'Ordinary' Canadian technology aims to narrow digital divide

Microsat Systems Canada Inc. (MSCI) announced  the development of what it terms COMMStellation™, a 'constellation' of 78 polar-orbit satellites. MCSI established itself and the micro-satellite niche with the success of the MOST (Microvariability & Oscillations of Stars) and NEOSSAT microsatellites and intends to build on that with a deft combination of relatively ordinary technology and a global-scale social conscience.

MCSI's network of micro-sats willl orbit eight times closer to the earth than other commsat networks allowing for use of lower-power electronics while providing backhaul service (see definition below) at 1/8 the latency (i.e. transmission delay) and (as per MSCI) a total cost hundreds of millions less than competing networks all the while allowing network service providers (read: your mobile phone company) to provide service anywhere on the globe.

This last is the socially aware part. All the good intentions in the world will not surmount the fact that, without backhaul, developing nations will not be able to build out the sustainable, economically-feasible mobile data and voice networks required to compete for the economic opportunities that will elevate their economies above the subsistence level.

Backhaul is as fundamental to economic growth as air, water and sunlight is to plant growth. All paths to social and economic equality pass through some backhaul network somewhere. It really is that stark and simple.

O3B is major satellite project aimed at providing bandwidth to the 'Other 3 Billion' referring to the un- and under-served portions of the globe. As noted in telecom expert Elizabeth Tweedie's Report from the COMSYS VSAT 2010 Conference "The potential demand however is huge and even with a full constellation [of 20 satellites] O3b addresses less than 0.5% of the Emerging Markets 3G backhaul needs."

This places MCSI's plans to do it closer to the customer than anyone else (which also means getting the micro-sats in orbit costs less) and with less-exotic (read: cheap and reliable) electronics places their network square on a global pain point. Giving the developing nations an even shot at getting off the World Bank and foreign aid financial heroin means developing infrastructure they can afford to use without mortgaging their heritage to mega-corporations in developing countries.

“High-speed backhaul infrastructure is the single most important enabler to the growth of Internet business models and wealth generation,” explains David R. Cooper, President and CEO, MSCI in the press release. “If a country does not have it – it will fall behind."

Source: MSCI Press Release retrieved /2011/01/19

Definition: Backhaul* (telecommunications)

* Searching for clarity from an authoritative source on this term returned more noise than signal so this is my definition tailored to the scope of this post. YMMV. Feel free to comment so I can moderate it directly into the bit bucket.


Flight of the Origami Spacecraft

KASHIWA, Japan — Japanese scientists and origami masters hope to launch a paper airplane from space and learn from its trip back to Earth.

It's no joke. A prototype passed a durability test in a wind tunnel this month, Japan's space agency adopted it Wednesday for feasibility studies, and a well-known astronaut is interested in participating.

A successful flight from space by an origami plane could have far-reaching implications for the design of re-entry vehicles or space probes for upper atmospheric exploration, said project leader Shinji Suzuki, a professor at Tokyo University's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Suzuki said he was skeptical a decade ago when he first discussed with experts the idea of sending into space a craft made in the tradition of Japan's ancient art of paper folding.

"It sounded like a simply impossible, crazy idea," Suzuki said. "I gave it some more thought, and came to think it may not be ridiculous after all, and could very well survive if it comes down extremely slowly."

In a test outside Tokyo in early February, a prototype about 7 centimetres long and 5 centimetres wide survived Mach 7 speeds and broiling temperatures up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit in a hypersonic wind tunnel — conditions meant to approximate what the plane would face entering Earth's atmosphere.


Ruling on sale of [RadarSat2- maker MDA] delayed

Where there's life there's hope.

Mar 20, 2008 02:39 PM THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA–Industry Canada has taken a 30-day extension to review the controversial sale of the Canadian-built Radarsat satellite and Canadarm to a U.S. arms-maker.
Industry Minister Jim Prentice informed Alliant Techsystems that he won't meet the Saturday deadline to approve or reject the proposed sale by Vancouver-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.
Prentice is reviewing the proposed $1.325-billion sale under the Investment Canada Act.
His office issued a release today stating it had "sent the investor a letter advising them that the review process . . . would be extended by 30 days from the date of the letter."
The letter was dated Wednesday, March 19.
The minister would offer no further comment on the sale.
A chorus of critics has called on the government to block the deal, saying it would send cutting-edge, taxpayer-subsidized technology to a foreign country's control.
Many also worry that Canada could lose access to state-of-the-art imaging from the Radarsat-2 satellite of Canada's Far North, where battles over Canadian sovereignty are heating up in lock-step with global warming and receding pack ice.

I can't see what the delay is - if it's wrong now (and it is) then it's wrong in 30 days.

We really only have ourselves to blame allowing all of Canadian space tech to concentrate in one company.



Lost in space

David Pugliese put together an excellent piece specifying how technology developed using Canadian tax dollars was sold out.

That the purchaser is American is not the point. It's that they're not Canadian.

Control of Canada's finest space technologies are going over the border never to be seen again and we're back at square one with our defense and Arctic sovereignty strategies in tatters.


"Sometime in the next few weeks, Canada's leading space technology firm will pass into American hands and, potentially, the 'top secret' files of the Pentagon. Critics fear millions of dollars of taxpayer investment, a significant number of high-tech jobs, our Arctic sovereignty and our international reputation in space research will also vanish.
David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, March 09, 2008

Part 2 of a Series

By April 2007, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates had started, quietly, to shop around its space and defence assets, approaching seven potential purchasers.

On the market was the cream of Canada's space industry. Not only was the Richmond, B.C., firm offering the Radarsat-2 satellite, the most advanced spacecraft of its kind in the world, but also a host of other technologies, including the Canadarm, robot systems that could refuel satellites in orbit, and new-generation radar and optical-imaging research."