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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Canadian Space Society

Tuesday was the December meeting of the Canadian Space Society, and incidentally it's 20th anniversary (as near as anyone can tell from incomplete records). The December meeting is usually a potluck and open discussion, and this year there was a great crowd for it, CSS members past and present. Among items of discussion were the continued rumors that Bush is going to announce a return to the Moon soon (either a) it's where they're going to put Saddam, or b) they think there's oil there), the year-round sunshine in Australia (so they sent criminals there, and people came voluntarily to Canada?), and two ongoing projects CSS members are working on: microsats and gun launchers.

My old employers, Dynacon, built the MOST science satellite, which was put into orbit last year. After some teething problems, it's been performing well and the first papers on its findings should be published soon. Dynacon has got several proposals into the Canadian Space Agency for follow-up missions using the hardware that's been developed, but they're still waiting to hear back. I think it would be an absolute waste not to follow it up. I would much rather see Canada doing it's own small missions than piggy-backing with an instrument or two on someone else's great big one. But the federal government support of R&D hasn't been great lately, after dropping its support for the ITER experimental fusion reactor (which might have been built out at Pickering). Maybe things will change under Martin.

The other big project is Richard Graf's gun launcher, which he has recently gone commercial with. He's been testing out a small version at his place out in the boondocks, firing small projectiles at about Mach 2.5 into sandboxes with his homemade launcher. What he and his partners really want to do is get into the sounding rocket business, firing instrumented projectiles up a hundred kilometers or so, and they've recently started a company to promote this (although they are first going for the space furneral market, to try and raise sufficient funds to build the gun they really need).

Ideally, he'd like to launch off a ship, as you can steam right to the equator for maximum boost and you have all the downrange you need. Plus the noise won't bother the neighbours. There's a WWII aircraft carrier the Brazilians are selling which fits his bill nicely. Now that would be cool.