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Military expert suggests Canada may want to consider its own space force

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President Donald Trump’s push to create a U.S. space force is being welcomed by military experts in Canada, and the executive director of one defence think tank says Canada should consider following suit.

“At some point we might like to think about a space force,” Matthew Overton, executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, said in an interview. “Thinking about space as a separate entity in itself that deserves attention and expertise, I think is a good idea.”

But it is not something that needs to be done immediately, he added, suggesting Canada should first develop a centre of excellence on space knowledge.

Last month, Trump took a first step toward a space force when he signed an order to create a U.S. Space Command, which pulls together space-related units from across military services into a co-ordinated, independent organization.

The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable or even destroy U.S. satellites.

The U.S. air force has operated a space command since 1982, and its mission is “to provide resilient, defendable and affordable space capabilities for the air force.” It also operates the mysterious X-37B space plane, known simply as its orbital test vehicle. The unmanned plane has already completed four clandestine missions, carrying classified payloads on long-duration flights.

Overton, who served in the Canadian Forces for 39 years, noted that Canada’s Air Force already has a space component. It is led by Brigadier General Kevin Whale, Director General Space. Its mission, a spokesman said by email, is “to maintain space domain awareness, and to develop, deliver and assure space-based capabilities.”

Overton said Trump’s space force makes a lot of sense, but he expects there will be tension as the new entity gets down to work with other branches of the military. He gave the example of the GPS network, which is crucial for land, air and sea forces, but could become a space force responsibility.

“What is the relationship with other forces? How do you work out that dynamic?””

Should be part of Norad discussion: Conservative critic

Wayne Ellis, who served in the Canadian military for 20 years, agrees that a U.S. space force is a good idea.

“I think there’s enough activity and potential activity to concentrate resources in that domain, which probably merits a separation from the air force,” Ellis, a past president of the Canadian Space Society, said in an interview.

“Perhaps now is a good opportunity to look at a totally separate branch — at least for the U.S.”

He noted that Canadian military personnel have worked side by side with the U.S. military for decades. “A lot of these positions are actually space positions at various bases so, at some point, our posted personnel are going to be interacting with the U.S. space force as it gets set up,” he added.

James Bezan, the Conservative defence critic, said he wants to see more details about the space capabilities Americans envision.

U.S. president to create Space Force and Space Traffic Management 5:59

“For Canada, my sense is that we need to watch this and see how it evolves,” he said. Before Canada considers creating its own space force, Bezan added, it should focus on making Norad — the bilateral North American Aerospace Defence Command — more effective.

“I would think that any co-operation that we do with the States as it relates to North American defence, as it relates to aerospace, should be part of the Norad discussions,” he said.

Randall Garrison, the NDP defence critic, criticized Trump’s plan to launch a sixth branch of the U.S. military.

“New Democrats are fundamentally opposed to the militarization of space and believe that space should only be used by all of humanity for peaceful purposes,” he wrote in an email.

“New Democrats urge the government of Canada to uphold the principles of peaceful space exploration and to engage with our allies on a renewed call for the drafting of an international treaty aimed at the prevention of an arms race in space.”

Overton pointed out that space has long been exploited for military purposes, and there’s no way it can be avoided.

“Communications satellites, GPS and intelligence communications, you name it — all that is there,” he said.

The office of the Minister of National Defence noted in a statement that “space-based capabilities have become essential to Canada’s operations at home and abroad.

“That is why Canada’s defence policy … commits to investing in a range of space capabilities such as satellite communications, to help achieve global coverage, including the Arctic.”

The statement goes on to say that “Canada will continue to promote the peaceful use of space and provide leadership in shaping international norms for responsible behaviour in space.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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