|CSA Disclosure of Grants and Contributions Awards Page. Screenshot c/o CSA.|
It’s worth noting that recent stories and press releases focused around individual Canadian Space Agency (CSA) initiatives are really only a partial representation of the funds provided through the CSA at any one time.
|InSAR images created using the homogeneous distributed scatterers (HDS) technique, showing deformation from multiple surface types including asphalt. As outlined in the December 2nd, 2015 Earth Imaging Journal post, “Learn the Ground Rules: InSAR Enables Proactive Urban Infrastructure Monitoring,” provides multiple examples of InSAR data being used in a variety of ways. In Q2 2016, nine of the fourteen CSA grants awarded focused on new uses for InSAR data. Images c/o MDA Geospatial Services.|
Two grants to the University of Waterloo covering:
- A project to develop a methodology for the generation of ice thickness and bathymetry products of shallow lakes using RADARSAT-2 interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR. ($50K CDN)
- A project to develop an understanding of the coupling mechanism between glacier ice loss and slope displacement using interferometric analysis of RADARSAT-2 data. ($50K CDN)
Two grants to the University of Western Ontario covering:
- A project to integrate InSAR and polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (PolSAR) in order to develop a more robust and systematic method to accurately map urban development changes over time in order to represent the associated land subsidence rate. ($50K CDN)
- A project to determine if the salt on Axel Heiberg Island (Nunavut) is still rising, and if so, at what rate. The main objective will be to use InSAR measurements (likely also from RADARSAT-2) to quantify the upwards motion of diapirs, a domed rock formation in which a core of rock has moved upward to pierce the overlying strata. ($50K CDN).
Two grants to York University covering:
- Another project to exploit RADARSAT-2 InSAR data, this time focused on permafrost characterization to “establish the relationship” between surface deformation between freezing and melting “as well as the active layer characteristics.” ($49.8K CDN)
- A second grant, this one for substantially more money (although the amount allocated would be expected to cover more than one fiscal year) to cover an experiment on the perception of self-motion (POSM) in space. According to the description, the project will investigate the “amplitude of motion evoked by a given pattern of optic flow by measuring how far a participant needs to “travel” in a simulated environment to reach a previously viewed target.” ($786K CDN)
|A 2013 Environment Canada (EC) poster outlining the development of Canada’s carbon assimilation system. In Q2 2016, the University of Toronto received a CSA grant to integrate new data derived from satellite measurements, into the program. Graphic c/o EC.|
Individual grants were also awarded to the following universities:
- The Global Institute for Water Security, at the University of Saskatchewan, which received one grant for a project to investigate the capabilities of InSAR based RADARSAT-2 data in generating a high resolution digital elevation model. ($50K CDN)
- The Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), a part of the Université du Québec, which received one grant for a project to monitor different types of land movement in the Greater Quebec City region for the period of 2008-2016. An emphasis “will be placed on expanding (data collected through) InSAR’s.” ($50K CDN)
- The Université de Sherbrooke, which received one grant “to use RADARSAT-2 SAR interferometry combined with a hydrodynamic model” to study the hydrodynamics of the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northern Alberta. ($49.5K CDN).
- The University of Calgary, which received one grant to investigate the use of InSAR for quantifying estimates of calving from polar glaciers in Canada’s Arctic. ($48K CDN).
- The University of Toronto, which received a single, but substantial grant to extend the Environment Canada carbon assimilation system (EC-CAS), which monitors CO2 and CH4 concentrations across Canada, to include data collected from the measurement of pollution in the troposphere (MOPITT) scientific instrument. MOPITT was launched into Earth orbit in 1999 as part of the NASA Terra satellite. ($240K CDN).
|As outlined in many previous articles, including this February 23th, 2014 post on “Canadian Firm Plans to Corner the Worldwide Rover Chassis Market,” the CSA has previously attempted to develop rovers it can resell to other space programs. Its most recent attempt is its $1.2Mln CDN grant to Canadensys Aerospace Corporation in Q2 2016. Screen shot c/o Commercial Space Media.|
Of course the obvious big beneficiaries of CSA largess in the first quarter of 2016 were three privately held corporations, which together received $2.7Mln CDN of the almost $5Mln CDN disbursed in total. They include:
It’s also worth noting that nine of the fourteen grants presented by the CSA during this quarter went to various universities in order to develop new uses for InSAR derived data.
That might change over the next little while. As outlined in the October 18th, 2016 post, “A Quick Update to ‘Iconic Macdonald Dettwiler is now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company,'” MDA seems more focused on growing its US business than on maintaining what were once its core Canadian assets.
|The hot fire test of a small-sat launcher engine in the Nevada desert in August 2014. The engine was a component of the Spaceborne Payloads Assist Rocket Kauai (SPARK) which was, as outlined in the August 18th, 2014 Via Satellite post, “Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Final Hot-Fire Test for LEONIDAS SmallSat Launcher Engine,” undergoing testing at that time. Photo c/o Via Satellite.|
What’s less well known is that 35+ smaller launchers are currently under development from a multitude of start-ups, legacy space companies and national space agencies. These new launchers, utilizing a variety of cutting edge and/or proven technologies, are targeting the small-sat market, a segment considered at present, to be under served by the existing providers.
Most will end up failing, but some won’t. Contenders include:
US small-sat launch providers are especially concerned over potential new competition from abroad, at least as outlined in the July 20th, 2016 Aviation Week and Space Technology post, “Dearth Of Dedicated Smallsat Launchers Challenges Fledgling Industry.”
And they have good reason to feel this way. The sixteen organizations listed above are less than half of the companies uncovered after a cursory search.
For the list of sixteen “other” organizations currently developing small-sat launchers, tune in next week.
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.
The inventor of a controversial propellant-less spacecraft engine has announced that he is forming a company and raising funds to launch a demonstrator into Earth orbit. A success would force a rethink of known physics and serve as vindication in the face of harsh criticism from the scientific community.
|The proposed mechanism for the Cannae drive, an updated Emdrive. As outlined in the August 4th, 2014 Nerdist post, “How Possible is that “Impossible” Space Drive,” NASA tested a version of this engine developed by American inventor Fetta in 2013 and found that it could produce “thrust without any fuel.” Of course,the Cannae and EM drives are both closed systems which seem to develop thrust out of thin air and violate the law of conservation of momentum, which states that “the total momentum of a closed system does not change.” Independent validation that the drive functions as advertised would certainly upend our current understanding of physics. Graphic c/o Nerdist.|
As outlined in the August 17th, 2016 press release under the mostly generic title, “Press Release from Cannae,”Guido Fetta, an American chemical engineer and CEO of Cannae Inc., has solicited commercial partners, including aerospace component manufacturer LAI International of Tempe, AZ and spacecraft engineering firm SpaceQuest Ltd. of Fairfax, VA to help design and launch an orbital cubesat, to test the engine.
This engine, dubbed the Cannae Drive, was invented in 2006 by Fetta. It consists of a conical chamber into which a magnetron emits microwaves. The microwaves cause the chamber to resonate and, so Fetta claims, produce thrust. Fetta’s device shares a lineage with another propellant-less engine, the EmDrive, first demonstrated by British engineer Roger Shawyer in 2003.
A propellant-less drive would revolutionize spaceflight. Satellites’ useful lifetimes would no longer be limited by their amount of on-board fuel and flight times through the solar system could be greatly reduced. The technology’s tantalizing prospects have helped spur enthusiasm for research, despite unknown physics and vocal opposition.
Shawyer’s EmDrive was initially ridiculed and ignored in the West. Scientists dismissed the idea of a propellant-less drive on the grounds that it violated the law of conservation of momentum i.e. that a spacecraft cannot accelerate forward without some form of exhaust ejected backwards.
Shawyer and Fetta have offered their own explanations for their results. Shawyer claims that relativistic effects produce different radiation pressures at the two ends of the drive, leading to a net force. Fetta has put forth a similar idea involving Lorentz (electromagnetic) forces.
In 2008, a Chinese research team at Xi’an Northwestern Polytechnic began investigating the EmDrive. The team conducted experiments and published a series of papers. In 2012, the team claimed to have built a device capable of producing a few ounces of thrust for a few kilowatts of input, comparable to standard ion thrusters.
In 2014, propellant-less drives gained wide exposure as NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratories team at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas tested several devices, including two built by Cannae Inc. When the Eagleworks team reported positive results, they encountered intense disbelief and open hostility from the scientific community.
Orthodox scientists’ reactions ranged from shrieking outrage over NASA’s supposed waste of taxpayer funds to open accusations of incompetence/fraud against Guido Fetta and the NASA Eagleworks team. Eagleworks researchers have suggested that the drives are actually pushing against “quantum vacuum virtual plasma“— virtual particles that shift in and out of existence. The team’s work continues and is currently undergoing peer review.
Editors Note: As outlined in the August, 30th, 2016 International Business Times article, “EmDrive: Nasa Eagleworks’ paper has finally passed peer review, says scientist in the know,” an “independent scientist” has “confirmed that the paper by scientists at the Nasa Eagleworks Laboratories on achieving thrust using highly controversial space propulsion technology EmDrive has passed peer review, and will soon be published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).”
For reaction to the announcement, check out the September 6th, 2016 Universe Today post, “NASA’S EM Drive Passes Peer Review, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up.”
In 2015, Martin Tajmar, a physicist at the Dresden University of Technology, investigated the EmDrive. Previously, Tajmar had highlighted various errors in Fetta’s experimental setups that had likely skewed their results. Despite this, when Tajmar built his own EmDrive, he found that it truly did appear to generate thrust. Tajmar has worked to rule out some sources of error in his experiments such as air currents, leaking microwaves, ionization, photon thrust—though not enough to satisfy skeptics.
Having endured intense skepticism and ridicule over the years, it appears that Guido Fetta has now decided to “go for broke.“
Roughly the size of a shoebox, one quarter of the cubesat will be taken up by a small Cannae drive. Fetta intends for the satellite to remain in orbit for at least six months. Doubtless, Fetta’s logic is that the longer the satellite remains in orbit, the more evident propellant-less thrust will be.
No launch date has been announced as yet.
In its derision of Fetta and Shawyer, the scientific community has dismissed their work as flawed and even fraudulent. A visceral demonstration of propellant-less propulsion will either prove the skeptics right or allow the technology to move forward and fulfill its potential.
Either way, progress continues.