The first Canadian in space since Chris Hadfield

In November 2018, roughly six years after Chris Hadfield blasted off to space, Canadian astronaut David St-Jacques will launch using a Russian Soyuz rocket to spend six months onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The Hon. Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science, and economic development, made the announcement on May 16 at the Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. Dr. Saint-Jacques said he knew he was selected as the next Canadian in space well before the announcement rendered him even more famous.

Engineer, doctor, Cambridge astrophysicist and astronaut, David St-Jacques is now 46 years old, and plans to train hard for the next two years before fulfilling a demanding and emancipating task, which is representing Canada on a floating laboratory that is the product of international cooperation.

"The doctor in me is eager to conduct experiments and experience first-hand the effects of microgravity on my body, the engineer in me is eager to operate Canadarm2, the astrophysicist in me is eager to look at the stars while floating in my space suit, and of course, the adventurer in me, he's just eager," he said at the announcement on May 16.

David St-Jacques will be part of a crew of six astronauts – mostly American and Russian – for most of his time on the ISS. He’ll be conducting scientific research, perhaps performing a spacewalk, and above all he’ll be talking to his family on the phone.

I had the opportunity to meet him at the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute’s ASTRO 2016 conference held in Ottawa from May 17 to May 19. At first, you may think one will be impressed because of all his degrees and his extraordinary career. But it’s not because of that. Dr. Saint-Jacques is a humble, down to earth human with an incredible job. He says he’s just like everyone else, but he just goes to space sometimes. 

The Canadian Space Agency’s president Sylvain Laporte, David St-Jacques and me in Ottawa on May 18.


Best of luck to him, not only for the mission, but also for the next two years of intensive training in Russia and Japan!

After two tries, the expendable BEAM module is now inflated.

Arrived on the International Space Station (ISS) on April 10 using a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission (, the Bigelow Expendable Activity Module (BEAM) began a two-year journey as the first of its kind.

Developed in Las Vegas, BEAM is an inflatable module that can be attached to the ISS. It’s only a prototype (for now) but the long-term goal for Bigelow Aerospace (BEAM’s contractor) is to use similar inflatable spacecrafts for long-duration mission such as NASA’s journey to Mars. So as you may have guessed, Bigelow Aerospace really wants its prototype to work as planned…

But it didn’t! At least on May 26, when the astronauts onboard the station tried for the first time to inflate BEAM. Jeff Williams, a flight engineer on the station (this is one position you can be on the station if you’re not commander), realized that the module wasn’t expanding anymore despite the fact that they were still pumping air into it.

So they stopped the inflation process for a complete day and tried again on May 28. After being precisely guided by Houston as to which step to follow, Williams finally succeeded to flawlessly inflate the module, expanding it from its original 2.1-meter length to an impressing 7-meter. BEAM’s expansion on the second try

Bigelow aerospace fully understood the decision of NASA to stop the inflation on the first try. “We recognize that BEAM is a first of-its-kind spacecraft, and we are in full support of safety being the number one priority,” Bigelow Aerospace said in a statement.

BEAM is an original and innovative idea. It can launch in a tight space on a rocket, and then expand to shelter astronauts on a multiple-day voyage. It can be useful, and NASA knows it! Perhaps as a tool to get to Mars…?

India successfully tests its first reusable spacecraft

On May 23, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – the Indian equivalent of NASA – launched its first reusable spacecraft to test its resistance to high temperatures during re-entry as well as other navigation systems.

The spacecraft, a 22-foot winged ‘mini’ Space Shuttle, was subject to an investment of $14 million since it was approved for development in 2012.

Known as the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), the craft launched to an altitude of 65 kilometers while reaching Mach 5 for a total mission time of about 13 minutes.




RLV-TD will undergo four experimental flights: the first one, which was completed on May 23; the hypersonic flight experiment and the landing experiment (both are on the same flight); the return flight experiment and the scramjet propulsion experiment.

With its $1.2 billion annual budget, ISRO is far from NASA’s $18.5 billion’s. And it’s probably years away before the RLV-TD gets on the market. But it makes India part of a short, elite and select group of countries that invests in the space industry and develops reusable spacecrafts. 

It’s interesting to see how emerging markets increasingly invest in space exploration (think of India, China, Brazil, Ukraine, etc.).

Human emancipation and exploration should have less financial restrictions.  


SpaceX update

As an anniversary for the 25th SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch, the private company owned by successful entrepreneur Elon Musk launched THAICOM 8 on May 27, before landing its rocket on a barge-like drone-ship… again.

THAICOM 8 is a 3100kg Thai communication satellite that will provide better services for Southeast Asia.

After successfully placing the satellite in orbit, the first stage of the Falcon 9 was coming down smoothly for an attempt to land on a barge in the Atlantic. And it succeeded! The rocket-landing process is starting to become routine!


 30-second, accelerated video of May 27’s rocket landing

SpaceX’s next launch is scheduled for June 16, where it will launch the Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A communications satellites from Cape Canaveral. This sounds like another barge-ship rocket landing!