Sunday, June 26, 2016

Smiles all around as 2 Canadian satellites launch, but are some smiles forced?

A couple of Canadian satellites are now in orbit and everyone involved is smiling. Some of those smiles may be a little forced, though. Nobody said they were relieved but some of the participants probably are.

The Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat), and GHGSat's CLAIRE launched on an Indian rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on June 21, 2016.

M3MSat will monitor marine traffic and test new satellite technologies. (You can read more about M3MSat at the CSA’s web site.) CLAIRE will test a new way to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. (You can see a short video at Vimeo about what CLAIRE will do.)

Although the press release from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) didn’t say as much, the CSA and their project partners, Defence Research and Development Canada, must be pleased, if not down right relieved, that they finally got M3MSat into space.

The satellite was supposed to launch in June 2014 on a Russian rocket, but the Harper government wanted no truck or trade with the “Red Menace” and cancelled the flight.

Honeywell Canada (formerly COM DEV International) of Cambridge, Ontario, built the satellite. They didn’t issue a press release, but they must be happy. After all, if you build a satellite you want to see it fly, not collect dust in storage.

The University of Waterloo must be happy because their advanced Automatic Identification System (AIS) antenna is getting its first test in space. It’s a small antenna that can receive signals from any direction and will still work even if part of the antenna fails. (You can read more about the antenna at the CSA’s web site.)

exactEarth of Cambridge, Ontario, is happy—at least on the surface. In their June 22, 2016, press release, Peter Mabson, President of exactEarth said, "We are pleased to extend our congratulations to Defence Research and Development Canada and to the Canadian Space Agency on this significant achievement."

exactEarth might be pleased about the launch because the government gave the company an exclusive license to sell the data from M3MSat, as noted in the press release.

But perhaps mollified is a better word than pleased. That exclusive contract might help take the sting out of the lousy deal the government gave exactEarth for a maritime surveillance contract in May. As reported by SpaceNews, exactEarth bests Orbcomm for Canadian contract that shrank to a pittance, that deal was expected to be like the previous one, which came in at CAN$19 million. The new deal turned out to be worth CAN$116,000. Ouch.

The launch of the other satellite, CLAIRE, is the first flight into space for builders GHGSat of Montreal. How could you not be happy about your first satellite in space?

The University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS-SFL) built CLAIRE. They also helped build M3MSat, so they have 2 reasons to be pleased. And they are. They issued a press release saying they were “...pleased and excited over the successful launch and first contact with GHGSat-D.”

See? Pleased and excited.

So everyone is all smiles about the launch. Some participants might have added “relieved” or “mollified” to their press releases, but that would have been too blunt and, well, just not very Canadian.