This fall Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission, a trio of synthetic aperture radar satellites, will launch 15 years after its conception. In that time there have been government imposed delays and a budget that has grown to over $1 billion. Eric Choi wrote the following article for Space Quarterly Magazine which was published in the March 2013 Canadian edition. It is still relevant today.
The Defence and Security Applications of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission
On January 9, 2013, the Federal Government announced it will proceed with the implementation phase of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). Initially conceived almost a decade ago, the long-awaited announcement meant that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and its partners in government and industry can finally complete one of the most important Canadian space projects of this decade.
The RADARSAT Constellation Mission Space Segment will consist of a constellation of three identical satellites flying in low-Earth orbit (586 km to 615 km above the Earth). Each of the satellites in the constellation will be made up of a bus and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payload. There is also a secondary payload—an automated identification system (AIS) for ships—that will be used independently or in conjunction with the SAR. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.
Scheduled for launch later this decade, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission will serve the operational needs of Canadian Government departments in the areas of maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring. It will consist of three satellites spaced equally apart in a single orbital plane at a mean altitude of 600 km. By distributing capabilities across several smaller satellites, the system will be more robust and flexible with improved coverage and target revisit capabilities. Combined with the inherent ability of SAR to produce images day or night through clouds or haze, the utility of RCM to support both civilian and military applications is obvious, particularly with respect to oceans and the North.
“The North is changing extremely quickly,” says Lee Carson, president of Norstrat Consulting. “This represents a huge economic opportunity for Canada, but also an equally great challenge in terms of security and sovereignty. We can’t meet these challenges without continuously monitoring the region, and the only way for the Department of National Defence to cost-effectively monitor such a vast and remote area, which is dark for up to six months at a time, is from space using a radar-based system like RCM.”
Polar Epsilon is the Department of National Defence project for the utilization of RADARSAT-2 to support DND and Canadian Forces operational stakeholders. The follow-on project to utilize RCM is called, appropriately enough, Polar Epsilon 2. Many defence and security applications such as Northern and maritime surveillance require data in near real-time, on the order of fifteen minutes or less. As with RADARSAT-2, the RCM data will be downlinked through the Polar Epsilon ground stations at Masstown, Nova Scotia and Aldergrove, British Columbia. Data is processed at Aldergrove and automatically ingested into the Recognized Maritime Picture (RMP), an integrated plot of activities in Canadian waters that is used not only by the Canadian Forces, but also the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Canadian surveillance regions, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and area of responsibility (AOR). Credit: 2010 NATO Maritime Rapid Environmental Assessment Conference.
One of the RCM mission requirements is persistent wide-area maritime surveillance up to 2,200 km off the coasts of Canada, picking up ships 25 m or larger twice daily with a probability of detection greater than 80% and a false alarm rate of less than 10-8 in wave heights of up to four metres. To meet this requirement, RCM will be equipped with a ship detection mode that features a number of beams, resolutions and looks that are specifically designed to optimize vessel detection. The fundamental engineering challenge of detecting vessels with SAR is the ability to resolve the ship signal against sea surface clutter and other background noise. While RCM will be equipped with sophisticated on-board filtering and signal processing, the actual ship detection will be carried out through the processing of the SAR images on the ground.
Complementing the SAR payload will be a receiver to pick up Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages. AIS transponders are mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for ships of 300 tons or greater and all passenger vessels regardless of size. The fusion of AIS and SAR data will enable non-compliant or non-cooperative ships to be more quickly identified as targets of interest to be investigated by other Canadian Forces assets such as maritime patrol aircraft.
One of the most interesting applications of SAR is coherent change detection (CCD), which is a technique that relies on comparing the phase information between two or more radar images to detect subtle changes in a given area over time. Using CCD, it is possible to measure millimetre-level deformations on the ground, enabling several new applications. For example, CCD could detect the tracks of a vehicle that has travelled over a hard-packed dry surface sometime between two SAR image acquisitions.
The following trio of images show the results of a CCD evaluation trial conducted by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Ottawa using RADARSAT-1 imagery of a test site near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The upper panel shows the first “master” RADARSAT-1 image, and the middle panel shows the second “slave” image acquired one 24-day orbit repeat cycle later. The combined “coherence” image is shown in the lower panel, in which the dark areas indicate low SAR phase coherence and therefore areas of change. In the combined image, the broad regions of low coherence correspond to vegetation, drifting sand or areas of radar shadow. Linear features in the coherence image are of interest because these often correspond to roads or paths that could have been used for travel between the times of the two image acquisitions.
Example of coherent change detection using RADARSAT-1 imagery of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Credit: 10th IEEE International Conference on Information Fusion.
For coherent change detection, RCM will be a significant improvement over RADARSAT-2, explains Ralph Girard, CSA manager for radars and antennas. “The three RCM satellites will be spaced equally in the orbit plane such that each satellite can image the same area on the ground, with exactly same geometry, every four days. RADARSAT-2 can do the same thing but the repeat pass is only every 24 days, which is too long for many coherent change detection applications.”
Coherent change detection imposes significant requirements for orbit and attitude control of the RCM satellites. They will have to fly in a common orbital “tube” of no more than 100 m in radius, and stringent attitude control in pitch and yaw will be needed. This will require the RCM satellites to perform frequent orbit maintenance thruster burns, up to one per day during times of high solar activity. Constraints are also imposed on the antenna pointing error and spacecraft bus pointing knowledge. The star tracker on each RCM satellite will be mounted directly to the antenna support structure, and this structure will be decoupled from the spacecraft bus in order to reduce deformations due to differential thermal expansion.
Moving target indication (MTI) is another application enabled by SAR. RADARSAT-2 executes MTI through a mode called Moving Object Detection Experiment (MODEX), which is capable of picking up a mid-sized car travelling with a 40 km/h radial velocity in a rural area with 90% probability. MTI was not originally planned for RCM, in part because its smaller SAR antennas were thought to preclude a useful capability. For this reason, an RF switch that would be required for MTI is not currently baselined for the RCM SAR payload. However, researchers at DRDC Ottawa recently proposed achieving limited MTI functionality on RCM by using the programming flexibility of the satellites to change the receiver antenna configuration between radar pulses.
Adding an MTI capability to RCM would augment the existing ship detection mode and enable the detection of vessels smaller than 25 m in waves up to four metres in height, the detection of 25 m or larger ships in waves higher than four metres, an overall higher detection probability at the same false alarm rate, and improved discrimination between ice and vessels in Arctic waters. It would also expand originally specified capabilities such as estimating vessel speeds and probable headings as well as improving the ability to distinguish between ships and ambiguities at the littoral interface between land and sea. There could also be land applications such as motion pattern analysis to identify routes for initial deployment planning, for example before entering a potential conflict theatre or after a natural disaster like an earthquake.
“While RCM is the ultimate responsibility of the Canadian Space Agency, the potential capabilities it offers fall very clearly within the context of the Canada First Defence Strategy,” says DND spokesperson Daniel Blouin. “While the Canadian Forces rely on many resources to provide surveillance of Canada’s maritime approaches, satellite systems provide access to the ultimate high ground, allowing a unique perspective that cannot be matched.”
The Making of a Satellite – The RADARSAT Constellation - YouTube
Three months into his new job as the Group President of MDA in Canada and Mike Greenley is very busy shaping the 49 year old company to the realities of today, including ways to spur growth in a tough domestic market.
MDA, once the parent company of several business units in the U.S., is now one of four business units in the larger U.S. based Maxar Technologies, which it created. The other business units are SSL, DigitalGlobe and Radiant Solutions.
Being a player in the the defence and space sector in the U.S. brings unique challenges due to security issues. To grow the company MDA became Maxar.
Mike Greenley. Credit: Maxar Technologies Ltd.
Greenley assumed his new role on January 15 of this year. Greenley is an industry veteran having worked 22 years at companies such as Greenley & Associates (his own company), CAE, General Dynamics and most recently L3 Technologies in Burlington, Ontario where he was Sector President.
In this wide ranging interview, we discuss some of the changes Greenley has made since he came on board and the challenges in growing the business in Canada.
One of the notable changes Greenley instituted was moving senior management to the Brampton, Ontario office. Greenley says the downtown Vancouver office which served as MDA’s corporate headquarters will eventually close. Greenley notes though, he is already racking up the air miles as he now has a dedicated office in Richmond, BC and Montreal. He works where he needs to be.
Greenley also said that one of the reasons why Maxar Technologies moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Westminster, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, was that the state offered “some incentives and collaboration”. That decision was also made easier by having space available at DigitalGlobe’s spacious headquarters there.
Greenley also made mention of a new initiative, only a couple of months old, marketing new robotic kits for companies wanting to develop their own on-orbit servicing operations. This is an MDA led effort within Maxar, and leverages the years of legacy work the company has in the robotics field. It is one of the initiatives MDA is pursuing to build growth from its Canadian operations.
Listen to the interview.
Episode 42: Mike Greenley, MDA's new President, Canada's largest space company - SoundCloud (3181 secs long, 62 plays)Play in SoundCloud
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The Department of National Defence budget for 2018-19 has been set at $20,377,579,955, slightly lower than the previous year.
One of the key themes leading up to this years Departmental Plan (DP) has been the focus on the space and cyber domains.
The DP states that “Effective Innovation is critical for modern armed forces operating in a highly complex, increasingly contested global security environment. To be successful, Department of National Defence (DND) must exploit every type of advantage. This means promoting innovation across all National Defence organizations not only regarding new technologies, such as the emerging space and cyber domains, but also including the modernization of the business of defence.”
Here are some of the highlights related to the space domain.
Investments to enhance capability and capacity
To ensure the CAF are modern and relevant into the future, a number of investments are being made in modern capabilities, particularly in the areas of space, cyber and remotely piloted systems. Canada is modernizing its space capabilities and improving the protection of these critical assets against sophisticated threats, while continuing to promote the peaceful use of outer space. We are assuming a more assertive posture in the cyber domain by hardening our defences, and by improving our capability to conduct active cyber operations against potential adversaries in the context of government-authorized military missions. Given the unique value provided by remotely piloted systems, the CAF are also investing in an extensive range of new capabilities for the RCN, the CA, and the RCAF including remotely piloted aerial systems.”
Departmental Result 1.1 – Canadians are protected against threats to and attacks on Canada
Maintain a continuous watch over Canada’s land mass, air and maritime approaches and space and cyber domains to take action against threats before they reach Canadian shores and to respond appropriately to contingencies and requests for assistance.
Departmental Result 1.4 – North America is defended against threats and attacks
Expand Canada’s capacity to meet NORAD commitments by improving aerospace domain awareness and response through the implementation of the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) expansion. The ADIZ is a buffer zone of internationally-recognized airspace surrounding North America that facilitates the identification of aircraft well before they would enter sovereign Canadian or U.S. airspace. It is airspace of defined dimensions within which the ready identification, location, and control of airborne vehicles are required.
Departmental Result 2.1 – Canadian Armed Forces are ready to conduct concurrent operations
Advance the integration of our space-based capabilities with the next generation of Canadian Earth-observation satellites, known as the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, set to launch in 2018 to support whole-of-government surveillance needs including monitoring ice flows within Canada’s coastal waters; providing surveillance of Canada’s ocean approaches; monitoring environmental conditions, such as floods and forest fires; and managing and mapping natural resources in Canada and around the world.
Credit: Department of National Defence.
Credit: Department of National Defence.
In the last week the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and the Department of National Defence (DND) invested $16 million in support of three organizations.
Advantech Satellite Network gets $11.5 million
David Lametti, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of ISED announced the first investment last Wednesday, April 11 in Montreal.
Advantech “will develop an advanced satellite broadband network that will improve the performance of satellite communication systems. The total value of the project is $29 million.”
“The project will support the development of next-generation terminals and hubs for faster and higher-capacity broadband networks that allow data to be transmitted more efficiently across networks, leading to significantly lower network costs. These innovations could also lead to other broadband solutions that will help bring greater Internet access and more reliable service to communities in rural areas of Canada. As the technology can be adapted to any satellite, the project will position Advantech to capture a share of a growing global market.”
David Gelerman, President and CEO, Advantech Satellite Networks said “we are extremely honoured and excited that our High Throughput Satellite System [HTSS] project was awarded this contribution from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund. HTSS is an important piece of the overall telecommunications infrastructure and plays a major role in producing visible and concrete outcomes for areas without access to high-speed Internet. The technology being developed will showcase Canadian satellite companies’ innovations that will help them provide affordable connectivity for the benefit of all Canadians, eliminating the digital divide for hard-to-reach regions, including the Arctic. It will also enhance Canadian satellite technology exports worldwide.”
Institute for Quantum Computing – University of Waterloo gets $2.7 million
On April 12 in Waterloo Liberal Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism announced a $2.7 million contract to Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo.
“The Arctic presents unique challenges for a variety of remote sensing methods including radar. Space weather such as geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms and solar flares interfere with radar operation and prevent the effective identification of objects. A new sensing technique – quantum illumination – will allow radar operators to cut through heavy background noise and isolate objects, including stealth aircraft, with unparalleled accuracy.”
“Practical quantum illumination requires on-demand and rapid emission of photons – single particles of light – in entangled (highly correlated) pairs. Quantum illumination has been demonstrated in a laboratory setting. This project supports the development of an on-demand, high-rate source of correlated photon pairs, enabling this technology to move from the lab to the field.”
In a news release Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan said “radar is our eye in the sky, especially in the Arctic, which presents unique challenges for a variety of remote sensing methods. Quantum technology is one of the latest innovations in this area and we are proud to partner with the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo toward the further development of this technology in support of the defence of Canada and Canadians.”
Pleased to announce that #GoC is partnering with @UWaterloo with an investment of $2.7M to support the research & advancement of quantum radar tech that could one day serve ’s air surveillance needs on our northern border! pic.twitter.com/UW6JeqBTxa
In a news the release the government said that “through these contracts, Neptec will develop a miniature three-dimensional camera that could enable rovers to navigate autonomously on the Moon and Mars, or on Earth. This technology would allow rovers to collect more scientific data, thereby maximizing the scientific returns of their missions.”
“Neptec will also partner with Thales Alenia Space Switzerland, the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), and McMaster University to develop an optical communications system. This innovative system will use light to securely transfer information between Earth and satellites.”
“Lastly, Neptec will develop a new automated cell culture system to help us study the impacts of microgravity on the human body.”
The graph below, provided by the CSA, shows a six year spending trend that is obviously not going in the direction the space community expected. And considering what many other leading space nations are spending, and what emerging nations are planning on spending, it is perplexing. Somewhere the government lost sight that the space sector provides a positive economic multiplier.
It should also be noted that what the graph doesn’t show, but which is outlined in the report, is that actual expenditures for 2015-16 and 2016-17 were lower than what was expected to be spent. In 2015-16, the spend was to have been $483 million but was $412 million. In 2016-17 the spend was to have been $432 million but was $388 million.
Part of the downward trend can be attributed to reduction in spending on the RADARSAT Constellation Mission program which is set to launch this fall. The build phase of the program is complete. With no new significant programs announced, it’s no surprise the budget is going lower.
Canadian Space Agency Departmental spending trend graph. Credit: CSA.
What the CSA is planning on spending this year
We would like to provide you in-depth detail that is usually found in the CSA’s Sub and Sub-Sub Programs portion of the Department Plan, but it was not included this year. The government has instituted a new government wide InfoBase website with data on every agency. Unfortunately data for the CSA’s current budget year for Spending by Program is not available. We are reaching out to the Canadian Space Agency to get this data as soon as possible.
The report does highlight a few items worth mentioning;
In the fall of 2018, an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the next wave of the Space and Technology Development Program will be launched to invest $10.0M in promising space technologies. At the same time, the CSA’s investment in 32 companies for a value of approximately $20.0M resulting from the 2017–18 AO will support companies in such areas as artificial cognitive systems to support medical diagnostics in long-duration spaceflights and related terrestrial applications, and the improvement of satellites’ downlink capacity using optical systems.
The Science, Technology and Expertise Development in Academia (STEDiA) initiative will also invest $3.6M in the Flights and Fieldwork for the Advancement of Science and Technologyxv to support space research in Canadian post-secondary institutions.
The CSA will also invest $2.3M in Solar-Terrestrial and Earth System Science and $0.5M in Science and Operational Applications Research in Earth Observation.
in 2018–19, through Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canadaxxii (ISC) initiative, the CSA will invest $0.3M in small businesses to prove the scientific and technical feasibility, and commercial potential, of a novel idea that addresses a public sector challenge.
In 2018–19, the CSA will invest $1.6M in contributions to support Canadian industry in the development of novel applications and services using Earth observation space-based data and information. These innovative applications that seek to integrate data from CSA-supported missions with other massive data sources will help Canadian companies gain competitiveness by tapping into the possibilities offered by big data, cloud computing and machine-to-machine technologies. Combining CSA data such as RADARSAT-1xxiv and RADARSAT-2xvi data with free and open satellite data (Sentinel, Envisat, Landsat), commercial satellite data, in-situ measurements and products like soil maps and weather models, furthers the impact of the CSA’s investments.
The current Liberal government has what on paper appears to be a strong innovation agenda but they seem to have forgotten about the space program.
The U.S. in a strong bipartisan fashion is supporting the space program to record spending levels. Think about that statement in context of the current political mess south of the border. If all parties south of the border can agree that spending on the space program is important and will provide economic benefit, why isn’t the government in Canada doing the same? That might be a good question for Question Period and your local member of parliament.
Perhaps the government should also listen to Vice President Mike Pence speech today the 34th Space Symposium. And note, the live stream was sponsored by none other than Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd).
Vice President Mike Pence Live Stream: 34th Space Symposium - YouTube
As the Canadian government considers what do to about the future of Canada’s space program we thought it might be worth looking back a few years to the same question that was posed in the U.S. This interview by Eva-Jane Lark with Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses how space and the economy are interrelated. The interview first appeared in Space Quarterly Magazine in September 2012.
Space – A Healthy Space Program Equals A Healthy Economy
Eva: While you are primarily an astrophysicist and the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, you are becoming better known for your space policy views and as the go-to-guy when the media solicits opinions on space. In that context, what do you think are the most important issues facing space exploration and space development today?
Neil: By far, it is whether the electorate understands the value of a healthy space program to the health of the economy going forward. That is the biggest challenge. To the extent that the public is unaware of this, it means our elected officials will not care. If the elected officials don’t care, then nothing happens.
Eva: So, the electorate, the individual citizens and voters are the key. How can voters put space on the agenda with their candidates and help to increase spending on, or investment in space?
Neil: Well, once it becomes a fundamental part of the American identity, it’s not even about putting it on the agenda. When politicians run for office at any level, especially the federal level, they don’t say “well, let’s put veteran’s benefits on the table and debate that”. No! It’s not up for debate. Just shut up, put it back in the budget and let’s move on to other topics. There are things that just don’t get debated because it is fundamental to what we know as a nation that we need to supply and provide. The day that happens with people’s understanding and recognition of the value of a healthy space industry, a healthy space vision statement for the country; the day that happens, it’s not on the table. It doesn’t matter who gets elected. They will follow through with the interest of the electorate.
Eva: This isn’t true for this upcoming election, so you are talking about a much longer term change that needs to occur…
Neil: That depends on how long it takes for someone to be absorbed by an argument. It’s a relatively simple argument. It’s just a little bit more complex than some arguments you might typically hear. I think our brain is wired to think of only direct causes and effects. Right? If something is going along with A, then you do B; if C, then you do D. But suppose, suppose if there is something wrong with A, then you have to do B, that leads to C, which influences D, and then it’s E that gets F to fix A. Well that takes a little longer to engage. And that is precisely what is going on here and now. So rather than using letters, let me use actual examples…
Eva: Please do…
Neil: History has shown that a healthy space program will advance a frontier in a way that makes headlines. And when you make headlines with an advanced frontier, people take notice of it, the press takes notice of it. People who are not scientists and engineers take notice of it. Artists take notice of it. Journalists take notice of it. Everyone becomes a participant on that frontier, and you can’t wait to find out what the next discovery is going to be a few weeks later, a couple of months later. It becomes an activity of the culture. When that happens, everyone sees the role and the value of science and technology as a driver of this activity. And you then no longer need programs to convince kids that science and technology is interesting and is something that they should do. It will be manifest and self-evident in the daily papers. They then want to become scientists and engineers and they do become scientists and engineers. And there are places for them to apply their expertise at the end of the educational pipeline. While this is going on, like I said, even people who are not scientists and engineers participate but more importantly, the stimulated interest in how science and technology can bring about a future that we have ever only dreamed about, that culture, I call it an “Innovation Nation” creates the economies of the 21st century. And when you create the economies of the 21st century, you keep your jobs from moving overseas, because they haven’t figured out how to do it yet, because you have just innovated it. You don’t need programs to convince people that science is fun because they will see daily what the fruits of science are bringing, in the newspapers. You’d create whole new economies that stoke your nation’s economic health. And so, all of this unfolds. And, by the way, you have the government leading a frontier and then commercial doing the routine things behind it. That is the space frontier, plus industry, that would bring about what I describe. That takes a little longer than an elevator ride.
Eva: It does indeed.
Neil: Oh, “go to space because you have spin-offs”; oh, “every dollar you spend in space is spent here on Earth”; those are tired arguments and in fact none of them actually work. I’ve been called upon so often, not because I am saying what everyone else is saying but because I am saying something different. And the extent to which I have thought about this problem has led to solutions that I think are overdue for having been put into place.
Eva: Thinking of solutions, is there any way to make an impact when there is only a very short time period between now and the next election?
Neil: There is. You can force them to have a debate on the value of space. The public can be armed with what they know the value of space to be, and you can have the conversation. You can say “this guy doesn’t know jack about anything”, “this person needs to be more educated about it”. Who do I pick? Right? And as sure as day follows night, they are going to do research on what the public wants and they are going to give the public what they want, if we live in any kind of democracy. So, I don’t think it is a ten year plan, I think it is a six month plan. I think with the right constructs, you can make space part of the agenda. Once space is recognized as fundamental to the economy, as they say “it’s the economy, stupid”, if they don’t make a link between space and the economy then they are losing an opportunity to see what role innovations in science and technology can serve in driving the future health of the country.
Eva: It often seems that the connection between space, the innovations in the space industry and their impact on the economy has been poorly communicated. Space exploration and the various space programs (civil/security/international) have historically been incredible drivers of innovation with significant applications beyond the space industry, creating whole new industries and products terrestrially. What do you think is the connection between innovation and prosperity? Are we at risk of affecting our future, and our future prosperity, by cutbacks in our space programs?
Neil: The reason why the previous arguments haven’t been working, with regard to the economy, is because they haven’t made the right leap. This is in my judgment.
Eva: Is it because it is poorly communicated or could language be part of the issue – for example the word “spin-off” has an incidental, unimportant connotation to it?
Neil: Exactly. So first the spin-off and then there are the ancillary industries that grow up around where government monies have gone. I’m not even talking about that. I am talking about a culture, that is exposed daily or weekly to discovery. When you are moving a frontier, stuff gets discovered every day. New ways of doing things happen every day. That culture is what fosters creative thinking in everybody.
Eva: Cultures seem challenging to create. They seem more to develop on their own or evolve…
Neil: You can put in seeds to affect it but it is harder to communicate the value of a culture in an elevator ride. People don’t think of culture. You just live your life. It is. You don’t think of a cultural force. There is a funded program that goes A to B, right? You think of a company that invented things, so that’s just that. And you look at everything under a magnifying glass. You don’t step back and say, “wait a minute, there’s this underlying force operating in all these sectors”. That underlying force which is felt by us all is our culture. Space can create a culture which can transform our economy.
Eva: What do you think an individual can do to enhance that cultural development? You’ve obviously been doing your part, presenting and communicating this…
Neil: There are op-eds, there are letters to the editor, there are YouTube clips, there are web pages. There’s a Facebook page now called “Penny4NASA” which represents the doubling of NASA’s budget. There’s a very popular video that is almost viral that talks about increasing NASA’s budget. And these are very creative videographers. They themselves are not scientists or engineers but they want to still be able to dream about the future. So, you say, what can a citizen do? A citizen can require that their elected officials understand what space means to America. They can require that of their officials. You either vote for them or you don’t. Like I said, of all the ways one might get their views known, there are many that still work. That’s what I would encourage people to do.
Eva: Penny4NASA – I assume that started after you proposed the idea?
Neil: I have had the idea in speeches; it showed up in the book, so I am assuming it started with me. I said “double NASA’s budget” but I started saying it when they were getting seven tenths of a cent on the dollar. When it dropped to half a penny, I figured, well they ought to be able to do what they need to do for a penny. And then all the arithmetic came out clean and easy. That’s part of a grassroots movement that I think is great. What makes it grassroots is that it doesn’t even reference me. That means it’s not some guru’s movement, it’s not some cult. People are taking ownership of that vision statement. That matters deeply to me. If people said “do this because Tyson said”, then what am I creating here? I don’t want it because I said it. I want it because I made an argument that was so compelling to you that you took ownership of that argument yourself and you are sharing that argument with others.
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's remarks at Senate Commerce hearing on the future of our space program - YouTube
Eva: The argument still has many ears to reach. One thing that comes to many people’s minds when they hear that suggestion is how would we ensure that the extra money NASA receives is invested wisely and effectively so we see the highest return on investment? And what kinds of investments would you like to see more of by NASA?
Neil: That needs to happen for any government agency. It is not a uniquely important concern for NASA versus anyone else. We should have it for the military, for the Department of Education, for the Department of Energy. All government agencies should be efficient.
Eva: Are there specific kinds of investments would you like to see NASA make more of?
NASA, I think, to be as healthy as it possibly can be, should develop a suite of launch vehicles that can be differently configured on a whim; to go where ever anyone wants in the solar system.
Eva: Do you think NASA should build these themselves or through a program like the COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation System) program, creating an incentive for industry to develop this suite of vehicles?
Neil: I think industry has been under-tapped for the last decade. Of course industry has built more things. Grumman built the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module), for goodness sake. So it is not like NASA has not had conversations and relationships with industry before. If you are doing something that has never been done before, it is harder to get industry to do it. It is harder to make a business model. That is when you rely more heavily on the government source of those funds. Once the maps are drawn and the tradewinds are established and you can quantify the risks, then you invite private enterprise to create the capital market valuation of that level of participation. I see industry as a fundamental part of moving forward, but industry can never actually lead an advancing space frontier. It is not economically possible.
Eva: At the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace Business Plan Competition recently, one of the criteria for awarding the $100,000 grand prize was that the business be space enabling. Are there any enabling technologies or businesses that you feel are important to focus on immediately to build this space focused or innovation integrating culture.
Neil: No, it will just happen. The book I came out with in March, it’s called Space Chronicles. The issue here is that anything anyone does that hasn’t been done before is going to involve a discovery, it’s going to involve patents. Period. I don’t have to have a detailed conversation about propulsion systems or solid versus liquid rocket, or number of stages, or is it a space plane. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. You do it because it has never been done before. And it attracts the smartest people in the country to do it. And it makes headlines because when something happens in space, it makes headlines. And when that makes headlines, everyone wants to do it! That is the force that no one has talked about. It’s not that they have tried and failed, they have never even thought about it that way. My book’s original title that I submitted to the publisher, was called: Failure to Launch: The Dreams and Delusions of Space Enthusiasts. The space community thinks they understand the causes and effects of why we go into space. My read of history tell me that they are the most delusionally susceptible bunch. To say “we went to the Moon by 1969, we just need the political will to get to Mars by the 1980s” – No! We went to the Moon because we were at war. That’s why we went to the Moon. Not because it is in our DNA or because we are discoverers, or because Kennedy had charisma; you make your list…, none of those are the reasons why we went to the Moon. So, to say “we should have been on Mars by 1985” – that is delusional. If you sift through all of the delusions and put them in the trash, then you get to the brass tacks… and the brass tacks are: The public has no obligation to care about space, the way space people do. There is no obligation. We are in a free society. We are in a capitalist society as well. No one wants to die so we fund defense programs. No one wants to die poor, so the country ought to do things to keep itself wealthy. And what do you do? You need people around you who invent stuff that makes you wealthy. In the 21st century those are scientists and engineers. NASA is a force of nature, in making people want to become scientists and engineers, whether or not they end up working for NASA. So – I don’t care about the type of program. What is important is that you are going to invent something that will be tomorrow’s headline. That’s the flywheel of innovation and seduction that operates on our culture, and that’s what will bring us into tomorrow.
Eva: The most recent headlines were on Curiosity’s landing on Mars, and hopefully the near tomorrow headlines will be about her discoveries. How important is this to NASA’s budget, especially for science missions.
Neil: It is an example of what should be more, but it is only one at the moment of how activity in space makes headlines. You do something in space and it makes headlines. It makes bigger headlines than anything new done on Earth that has never been done before. I used to think I was biased. I know now that I am not. If you want to become a geologist and study volcanoes on Earth, fine. And say that I am someone who is going to study Olympus Mons on Mars. It is the largest volcano in the solar system. Then I win. I win every time. You could be studying Pinatubo in Chile and it could blow any day – and that’s exciting, right? If I start talking about going to Mars to study Olympus Mons, and it is six times bigger than Mt. Everest – who’s with me? I win. Because space wins. Space connects to us like no other force that I know. That is why NASA is a force of nature unto itself.
You asked “Is this good for NASA’s budget? I am saying – anything NASA does that has not been done before; that triggers a headline and it is the headline that triggers the interest in the STEM field, and it is the STEM field that leads to a healthy economy. It doesn’t matter if you even like Mars rovers, with this argument, you know it will stoke our economy, and you don’t want to die poor, in a nation that’s impoverished that rapidly recedes to a third world status.
A Conversation with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at the 28th National Space Symposium - YouTube
Eva: Why do you think then that NASA is not entirely focused on doing new things?
Neil: They don’t have a budget to do it. They have been busy doing things they should have been ceded to private enterprise long ago. The International Space Station is an engineering frontier. It is not a space frontier. Engineering frontiers rarely make the headlines that space frontiers do. That’s the way it is. Let’s exploit that fact for the benefit of our economy. And, by the way, some people along the way will do it because they like to explore.
Eva: So you aren’t recommending specific missions…
Neil: No, I am not. I am saying – Do everything. Period. Have a suite of launch vehicles that will get us anywhere we want with different configurations and propulsion set-ups and there they are available. Oh, you want to do some science? Take 2 from column A, one from column B, put your robot in the payload and off you go. Oh, you want to mine this asteroid? That’s a different configuration. Here you go… Well, I have to invent something if I am going to mine it, there’s five patents awarded for that. By the way, I need lawyers to figure out if that is even legal. There’s a romantic image of prospectors on an asteroid. Novels get written. TV shows get produced. Oh, I want to have a tourist jaunt to the far side of the Moon where you can’t even see Earth. Earth is not in the sky. That is an otherworldly landscape there for you. Oh, I want to go to a Lagrangian point floating in space; maybe I want to do science there or maybe there is a security reason for going there, that’s another configuration. The whole solar system is our back yard. I’m not prioritizing it. Whoever has the need – be it the military, tourists, be it mining, be it scientific, be it security – we can do it. If you double NASA’s budget it puts the solar system into our back yard.
Eva: Earlier we talked about the relationship between innovation, prosperity and space. Can you go expand on that a bit more?
Neil: Sure. There are many contributors to the GDP, in any country. The mixture of what makes up a nation’s GDP versus another is often quite the measure of the identity of that country. It quite often reveals what a country is about. If you look at America’s GDP and you ask – “which of these are things we can sustain”? Agriculture – can we grow more? The farming industry has made extraordinary and persistent incremental advances over the century, so today’s farming is unlike anything that has happened before. It can still grow but likely in an incremental way. You want to look at the economy and say “what sector will create an entire economy that didn’t exist before”? You aren’t going to look to farming. You aren’t going to look to the music industry. You’re not going to look to the arts or many other parts of our GDP. While those industries can get better and they can grow a little bit, they are not going to birth an entirely new industry. Only science and technology, science has shown, has the power to do that. Innovation in science and technology in the 21st century would be the only hope to revolutionarily grow an economy.
Eva: Neil, is your whole day, outside of the museum, spent writing and thinking about these issues and how to convey them more widely?
Neil: No, definitely not. I would rather, at all times, just stay home and play with my kids. In expressing these thoughts, I feel I am a servant. I am a servant of the public appetite for the cosmos. I am offering information so people can judge the consequences of action or inaction based on an informed state of mind. Once I present them, I go home.
Eva: What do your kids think of space?
Neil: I think they think of it as a natural part of their landscape growing up and that it is part of their culture.
Eva: What a lively and informative discussion, Neil! Thank you so..
This week we’re doing something a little different and unplanned. On Friday, April 6 Western University in London, Ontario held its 4th annual Space Day.
Western University is one of the leading planetary sciences universities in Canada, if not the best. The keynote speaker was former Canadian astronaut, Dr. Dave Williams.
Williams first flew on two space shuttle missions, STS-90 in April of 1998 and then again on STS-118 in August 2007. He holds the Canadian cumulative long duration record for spacewalks. He is also the writer of several children books including, Go for Liftoff, To Burp or Not to Burp and this fall will have his first adult book published, Defying Limits: My Life as an Astronaut, Doctor, and Explorer.
Williams is an excellent speaker and story teller. For that reason we decided to share his unedited speech in this weeks podcast. Enjoy.
Episode 41: Dr. Dave Williams on Missions Beyond Earth Orbit - SoundCloud (3616 secs long, 34 plays)Play in SoundCloud
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Maritime Launch Services (MLS), the company looking to build a spaceport in Nova Scotia, has received a letter of intent from an undisclosed launch company to use the spaceport the company announced in a newsletter update today.
In the newsletter the company said “MLS has a signed Letter of Intent from a client that intends to use our spaceport for the launch of their own rocket. This company sees the market potential our site offers to launch smaller payloads into low earth orbit. While their launch vehicle is still under development, their intention is to tap the services MLS provides to be able to launch their rocket beginning in 4 to 5 years.”
The company also stated that it “is also working closely with new satellite clients that plan to put their payloads aboard the Cyclone 4M with new Letters of Intent being signed.”
It was a month ago that SpaceQ reported that MLS was close to submitting their environmental assessment report to the Nova Scotia government. Today the company said “Strum Consulting of Nova Scotia has completed all the data collection required for the environmental assessment and has compiled the report, which is currently being submitted to Nova Scotia Environment. Once submitted and accepted by Nova Scotia Environment, the government conducts a 50-day review which includes a 30-day period for public input.”
With respect to financing the company said “pacing MLS’s overall initiative is the capital raise required to construct a $100 million dollar launch complex. To that end, MLS is pleased to announce the engagement and partnership with Jacob Capital Management Inc (JCMI), based in Toronto, to lead the team of strategic and financial advisory services associated with MLS’s investor strategy. JCMI’s leadership has a strong track record globally and has participated in over $10 billion in equity financing across industries that include energy, mining, power & infrastructure, and technology solutions.”
MLS said it is making progress with working its Ukrainian suppliers. Specifically MLS reports that it “has also finalized its first phase of contracts with launch vehicle suppliers, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash. These contracts will continue the development of the Cyclone 4M and the launch complex design. Also in conjunction with Yuzhnoye, MLS has compiled a comprehensive design input document for the launch complex. This is an end-to-end design criteria for the development of the spaceport.”
The company also mentioned that it had intended to begin construction this sprung but that “respectful of the time required in the process for site approval and mindful of the need to ensure capital is well secured, the schedule has been adjusted by a few months and updates will be provided as progress continues.”
On Monday the Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan announced the launch of the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program. The first call for proposals for the $1.6 billion program includes challenges related to the space domain such as cyber and identifying and characterization of objects in space. With that in mind we’re publishing this story which first appeared in Space Quarterly Magazine in March 2013. It’s as relevant today as it was five years ago.
The Emerging Space Cyberwarfare Theatre
Cyberspace and outer space are merging to become the primary battlefield for global power in the 21st century. Both space and cyberspace systems are critical in enabling modern warfare—for strike precision, navigation, communication, information gathering—and it therefore makes sense to speak of a new, combined space-cyberspace military high-ground. This article will discuss the similarities, key differences, and potential consequences of this.
From the moment Sputnik was launched in 1957, and everyone’s head turned skyward, space has occupied the military high-ground, defining much of the next fifty years of global geopolitics. Space-based systems, for the first time, broke the link between a nation’s physical territory and its global ability to gather information, communicate, navigate, and project power.
In the 1980’s, the rise of advanced ICT—information and communications technology—enabled the creation of the modern internet and what we’ve come to call cyberspace, a loosely-defined term that encompasses the global patchwork collection of civilian, government and military computer systems and networks. For the same reasons that space came to occupy the military high-ground—information gathering, navigation, communication—cyberspace is now taking center stage.
From a terrestrial point of view, space-based systems operate in a distant realm, but from a cyber point of view, space systems are no different than terrestrial ones. In the last decade, there has been a seamless integration of the internet into space systems, and communications satellites are increasingly internet-based. One can make the case that that space systems are now a part of cyberspace, and thus that space doctrine in the future will be heavily dependent upon cyber doctrine.
The argument can also be made, however, that cyberspace, in part, exists and rests upon space-based systems. Cyberspace is still based in the physical world, in the data processing and communications systems that make it possible. In the military domain, cyberspace is heavily reliant on the physical infrastructure of space-based systems, and is therefore subject to some of the same threats.
Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla, Chief, Information Dominance and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force speaks at the National Space Symposium Cyber 1.2 conference in April 2012. Credit: SpaceRef
Space and cyberspace have several similarities. Both are entirely technological domains that only exist due to advanced technology. They are new domains of human activity created by, and uniquely accessible through, sophisticated technology. Both are vigorous arenas for international competition, the outcomes of which will affect the global distribution of power. It is no coincidence that aspiring powers are building space programs at the same time as they are building advanced cyber programs.
Space and cyberspace are both seen as a global commons, domains that are shared between all nations. For most of human history, the ability of one group of humans to influence another was largely tied to control of physical territory. Space and cyberspace both break this constraint, and while there is a general common interest to work cooperatively in peace, there has inevitably been a militarization in both domains. As with any commons, over time they will become congested, and new rules will have to be implemented to deal with this.
Congestion and disruption are problems in both space and cyberspace. Ninety percent of email is spam, and a large proportion of traffic over any network is from malware, which clogs up and endangers cyberspace. Cyberattacks are now moving from email as the primary vector, to using customized web applications using tools such as the Blackhole automated attack toolkit. Cyberattack by nation-states is now joining the criminal use of spam, viruses, Trojans and worms as deliberate attempts to attack and disrupt cyberspace.
The congestion analogy in space is that entire orbital regions can become clogged with debris. Tens of thousands of objects, from satellites and booster rockets to smaller items as nuts and bolts, now clog the orbital space around Earth. The danger of this was dramatically illustrated when an Iridium satellite was destroyed when it was hit by a discarded Russian booster in February of 2009. The situation can be made dramatically worse by purposely creating debris fields, as the Chinese did when they conducted an anti-satellite test in 2007 using a kinetic kill. Over time, entire orbital regions could become unusable.
Another similarity is that while traditional air-sea-land domains are covered under the UN—Law of the Sea, Arctic, Climate Change, Biodiversity—outer space and cyberspace still operate under ad-hoc agreements mostly outside of UN frameworks. They both expand the range of human activity far in advance of laws and rules to cover the new areas being used and explored. Because space can be viewed as a sub-domain of cyberspace, any new rules brought into effect to govern cyberspace, will also affect outer space.
If there are many similarities between space and cyberspace, there are some critical differences, the most important being that space-based systems require massive capital outlays, while in comparison, cyberspace requires very little. As James Oberg points out in his book Space Power Theory, the most obvious limitation on the exercise of space power is cost, with the astronomical cost of launch first among these.
Cyberspace, on the other hand, has a low threshold for entry, giving rise to the reality that governance of an extremely high-cost domain, space systems, will be dictated by rules derived from the comparatively low-cost domain of cyberspace. Space power resides on assumption of exceptionalism, that it is difficult to achieve, giving nations possessing it a privileged role in determining the balance of global power. In contrast, cyberspace, and the ability to conduct cyberwar, is accessible to any nation, or even private organizations or individuals, which have the intent.
Another important defining characteristic of cyberwarfare is the difficulty with attribution. Deterrence is only effective as a military strategy if you can know, with certainty, who it was that attacked you, but in a cyberattack, there is purposeful obfuscation that makes attribution very difficult.
To most people, the term cyberwar still has a metaphorical quality, like the War on Obesity, probably because there hasn’t yet been a cyberattack that directly resulted in a large loss of life. In many analysts’ opinions, this is just a matter of time, especially given internet-centric reliance of a modern nations’ critical infrastructure. Cyberwar has already started, and is beginning to gain in frequency and intensity.
Cadet 1st Class Jordan Keefer, center, coordinates cadet efforts to defend their network during the National Security Agency’s Cyber Defense Exercise April 17, 2012. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy.
The first cyberattack can be traced back to the alleged 1982 sabotage of the Soviet Urengoy–Surgut–Chelyabinsk natural gas pipeline by the CIA—as a part of a policy to counter Soviet theft of Canadian technology—that resulted in a three-kiloton explosion, comparable to a small nuclear device. Titan Rain is the name the US government gave a series of coordinated cyberattacks against it over a three-year period from 2003 to 2006, and in 2007 Estonia was subject to an intense cyberattack that swamped the information systems of its parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters.
In 2011, the McAfee security company revealed a series of cyberattacks, that it dubbed Night Dragon, against Western critical infrastructure companies, most specifically against the energy grid. This is significant because of the Aurora Test conducted by Idaho National Laboratory in conjunction with the Department of Energy in early 2007. In this test, a 21-line package of software code, delivered remotely, caused a large commercial electrical generator to self-destruct by rapidly recycling its circuit breakers, demonstrating that cyberattack can destroy physical infrastructure.
A new breed of sophisticated cyberweapon was revealed when the Stuxnet worm attacked Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facilities in June of 2010. It was not the first time that hackers targeted industrial systems, but it was the first discovered malware that subverted industrial systems. A recent game-changer was the August, 2012 Shamoon virus that knocked out 50,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, forcing that company to spend a week restoring global services. Shamoon was significant because it was specifically design to inflict damage, and was one of the first examples of a military cyberweapon being used against a civilian target. It is only a matter of time before a cyberweapon targeting space-based systems is unleashed, if it already hasn’t happened.
It is worth it to back up and explore the core issues surrounding internet security. The internet was originally designed as a redundant, self-healing network, the sort of thing that is purposely hard to centrally control. In the late 80’s it evolved into an information-sharing tool for universities and researchers, and in the 90’s it morphed into America’s shopping mall. Now it has become something that is hard, even impossible, to define—so we just call it cyberspace, and leave it at that.
First and foremost, there is the issue that while everyone runs the internet, nobody is really in charge of it. ICANN— The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—exerts some control, but the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), convened by UN in 2001, was created because nations around world have become increasingly uneasy that their critical infrastructures, and economies, are dependent on the internet, a medium that they had little control over and no governance oversight. The issue has still not been resolved. To the libertarian-minded creators of the internet, decentralized control is a feature, but to governments trying to secure nuclear power stations and space-based assets, it is a serious flaw.
A large part of the problem is that we are trying to use the same internet-based technology for social networking and digital scrap-booking, and use this same technology to control power stations and satellites. Not that long ago, critical systems—space systems, power grid, water systems, nuclear power plants, dams—had their own proprietary technologies that were used to control them, but many of these have been replaced these with internet-based technologies as a cost-savings measure. The consequence is that as a result, now nearly everything can be attacked via the internet.
Another problem is that a truly secure internet is not in the common interest of freedom, nor in the interest of software producers—a curious statement, but one that is true. As more of our lives move into the cyber realm, for everything from banking to dating, a truly secure internet would be the same as installing CCTV cameras on every street and inside every home. Privacy is one of the cornerstones of freedom and civil liberty, and a truly secure internet would bring about an end to privacy, and thus an end to freedom—at least in the sense that we understand it today.
When it comes to software producers, while they would like their products to be secure from hackers, they have a competing interest in wanting to able to access their software installed on customers’ machines. They want to be able to collect as much information as possible, to sell to third parties or use in their own marketing, and also to want to update new features into their software remotely. Often, this is to install patches to discovered security vulnerabilities, precisely because code is poorly written to begin with, because they realize they can update it later. This backdoor into software is a huge security flaw—one that companies purposely build into their products—and is one that has been regularly exploited by hackers.
The first is that, because we use the same internet-based technology to support both the private lives of individuals and operate critical infrastructure, there will be a perpetual balancing act between these two competing interests when it comes to security. Another is that until the general public really sees cybersecurity as a threat, many of the fixable problems will not be addressed, such as setting international prohibitions on cyberespionage—making them comparable in severity to physical incursions into the physical sovereign space of a nation-state—or forcing software companies to get serious about secure coding practices and eliminating backdoors into their products.
Because of the extremely high value of space-based assets, and because they are already a seamless part of cyberspace, when a major cyber conflict does emerge, space systems will be primary targets for cyberattack. Even if space systems are not directly attacked, they may be affected. There can be no known blast radius to a cyberweapon when it is unleashed. Even the Stuxnet worm, which was highly targeted in several ways, still infected other industrial control systems around the world, causing untold collateral damage.
A more difficult threat to consider than simply denying access or service to a space system through cyberattack is the problem of integrity. In the cybersecurity world, the three things to protect are confidentiality (keeping something secret, and being able to verify this), availability, and integrity of data. Integrity is by far the hardest to protect and ensure. If a cyberattacker, for example, decided on a slow (over time) modification of data in a critical space junk database, they could influence moving satellites into harm’s way.
Over the last fifty years, a comprehensive strategy based around deterrence was developed in conjunction with the idea of space power theory. In the future, a comparable framework and space-cyberspace power theory will need to be developed. Many questions need to be answered, most especially regarding how the international community will establish rules for cyberspace, the definition of rules for cyberwar, proportionality of response, and how to deal with the problem of attribution. Exactly how the developing cyberwar doctrine will affect the way outer space is governed remains to be seen.
The Department of Defence (DND) yesterday announced the $1.6 billion Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEeS) program that includes opportunities in the space domain.
The new initiative is part of the governments ongoing innovation agenda with this program focused on helping the Department of Defence and is being rolled out as part of last years new defence policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged”.
The announcement is just the first part of a multi-part program spread out over 20 years. The IDEeS program aims create innovative solutions along a 9 level solution readiness level (SRL) over the course of the program.
The first component, 1a, is meant to establish science and technology (S&T) merit, innovativeness and impact.
Solutions in this area are meant to fall within SRL’s 1 -6.
There are 16 science and technology challenges;
Understanding and addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Recruit, retain, and reach 25% female representation by 2026
Cognitive Performance Enhancement
Predicting and Optimizing Personnel Performance
Human Performance in Extreme Climatic Environments
Detection and Classification of Objects of Interest
Persistent Maritime Surveillance
Lightweight Ballistic Protection
Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) Hazard Detection and Planning
Collaboration of Robotic Systems
Resilient Non-Global Positioning System (GPS) Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing
Identification and Characterization of Space Objects
What is in that Full Motion Video?
Making Sense of the Chatter
Cyber Attribution for the Defence of Canada
In announcing the program Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan said “the IDEaS Program will provide unique opportunities for Canadians to put forward their best solutions on defence and security challenges, and will help put those solutions into the hands of the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces. This investment will support the growth and expansion of Canada’s innovation community for the next 20 years.”
Infographic – IDEaS Building Defence Capability. Credit: DND.
Proposals must be submitted by May 24, 2018 for this round and are capped at $200,000 per proposal. DND will spend up to $50 million on this phase of the program. Winning proposals will have six months to complete the work. DND says contracts are expected to be awarded in the fall.
The RFP states that “around the conclusion of Component 1a, PWGSC may invite the suppliers of the successful solutions to propose the advancement of their solution. Funds are limited to a maximum of $1,000,000 (Applicable Taxes included) per contract for a maximum performance period of one year.”
Based on the timeline this would mean Component 1b could start as late as June 2019.
The Space Domain
Several of the challenges relate directly to the space domain. These include:
Challenge 13) Identification and Characterization of Space Objects – In today’s highly competitive space operations environment, there is a need to improve space situational awareness to ensure a safe and efficient environment for space operations. The Department of National Defence (DND) is looking to develop a configurable Common Operating Picture (COP) of space assets that provides the required space situational awareness for informed, expedited decision-making in support of space system operations.
Challenge 16) Cyber Attribution for the Defence of Canada – The Department of National Defence (DND) is looking for innovative approaches to access, interpret, and compare all available evidence (e.g. technical, all-source intelligence) on how current cyberspace activities get attributed. This will assist in assessing the current cyberspace environment to improve methods on how to obtain secure cyberspace attribution in a timely manner.
Some of the other challenges will have the need of satellites including challenge 11, Collaboration of Robotic Systems.
Long Term Vision – Short Term Political Reality?
On the surface, the $1.6 billion program appears to be significant. However, the RFP states that “the IDEaS Program is in its infancy and subject to change”. Read what you will into that, but remember that next year is an election year, and if the Liberals don’t get re-elected there’s no guarantee the next government will move forward with the next phases of the program.