Corporations to lead the exploration of space

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By Sabina Wex
@sabuwex
Mar 20, 2015,  7:18 AM

In 2011, NASA began decommissioning its 30-year-old space shuttle program. It sent its last four shuttles into orbit. Yes, the company that put Neil Armstrong on the moon, that inspired millions of children to become astronauts (or at least dress up as one for Halloween), was slowly closing part of itself down. It now has to turn to other countries, like Russia and China, for launching.

It all came down to money. Government funding has steadily decreased and NASA couldn’t afford sending these expensive shuttles up in to the unknown any longer.

A New Face

Canada, however, doesn’t have the same problem—but only because Canada has never launched anything. It has always relied on other countries, including the USA, to launch its satellites.

But in 2006, NASA wanted to use Cape Breton, Nova Scotia as a launching pad. In 2008, the deal was nixed. The reasoning was vague, with some muttering about a “better package” out in Virginia, as CBC reported.

Tyler Reyno doesn’t care about the reasoning. He wants to start his own satellite launching company, Open Space Orbital, in Cape Breton. He wants to finish what NASA didn’t.

“We’re hoping to play a role, not only technologically and from a business standpoint, but also be representative of a new face almost for Canada that says we’re willing to take risks, that we’re excited to take risks, and most importantly,” the Dalhousie mechanical engineering graduate said,“that’s it’s important to take risks to maintain an aggressive attitude of the nation.”

Reyno watched as the American government’s funding depleted for NASA and, consequently, space exploration. But he saw that private companies and small groups of individuals were teaming up to fund space missions. He expected that the same thing would be happening in Canada, only to be disappointed by the lack of action—especially considering the achievements of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in recent years.

While people in the USA were trying to create space hotels, Reyno researched everything about satellites. He said he discovered that, until 2020, there would be a massive growth for smaller satellites. The smaller size makes the creation of satellites cheaper, making investments more feasible for non-government organizations and companies.

“Lots of people can now afford, and have the capability, of developing these small satellites,” Reyno said, “but just about nobody, if not a very small group, can actually launch them themselves”.

And so Open Space Orbital was founded. He gathered engineers, aerospace consultants and even former Canadian senator John Buchanan to help him create rockets that could launch these small satellites into space.

Is Smaller Better?

Reyno talks to a lot of scientists, engineers and space experts about the future of satellites. He said that he has heard from many of these experts that there will be a skyrocketing growth of technology in the next five, ten and fifteen years.

Canadian Research Chair in Remote Sounding of Atmospheres and Dalhousie atmospheric science professor James Drummond has helped create two instruments on satellites. The first is Measurements Of Pollution In The Troposphere (MOPITT) on NASA’s Terra satellite which measures carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and is attached to NASA’s Terra satellite, launched in 1999. It is about the size of a small school bus, according to Drummond. His other instrument is MAESTRO on the Canadian satellite SCISAT, which measures ozone compounds and is focused on the Arctic. SCISAT is about a metre in length and was launched in 2003.

“It has to be remembered that the launch of a satellite is only the middle of a long chain of events,” Drummond said. He added that most satellite projects take six to seven years.

Reyno estimated that his rocket would be ready by 2018—only four years from now.

Drummond said he sees a growing demand for smaller satellites. He credits this growth to the general miniaturization of technology and the lower cost of small satellites.

“You can do astronomy with small satellites,” Drummond said,“but there are some things where you just need size, and so you got to do it.”

No Government, No Problem

Reyno likes the small satellites that you can hold in your hands. They’re cheaper to build and launch, and thus are more likely to explore Earth and space.

“I think that exploring outwardly and exploring the stars is a responsibility of ours,” Reyno said.

But with little government money going toward space exploration, Reyno saw only one option to fulfill this responsibility: privatization.

“If a company wants to arise with a dedicated purpose putting things into space,” he said,“it owes nothing to anybody other than to do that.”

Reyno ‘scrowdfundingcampaign for Open Space Orbital failed August 2014. Seemingly unfazed, he says that Open Space is “moving forward with the same action steps on the agenda, we're adjusting our focus to entrepreneurial funding (Futurpreneur, CEED, etc.) and federal grant money”.

“If the government starts saying, we’re going to dedicate a good amount of funding towards putting things in space and advancing outwardly,” Reyno said,“that’s all of the sudden when you’re going to start hearing people saying, ‘Well, we have all these issues on earth, we have all issues that we need to take care of first, we need to cure cancer, we need to cure AIDS, we need to cure poverty.’”

Governments must keep the general population’s interests as its top priority, making it difficult to fund specialities like space exploration or rocket launches. But Reyno said that if Canada doesn’t start expanding on its space efforts now, it will eventually fall far behind other countries who are already working on them.

The Israel Space Agency is constantly sending satellites up into space, as well as attempting to be the fourth countryto land a shuttle on the moon(the USA, Russia and China are the first three). Though Israel isn’t a major space power, it was one of the first places to use microsatellites, and is a major manufacturer of the satellites.

Reyno said that he sees how Canada focuses its money and energy almost entirely toward the oil industry.

“We literally will someday run out of oil,” Reyno said. “And when that happens, are we going to be caught with our pants down? Are we going to be left completely naked? What will be our positioning?”

Reyno said he thinks the ideas of mining asteroids, Mars and other celestial bodies for resources is a great idea. He said that Canada, with its expertise in resource-hunting and selling, could be an excellent candidate as the country to lead the space-mining industry.

“If you look at other celestial bodies, you realize that they have lots of resources in abundance that we have in great scarcity on Earth,” he said.

But this could lead to the same kind of disaster that Reyno foresees happening to Canada: one day, the supply runs out.

For Reyno, however, the amount of celestial bodies are so vast that there’s no need to worry about running out.

“If we were to ever get to a point in which we were so skilled in resource mining on other planets or the moon, at that point,” Reyno said, “I think we’d likewise be so good at travelling throughout space that it wouldn’t be overly difficult for us to advance outwardly from one body on to the next.”

Even without the government shelling out for space, Reyno has already thought of how Open Space Orbital could help boost Canada’s economy.

Reyno needs to employ engineers, space experts and consultants, and general business and accounting managers. If his funding succeeds, Reyno will need all these people to be in Cape Breton, NS, a place where theeconomy has completely plummeted, seeing many of its natives move out West to find more opportunities.

“It’s one thing to bring a chain of restaurants to a failing area, but when you bring a project of this size to an area like that,” he said, “it brings a lot of really smart and really talented people to the area.”

The rocket launches would also be a great tourist attraction, Reyno adds.

But what could happen in the future, once the satellites are up there, is still unknown.

“Space technologies…are going to begin to develop so rapidly that things, even mastering travel throughout our solar system, as well throughout our galaxy and even further, could be natural occurrences,” Reyno said.“They seem very outlandish right now because we’ve only landed man on the moon, and that’s literally the closest celestial body to us, so it seems like we haven’t done too much.”

Whatever the future of space travel, Reyno hopes that Canada will help lead the way. Perhaps the rest of us should too.

Impact (ONLY use the 'Paste From Word' button to safely copy and paste text from a Word doc) 

“Lots of people can now afford, and have the capability, of developing these small satellites,” Reyno said, “but just about nobody, if not a very small group, can actually launch them themselves.”

“You can do astronomy with small satellites,” Drummond said,“but there are some things where you just need size, and so you got to do it.”

“We literally will someday run out of oil,” Reyno said. “And when that happens, are we going to be caught with our pants down? Are we going to be left completely naked? What will be our positioning?”

“If you look at other celestial bodies, you realize that they have lots of resources in abundance that we have in great scarcity on Earth,” he said.

“It’s one thing to bring a chain of restaurants to a failing area, but when you bring a project of this size to an area like that,” he said, “it brings a lot of really smart and really talented people to the area.”

“I think we’d likewise be so good at travelling throughout space that it wouldn’t be overly difficult for us to advance outwardly from one body on to the next.”

Could we also add in their website and social media?

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