Tag Archives: CSA

Space gets a little more Canadian

2 Jun

Here’s a great announcement. One that “confirms a great future for Canada in space for years to come,” in the words of Canadian Industry Minister James Moore.


I chatted with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk1010 about the news

Today it was announced that Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen, along with fellow Canadian astronaut David St. Jacques, will have the opportunity to fly to and work on the ISS within the next decade as part of the Government of Canada extending funding to the ISS all the way to 2024. One of the flights will be before 2019 and the second prior to 2024. Who flies when will be determined in collaboration with ISS partners in the months ahead.

The Canadian funding will be in the neighbourhood of $350 million total, which is in line with current funding for the Canadian Space Agency’s ISS operations of about $83 million per year.

This money funds operations at the Canadian Space Agency, astronaut training, cost of launch, supplies and scientific equipment to operate the ISS, public outreach, and more.

Canada is also the third country to commit funding to continue ISS operations up to 2024 (following the USA and Russia) – extending it from the originally planned 2020. With the three largest ISS partners now committed, the next decade of ISS operations is likely secure. I also speculate that other nations will join the 2024 extension as there are currently 14 nations working together to operate the ISS, committed up to 2020.

It is also interesting to consider this: by 2017 NASA will again have its own ability to launch people into space, ending reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft ever since the Space Shuttle stopped flying in 2011. This means that David and Jeremy could be the first Canadians to fly either the SpaceX Dragon V2 capsule or the Boeing CST-100 capsule, which are both currently under construction. It is also possible they’ll still launch on the Soyuz, but considering the projected budget advantages of the two new US-designed spacecraft, I’d imagine the Canadian Space Agency will go that route.

It’s also possible that Jeremy, as a CF-18 pilot prior to becoming an astronaut, could be assigned to a crew as the pilot for a future mission.

David was a medical doctor prior to becoming an astronaut – and medical experiments are a high priority for ISS research – so I expect he would be a very welcome addition to any crew as well.

Of course what or when their missions will be is speculative, but it is exciting to consider the possibilities.

The announcement today also included renewed funding for MDA to maintain the Canadarm2 and DEXTRE robots currently in operation on the ISS. (Read more about Canadian space robotics here.) Additionally, four new Canadian science experiments will be flying to the ISS this fall. And the Government of Canada will invest nearly $2 million to continue the work being done on Mars by the Canadian X-Ray Spectrometer on the Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity Rover.

That’s all very exciting!

The work in space continues to inspire and improve life on Earth every day. This is a great forward-looking investment in science and the economy. I’ve written at length about the importance of investing in space before, here and here for example.

I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with Jeremy a few times, and David a couple times as well — each time they have been generous, open, and encouraging. I couldn’t be happier for their opportunity that awaits!

On one such occasion in May 2013 on the eve of Chris Hadfield’s return to Earth from the International Space Station, Ryan Marciniak, Paul Delaney, and I chatted with astronaut Jeremy Hansen on an episode of York Universe. He offered insight on what a visit to the ISS would be like, romanticize about one day maybe walking on the Moon or Mars, the rigours of training, and wise words for any young person contemplating their future – either as an astronaut or otherwise.

It’s also fascinating to hear Jeremy talk about the chance to “one day” be assigned to a flight — knowing that now today we’re taking one big step closer to that becoming a reality.




And for a little bit of a different look on Canada’s astronauts – namely having fun running around Toronto last year – here is the video from the Amazing Canadian Space Race, featuring Canadian Astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David St. Jacques in September 2014:

STS-100: Canadarm2 takes flight

26 Apr
Canadarm2 catches a visiting SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Canadarm2 catches a visiting SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

As part of a special two-part special looking at STS-100 and the installation of Canadarm2, I conducted interviews with the Canadian Space Agency Flight Controller Supervisor Mathieu Caron and Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. Part one of the special with Mathieu Caron aired April 27, 2015 (listen to the segment here) and part two with Chris Hadfield aired on May 4, 2015 (listen to that segment here).

York Universe airs live every Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET (1:00 a.m. UTC, Tuesday) on Astronomy.FM – the voice of astronomy on the internet.


STS-100 was a flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from April 19-May 1, 2001 (11 days, 21 hours). The flight was commanded by Kent Rominger, piloted by Jeffrey Ashby, and carried five Mission Specialists: Chris Hadfield (CSA), John Phillips, Scott Parazynski, Umberto Guidoni (ESA), and Yuri Lonchakov (RKA).

It’s been suggested this flight was the pinnacle of Canada in space. And this is arguably true, though there have been several other significant Canadian missions to be sure: the launch of Alouette or Chris Hadfield commanding the ISS, to name only two possibilities. The point of this though is to highlight the importance of STS-100 to Canada and the international space community, rather than argue about which the ‘most’ important contribution is.

The primary goal of STS-100 was to deliver and install to the fledgling International Space Station the new robotic arm, Canadarm2. Along to head this effort was Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield – and installing the next generation arm required two spacewalks for Hadfield and Parazynski. Hadfield’s EVA on STS-100 was also the first spacewalk in history for a Canadian.

In total, the pair spent 14 hours, 50 minutes ‘outside’ in order to accomplish the goal.

Chris Hadfield on the first Canadian spacewalk on April 22, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

Chris Hadfield on the first Canadian spacewalk on April 22, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

Canadarm2 is 17.6 m (58 feet) long and has seven powered joints. It weighs 1,800 kg and is capable of moving payloads up to 116,000 kg!

It can be controlled from on board the ISS, or remotely from robotics stations at mission control centres around the world, including the CSA’s John. H Chapman Space Centre just outside Montreal.


Canadarm2 was (of course) based on the design of the Space Shuttle Canadarm, first launched in 1981 on STS-2. Canadarm (1) was 15.2 m (50 feet) long. In all five Shuttle Canadarm’s were built, with a redesign in the 1990’s to increase the arms’ ability to move larger objects to support ISS construction (the strength was increased by an order of magnitude, going from 332.5 kg up to 3,293 kg).

Towards the end of STS-100 once Hadfield and Parazynski had completed its installation, Canadarm2 was powered up for the first time in space on April 28, 2001.

And Canadarm2’s first objective? Link up with the Shuttle Canadarm to return the new arms cargo palette to Endeavour’s cargo bay. It was a remarkable Canadian robotic handshake in space.

The Canadian Handshake: Canadarm and Canadarm2 connect in space for the first time on April 28, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

The Canadian Handshake: Canadarm and Canadarm2 connect in space for the first time on April 28, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

Since then, Canadarm2 has been invaluable in both the construction and operations of the ISS – including catching visiting cargo spacecraft and docking them to the station on a regular basis. It is not an exaggeration to say that the ISS would not have been able to have been constructed without Canadarm2.

Look back at STS-100 with the astronauts who flew the mission:

Canadarm2 is able to move itself around on the ISS by making use of either the Mobile Transporter (a rail structure that runs the length of the ISS) or by moving end-over-end, sort of like an inch-worm, and grappling Power Data Grapple Fixtures that provide a physical connection as well as electrical and data connectivity. With these two methods within arm’s reach, Canadarm2 is able to be work from any location along the ISS’s main truss.

Canadarm2 has also since been joined on the ISS by a second Canadian robotic handyman: DEXTRE, which arrived in March 2008 on STS-123 (read more about DEXTRE here).

With these innovations – and others – Canada is making a name for being a leader in space robotics, and STS-100 surely cemented that reputation.

Canadian space robots: DEXTRE catches a ride at the end of Canadarm2 on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

Canadian space robots: DEXTRE catches a ride at the end of Canadarm2 on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

The Amazing Canadian Space Race – #CSAtweetup

5 Oct

Recently Jesse and I were invited to tag along with the latest group of #CSAtweetup tweeps, who participated in an event put on by the Canadian Space Agency called the Amazing Canadian Space Race.

It was the first event of it’s kind involving astronauts and ordinary members of the public (as far as I know). It took for the form of the popular TV show The Amazing Race, but pitted two teams against each other, each lead by one of Canada’s astronauts.

Jesse went with Team David, while I was with Team Jeremy.

The event took the teams around Toronto and highlighted the many players in the Canadian space industry – from government, to education/research – including York University – and private business.

It’s actually pretty amazing how much Canadian space industry is based right here in Toronto.

In any case, here is the video and written special report that I filed for Sun News Network:


Video not loading? Watch it here.

Canadian astronauts took to the streets of Toronto this week as part of the Amazing Canadian Space Race.

The event was part of the 65th annual International Astronautical Congress, the world’s premier space conference bringing together private, government, and military partners from around the world.

Astronaut’s Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques were each joined by members of the public and sent on a day-long adventure around Toronto, visiting education and industry partners, connected to Canada’s space industry.

“We’re one of the few early space-faring nations, and you have to remember is that everything we do in space comes back down to Earth,” said Saint-Jacques.

He also pointed to the record of job creation in the private sector, as a result of Canada’s wise investments in space technology.

The President of the Canadian Space Agency, Walter Natynczyk, opened the race by wishing the teams good luck and pointing to the significance of the event, “We have representatives here of the leadership of Canada’s space program. In this community here in Toronto, we’ve got great companies that have created incredible innovation that has been launched into space over the years.”

Setting the tone, he added, “Today is a day of discovery; it’s a day of hot competition.”

After the remarks, Hansen read the first clue for his team: “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a dragon by the toe, if it hollers, don’t let it go,”

Once teams deciphered the clue, they had to complete the task. Only once each task was successfully completed would teams receive the next challenge.

A subsequent challenge took the teams to the Department of National Defence’ Department of Research and Development Canada, where the astronauts were put through an obstacle course that is typically used to test new equipment materials.


From there, team Hansen went to York University while team Saint-Jacques was dispatched to Optech.

At those sites, each team was faced with a laser-based challenge connected to the OSIRIS-REx mission, set to launch in September 2016. This task was designed to expose participants to the Canadian technology that will be flying on the mission, designed by Optech to create a 3D map of the surface of an asteroid using lasers.

The last stop on the journey was at the Ontario Science Centre, where the teams went head-to-head to design, build, test, and fly a prototype Mars lander using only house-hold materials that could be found at hand.

“What better than to have real astronauts here trying an experiment that often we have with our visitors,” said Maurice Bitran, CEO of the Ontario Science Centre.

While both teams successfully accomplished the Mars landing challenege, the judges ruled that team Saint-Jacques’ spacecraft made better use of simple machines, propelling them to victory.

Jesse Rogerson, a participant and gracious winner said, “It really doesn’t matter who won. The astronauts were so fun to be around, so as a team, as a group, both teams really did win.”

“Events like this really get the word out and get the public involved,” Rogerson added.

Saint-Jacques explained the involvement of private industry in space will only create more opportunities for Canadians – not only to go to space, but here on Earth.

“You may not realize it, but it’s part of our everyday life,” he said.


30 years since the first Canadian flew in space – #Garneau30

5 Oct

It was October 5, 1984 just a little after 7 a.m. ET when the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off the pad from south Florida.

On board were Jon A. McBride, pilot; mission specialists Sally K. Ride, Kathryn D. Sullivan, and David C. Leestma; payload specialists Paul D. Scully-Power and Marc Garneau and crew commander Robert L. Crippen.

NASA, not having figured out a sensible numbering system for shuttle flights yet, called the mission 41-G — but this was actually the 13th space shuttle flight.

Up here in the north though, it was simply the first mission that carried a Canadian into the final frontier.

But that wasn’t the only first for STS-41-G.

It was also the first shuttle flight with a crew of seven; it was the first flight with two women on board; it was the first flight where a spacewalk would be conducted by a woman (Sullivan).

STS-41-G was Sally Ride’s second and last spaceflight.

During the course of the eight day mission (they landed October 13), Garneau was responsible for conducting 10 science experiments on board. He also assisted with general house keeping duties, such as preparing meals.

Garneau was on board representing the National Research Council of Canada – which at the time made the Canadian astronaut selections – since the Canadian Space Agency did not yet exist (the CSA was founded March 1, 1989).

Garneau’s backup for the mission was fellow Canadian astronaut Dr. Bob Thirsk, who flew into space on STS-78 (1996) and as part of the Expedition 20/21 (2009) crew to the International Space Station.

Besides STS-41-G, Garneau also flew into space on STS-77 (1996) and STS-97 (2000).

Over the course of STS-41-G, Challenger completed 133 orbits covering some five million kilometers.

The photos below all courtesy NASA/JSC.

Portrait view of STS 41-G crew in civilian clothes. Bottom row (l.-r.) Payload specialists Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power, crew commander Robert Crippen. Second row (l-.r-) Pilot Jon McBride, and Mission Specialists David Leestma and Sally Ride. At very top is Mission Specialist Kathryn Sullivan.

Portrait view of STS 41-G crew in civilian clothes. Bottom row (l.-r.) Payload specialists Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power, crew commander Robert Crippen. Second row (l-.r-) Pilot Jon McBride, and Mission Specialists David Leestma and Sally Ride. At very top is Mission Specialist Kathryn Sullivan.

View of the early morning launch of STS 41-G Challenger. The dark launch complex is illuminated by spotlights as the orbiter begins its ascent from the pad. The light is reflected off the clouds of smoke from the orbiter's engines.

View of the early morning launch of STS 41-G Challenger. The dark launch complex is illuminated by spotlights as the orbiter begins its ascent from the pad. The light is reflected off the clouds of smoke from the orbiter’s engines.

View of the Canadarm end effector touching the SIR-B antenna during STS 41-G

View of the Canadarm end effector touching the SIR-B antenna during STS 41-G

View of the SIR-B antenna being deployed during STS 41-G

View of the SIR-B antenna being deployed during STS 41-G

False-color image showing Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and was acquired by the Shuttle Imaging Radar-B (SIR-B) during STS 41-G. The St. lawrence River dominates the right portion of the photo. Several bridges cossing the river are visible. Pink and blue areas are generally buildings or pavement. Light green areas regions of natural vegetation; darker green areas are generally cultivated regions. A race track like structure is apparent at top left. The Riviere des Milles Illes and the Riviere des Prairies (left and right, respectively), join to form a U-shaped waterway at the center of the image. The large elliptical green-centered feature west of the St. Lawrence is Mt. Royal.

False-color image showing Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and was acquired by the Shuttle Imaging Radar-B (SIR-B) during STS 41-G. The St. lawrence River dominates the right portion of the photo. Several bridges cossing the river are visible. Pink and blue areas are generally buildings or pavement. Light green areas regions of natural vegetation; darker green areas are generally cultivated regions. A race track like structure is apparent at top left. The Riviere des Milles Illes and the Riviere des Prairies (left and right, respectively), join to form a U-shaped waterway at the center of the image. The large elliptical green-centered feature west of the St. Lawrence is Mt. Royal.

STS 41-G crew photo taken on the flight deck of the Challenger during the flight. Front row (l.-r.) Jon A. McBride, pilot; Sally K. RIde, Kathryn D. SUllivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Back row (l.-r.) Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, payload specialist. Garneau represents the National Research Council of Canada and Scully-Power is a civilian oceanographer with the U.S. Navy.

STS 41-G crew photo taken on the flight deck of the Challenger during the flight. Front row (l.-r.) Jon A. McBride, pilot; Sally K. RIde, Kathryn D. SUllivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Back row (l.-r.) Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, payload specialist. Garneau represents the National Research Council of Canada and Scully-Power is a civilian oceanographer with the U.S. Navy.

The Space Shuttle Challenger lands at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at the end of the STS 41-G mission.

The Space Shuttle Challenger lands at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at the end of the STS 41-G mission.

Title: Space Shuttle Challenger landing at Kennedy Space Center at end of STS 41-G

Title:
Space Shuttle Challenger landing at Kennedy Space Center at end of STS 41-G

STS 41-G crew leaves the orbiter after landing at Kennedy Space Center at the end of their mission. Astronaut Robert Crippen shakes hands with George W.S. Abbey, Director of JSC's Flight Crew Operations, while the other crewmembers wait behind him. They are Jon McBride, David Leestma, Sally K. Ride, Kathryn Sullivan, Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power.

STS 41-G crew leaves the orbiter after landing at Kennedy Space Center at the end of their mission. Astronaut Robert Crippen shakes hands with George W.S. Abbey, Director of JSC’s Flight Crew Operations, while the other crewmembers wait behind him. They are Jon McBride, David Leestma, Sally K. Ride, Kathryn Sullivan, Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power.

Official photo of the 41-G crew. They are (bottom row, left to right) Astronauts Jon A. McBride, pilot; and Sally K. Ride, Kathryn D. Sullivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Top row from left to right are Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, Canadian payload specialist.

Official photo of the 41-G crew. They are (bottom row, left to right) Astronauts Jon A. McBride, pilot; and Sally K. Ride, Kathryn D. Sullivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Top row from left to right are Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, Canadian payload specialist.