This Week in Space for Canada

Zombie satellite refuses to die; threatens Anik F3! Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Constellation program also refuses to die and continues to swallow whole the brains, money and other assets rightly belonging to others in the US space program but not Canadian government favorite Macdonald Detwiller (MDA) which just keeps going and going. All that and more, this week in space for Canada.

Our first story, the one with the title too good to pass up, arrives via the September 17th, 2010 post on the space news section of the MSNBC.com website titled "Zombie satellite Galaxy 15 still won't die" which states:

A wayward satellite that has spent months drifting in orbit has not shut itself down as originally predicted, and continues to pose a signal interference risk for other craft. The so-called " zombie satellite," Intelsat's Galaxy 15 communications satellite, lost contact with ground controllers in April, but continues to follow a stable path as its operators on Earth work to avoid potential interference with other nearby spacecraft.

According to the article, the 4,171-pound satellite went rogue on April 5, when it stopped responding to controllers on the ground and the focus right now is preventing Galaxy 15's signals from interfering with neighboring satellites. Galaxy 15 swooped by the Canadian Anik F3 satellite on Sept. 14th and Mexico's Satmex 5 communications satellite on September 21st.

Back on Earth the NASA Constellation program, although officially canceled, just seems to keep going and going, at least according to the NASA Spaceflight.com September 18, 2010 article "Constellation Program Proceeds with Orion Capsule EVA Testing" which states:

With the fate of the Constellation Program at this juncture of time all but a certainty, program officials are, nonetheless, pressing ahead with testing of the Orion crew capsule design.

The best description of whats going on with the Americans seems to be space expert Rick Tumlinson's September 10th Huffington Post article titled "NASA's Constellation Hallucination and the Congressional Money Drug" where he states:

Right now a bought and paid for cabal of hypocritical puppets in the House and Senate are trying to prop up this corpse of a dead end plan to go to the Moon and Mars that not only failed to deliver on President Bush's promise of a permanent U.S. presence in space, but continues to eat the budgets of the very exploration it was meant to support.

Tumlinson doesn't directly discuss the flawed history, the cost overruns, the design and engineering problems, the expected job losses and the other issues that have bedeviled Constellation almost from its inception. He does however, make the obvious point that unless the Americans make up their minds on what they want out their space program, NASA will essentially continue to "sit back and let the dreamstealers feed you their Constellation hallucination as they pick your pocket and deny your children's dreams of their future in space as they have done for the last 40 years, promising everything and delivering nothing."

Canadian Space Agency (CSA) officials, intent on maintaining their ongoing partnership with NASA, will no doubt still watch closely the NASA budget as it slowly winds its way through the US political process and react accordingly when the final result becomes clear.

Of course, our final story this week involves a Canadian company that apparently needs no supervision as it continues to accumulate success upon success. According to the September 21st 2010 article on Spaceref.ca titled "Canadian Space Agency Awards Mars Rover Contract to MDA" Canadian icon MacDonald, Dettwiler (MDA) has been awarded a $6 million (CAD) contract today by the CSA to develop a science rover for Mars exploration.

According to the article, "the news comes just days after MDA had announced that it had reached a major milestone in it's $14.5 million (USD) contract for an advanced information solution for NASA's next mission to Mars, the Curiosity Mars Rover."

As well, the September 22nd, 2010 CBC News website article "Canadian Mars rover gadget awaits launch" indicates that MDA components for the Curiosity will include the APXS (alpha ray X-ray spectrometer) when it is expected to be launched into space aboard the Atlas V 541 rocket in fall 2011. The APXS will help determine whether Mars can support life.

That's all for this week in space for Canada.

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Chuck Black is the Secretary of the Canadian Space Commerce Association, a member of the Canadian Space Society, active in the International Association of Space Entrepeneurs and looking for the next big opportunity to make a little money off the high frontier. I live in Toronto, Ontario and can be reached at mr.chuck.black < at > gmail.com.