space program in order to extend Canada's leadership in space, secure tomorrow's STEM jobs and to position Canada to succeed in the emerging $1 trillion commercial space economy.