Maritime Safety Satellite’s Launch Cancelled to Make Political Point

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Well, this must be frustrating.  Imagine that you’re a part of a company that’s getting ready to launch a satellite.  All the company’s engineers and managers working to get the satellite ready to go for its mission.  Of course, everyone in the company is being paid to get the satellite completed.

But then, your government, who contracted with your company to build the satellite, has a problem with the government of the country you were to launch the satellite from.  And of course just to show that other government that your government is serious, you’ve suddenly been forbidden to conduct any kind of business with that other government.  This means you can no longer launch your satellite using the facilities and rocket of the company that so happens to reside in that other country.  This is a problem.

According to an Ottowa Citizen post, this is the problem that’s happening to a Canadian satellite manufacturer, named COM DEV.  COM DEV would like to launch the Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSAT), but the Canadian government is punishing Russia for conducting its very own “Lebensraum” campaign in the Ukraine.  The punishment consists of not allowing COM DEV to send M3MSAT into space using the Russian rocket they were originally intending to use.

M3MSAT is designed to primarily provide “maritime surveillance” for commercial customers and the Canadian government.  Fancy words for saying there’s a radio receiver and transmitter on board to receive automatic messages on particular radio frequencies from particular ships.  These messages contain the current ship’s position in the form of GPS coordinates (you can see the ship tracking happening real-time, here).  M3MSAT was to be launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) sometime in September 2014.

COM DEV won the contract to build the M3MSAT for the Canadian government in 2008.  So now the Canadian government is generously allowing COM DEV to bite the funding bullet and take the hit.  Which COM DEV doesn’t appreciate.  The Ottowa Citizen post notes that COM DEV and the Canadian government are in negotiations on determining a path forward.  Probably one that will compensate COM DEV for its work.  Maybe they’ll also get a case of Elsinore beer for their troubles?  We’ll see.

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