Morning of the Maple Leaf: A Spaceflight Timeline-in-a-Post

Good evening, everyone! I know it's been a little while since @Polish Eagle and I finished writing Right Side Up (and we're both pleased to thank everyone who offered their votes at the Turtledoves this year). That said, I'm proud to present the following, which is something of a spiritual successor to my earlier timeline Dawn of the Dragon. You don't need to have read that one first, the two timelines aren't the same thread of history, just similar concepts, but you might want to before you head on into today with a bright and shiny...

Morning of the Maple Leaf

There are many things about our neighbor to the north that puzzle Americans: why are they so interested in hockey? What, exactly, is a “toonie” and why would I want one? Is it anything to do with a “double double”? Why does milk come in bags? Are they actually that nice, or just better at hiding when they dislike you? However, perhaps the most persistent Canadian stereotype is reflected in the timeless joke: what is it about Canada that makes you want go to space to get away from it?

Just across the border, we’ve heard all the jokes. In space, all milk comes in bags. In space, it’s slightly warmer than Montreal in the summer. Two hundred miles away is the best distance to regard Canada from. It’s Canada, there’s nothing else to do in the winter. However, this year, as Canada celebrates the forty-fifth anniversary of their first manned flight, I think it’s simply worth reflecting on the facts and the path that brought our northern cousins as far as they have come. What is it that has made spaceflight as uniquely Canadian a fascination as cheese curds and gravy on fries?

Canada has had involvement in space since the beginnings of the space race. Indeed, Canada became the third nation to build their own satellite and have it launched into orbit with Alouette 1 in 1960, becoming the first nation other than the superpowers to build their own spacecraft. Canadian engineers played a not-insignificant role in the American Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, as engineers hired from Avro Canada after the regrettably premature cancellation of Avro Arrow, a remarkably fine aircraft [1], came to work for the Space Task Group and stayed through the 1960s as American set its sights on the Moon. However, the birth of the independent Canadian space program as we know it today came during the tenure of Prime Minister Pearson. Though controversial at the time, and the result of legislative maneuvering which is beyond the scope of this piece but remarkable to dig into in detail, Pearson sought to solidify Canadian soft power, rather than hard power, reasoning correctly that Canada’s defense in the latter half of the twentieth century would depend largely on their neighbors to the south, but more important would be the ongoing maintenance of Canadian culture and spirit with the rise and spread of mass media and high technology. If the future was in space, then space was where Canada would look for the future.

Pearson’s time in office was incredibly busy with actions which would remake Canada as we know it today. He unified the nation’s armed forces, introduced the now-iconic Maple Leaf flag, drove forward the introduction of the national public healthcare system (known as Medicare specifically to mess with Americans), introduced the Canada Pension Plan. Some elements of his government were controversial, such as the merging of the Canadian armed forces and a general reduction in spending on national defense. However, the one of most relevance to spaceflight came in 1965, when Pearson stood before a crowd at McGill University in Montreal and declared that Canada would invest some of the savings from the drawdown in military spending on the development of an independent Canadian manned space program, one which could stand alongside the United States as a peer. Referencing a famous quote, Pearson declared that, “This decade of spaceflight shall likely go down in history as belonging to the United States. I think we can claim it is Canada which shall fill the next.” It was a brave prediction on both fronts, as the United States arguably appeared to still be trailing the Soviet Union in the moon race until several years later. However, the more controversial element was the sheer investment of national will which fulfilling the latter statement would require.

In the era, the Canadian budget expenditures amounted to some $12.987 billion (CAD). Even matching the expenditures of the American Gemini program, which totaled some $1.3 billion (USD) over five years, would require devoting a massive fraction of the Canadian federal budget to the task. As mentioned, the precise political maneuvering surrounding the passage of this bears deeper examination than can be covered here, but the simplest contributing factor to Canada’s success in spaceflight on a budget came from a fundamental untruth: the Canadian “independent” launch vehicle and manned spaceflight program would be for many years anything but. In order to minimize development costs, the initial Canadian launch vehicle and capsule would draw directly on license-built designs already developed by the United States.

By the time Pearson’s famous McGill “Space Speech” was being put into practice, Project Gemini had largely reached its conclusion. Though the last American Gemini missions would not fly for more than a year, the Apollo program clearly pointed to the future of American spaceflight. Gemini had been nothing but a stepping stone for NASA, a test platform to cheaply and quickly learn the lessons they needed in order to go where no man had gone before. McDonnell Aircraft had desperately developed innumerable plans for employing Gemini for roles Apollo was better suited for, and Martin-Marietta had quietly turned the Titan rocket and related missile into highly capable launch vehicles in the shadow of the Saturn family. Pearson’s government was able to make deals with the manufacturers to establish licensed production in Canada of both vehicles, which would be the key to accomplishing the objectives he had set for the nation in space on a budget which they could afford. The Titan rocket would be produced, with revisions, at de Havilland Canada's Downwsview plant outside Toronto (home to extensive pressurized fuselage production experience suited for rocket bodies), while in a traditionally Canadian compromise the capsule would be built by Canadair's Plant One in Saint-Laurent, Quebec. The leadership for these production teams would come from an experienced corps of ex-Avro engineers who returned to the Canadian fold fresh with experience (and connections) gained in their time with NASA at the new headquarters for the newborn Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne), at Longueuil, Quebec, just outside of Montreal. The name would eventually become almost as common on the lips of spacefarers calling home as “Houston,” “Moscow,” or “Munich”.

While the initial plans for the Canadian space program hinged on using Gemini/Titan “essentially unmodified,” the requirement to redevelop production in Canada lead to a chance to make “minor” changes to the vehicles. Initially, the changes were actually “minor,” and limited mostly to the capsule. McDonnell quietly made the CSA(ASC) and Canadair aware of modifications to the Gemini capsule which had been made to enable the USAF “Manned Orbital Laboratory” program. Most notable among the features was the addition of an aft hatch through the capsule heat shield and the repositioning of seats in the cockpit to allow crew to access a larger crew volume aft of the command module. On future Canadian vehicles, like copies of the American Titan III-D which had been planned for the Manned Orbiting Lab, this could allow additional volume or even entire “mini-stations” to be launched attached to the capsule. However, the more that Canadian engineers reviewed McDonnell’s plans for these expanded vehicles, particularly those which would be capable of acting as a cargo and crew ferry for the kinds of large-crew Earth-orbital stations which the Americans were considering, the more they decided it was worth making the investment to skip the step.

There were, as astonishing as it seems at the time, worries that Canada’s newfound infatuation with space might not last, and that the burst of funding which was unleashed on the fledgling Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne) might end up as much of a flash-in-the-pan as the American’s much larger Apollo budgets would prove to be. There were of course, signs that it was not to be: due to schedule differences, the original episode of “Star Trek” debuted in Canada two days before its broadcast to the United states [2], and quickly became a smash hit even as it struggled more to find a mainstream Americans audience. During the show’s five year run, Captain Kirk (played by Canadian-born actor William Shatner) would be adopted as a national hero by Canadian fans, who decided he must share the nationality of his actor. Decades later, during the making of Star Trek’s fourth movie, Desilu script-writers would eventually honor this fact in a line which brought cheers to fan-filled theaters when Kirk explained to a confused resident of the past that, “I’m from Saskatchewan, I only work in outer space.”

By the time Captain Kirk said that particular line, he was far from the first who could make such a claim. As the Americans reached the climax of Apollo in 1969 and began the slow denouement of the moon race, the Canadian program saw its first real successes, even as the Canadian Gemini began to diverge into a radically different vehicle. Prototype hardware was beginning production on a hand-built basis from tooling either copied or directly purchased from McDonnell. As Gemini began to wind down, tooling and dies were in some cases shipped directly from St. Louis, Missouri to Saint-Laurent, Quebec to be converted for use assembling the Canadian capsule. The new Canadian craft had a new name, bestowed by the ex-Avro, ex-NASA engineers and managers supervising the program at the CSA(ASC): the Arrow. The Arrow differed from Gemini in many ways, some minor, some major, which added up to a completely different capability. Arrow would share the exact outer mold line of the Gemini it was derived from, however, significant weight savings were to be found in the computer and guidance systems as the benefits of a full decade of rapid iteration in flight computers was reaped in lighter, more powerful, more reliable hardware. Other changes in systems and avionics followed similar paths, and the control panel was thus completely overhauled. The ejection seats and crew positions were roughly the same, and the hatch through the heatshield was carefully left unchanged from the version successfully tested aboard Gemini-B in late 1966.

However, aft of the entry module heatshield, the vehicle’s design was radically overhauled, though many of the actual systems were similar. The Arrow would be fitted for an even greater orbital maneuvering capability than Gemini, and thus was fitted with a more powerful, more efficient Orbital Maneuvering System using new tanks and several small engines located in the Equipment Module. The new OMS would also take over the retro role, allowing the solid motors of the Retro Module to be deleted, and the structure of the two modules merged, and act as a kind of “third stage” enabling the launch vehicle to complete insertion of the slightly heavier Arrow to even the high-inclination near-polar orbits required by anticipated Canadian launch sites. The combined structure featured a new aft pressure compartment, extending a small tunnel from the command module hatch to a space large enough for Canadian astronauts to float facing aft. Initially, this space would only be used for additional consumables storage, however, the Canadians intended this new aft module--free from the constraint of entering the atmosphere--to be easily fitted with a redundant control station and the new aft bulkhead to be able to carry an Apollo-type probe and drogue adapter or any of a variety of systems based on an androgynous version of McDonnell’s proposed 9 foot, 6 inch docking ring, suitable for attaching together small launches into larger stations. This approach of modular construction would prove prescient, and the decision to spend the money during initial Arrow development on completely overhauling the Aft Module was to be proven over and over. If Gemini had simply been copied whole, it is unlikely that the Canadian Arrow would have flown further than its American cousin: a dozen-odd orbital missions proving little more than test flights. Instead, with a canny eye towards future possibilities, Canada turned its investment in a cast-off American technology into the foundations for one of the world’s greatest space programs.

The development of Arrow spurred the development of the vehicle which would carry it. The original plan had been to implement Titan hypergolic launches from Canada. However, while the Titan would serve as the initial launcher for Arrow, the decision was made in 1966 to abandon the hypergolic engines for the Titan’s Canadian derivative, since new production facilities would have to be set up at de Havilland Canada in either case. The decision was eased as the LR-87 and LR-91 engines powering the first and seconds stages, respectively, were already proven to run on kerosene/LOX propellants, and had been used as such in the original Titan I missile. Though it was more costly, Canadian regulatory agencies were quietly terrified of the potential for long-term operation of the toxic Titan missiles from Canadian launch sites. The engines would be requalified in their latest iteration for operations on the cryogenic fuels, and the tank’s capacity could be altered as required during the establishment of the new Canadian assembly, test, and launch facilities. Consideration was even given briefly to using the LR-91 upper stage engine with hydrogen/oxygen fuels, as with the upper stages of the American Saturn launch vehicles. The LR-87, which the LR-91 was based on, had amazingly also been tested on this third propellant mixture. However, the added bulk of the low-density hydrogen, the challenges of producing and storing a second cryogen, and the use of different propellants for the upper and lower stages of the vehicle meant that ultimately the idea was abandoned. Final planning work by Martin-Marietta and de Havilland Canada on the new Titan derivative was underway by 1969 as the plans for the Arrow capsule were finalized in other parts of the Downsview plant in Toronto. The project was also renamed in reflection of its Canadian rebirth as Nanook, the Inuit master of polar bears who determined if hunters would succeed or fail. Nanook would determine if Canada could launch their Arrow at the heavens and fulfill Pearson’s promises.

While program managers at the Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne) worked with de Havilland Canada and Martin-Marietta on the rocket and Canadair and McDonnell on the capsule, others worked to find a place to launch them. Canada, the Great White North, was not blessed with an overwhelming abundance of the kinds of low-latitude launch sites which the Americans and the European Launcher Development Organization (the early precursor to the modern European Confederation Space Agency) could draw upon. Instead, no matter where they looked, Canadian engineers were faced with latitude and climates much more familiar to Russian launches: cold, bleak, and unbearably far north. There were three main possibilities: a maritime coastal launch site in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia which would launch over water, in the American and European model, an expansion of the the suborbital scientific launch site at Churchill, Manitoba, overflying Hudson Bay, or an inland launch site somewhere in the Canadian West where rockets would fly over land. A coastal launch site was originally preferred, with an eye towards ease of shipping. For a launch site in the Maritimes, rocket components could be loaded onto ships in Toronto, moved directly to the launch site via the St. Lawrence Seaway, picking up the capsule along the way, and then all the stack components could be unloaded directly into the integration hangar. For an inland launch site, however, they would have to move the rocket by road, rail, or air, depending on the remoteness of the site. The modification of the Arrow capsule to use the Gemini-B paraglider helped decide the issue, as it meant that instead of preferring to ditch in water in the event of an abort, the capsule instead would prefer to ditch on land. Thus, ultimately the home of the Nanook launcher came to rest inland at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta. While alternative inland launch sites were considered, the CSA(ASC) ultimately decided on Cold Lake for several reasons. As a Canadian Forces base, Cold Lake already possessed many of the military-grade radar and communications equipment necessary for tracking rocket launches and processing telemetry and the Air Weapons Range meant that airspace exclusions for the immediate launch zone were already part of local operational practice. The base’s runways, capable of receiving even large cargo planes, meant the ability to move in hardware and personnel easily, and the new CSA(ASC) launch site could draw on the existing base staff and local town for various logistical needs and construction support. The biggest issue was ensuring that launches from Cold Lake, particularly to polar trajectories flying north over the Arctic, were not misinterpreted by the Soviet Union as nuclear ballistic missile launches. Thus, the control room at Cold Lake became home to a “hotline” connection to Moscow specifically to provide updates and notifications on Nanook test and operational launches.

While the Canadian space program was progressing into the assembly of hardware and the construction of their new launch site in 1969, the fate of the Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne) was being decided, in no small part by fascination by the average Canadian with progress in space by other nations. The American program was reaching its thrilling conclusion, with Apollo 11’s landing in the Sea of Tranquility, and Canadian citizens, like many around the world, were glued to their televisions and radios to find out if men sent from Earth would reach the moon and return safely home. Perhaps, as has been suggested, the frontier spirit of Canadians was touched by those listening, or perhaps as has been joked, the “magnificent desolation” described by Buzz Aldrin as he followed Neil Armstrong down the ladder simply reminded many Canadians of home. More prosaically, it may simply be the success of the CSA(ASC) in piggybacking on the coverage of the American program with tours by mockups of the Arrow and Nanook and the introduction of the first class of Canadian astronaut-pilots. Regardless, while the nation’s commitment to the program four years earlier might have been questionable, a vocal minority (if not the majority it is often retroactively imagined to have been) came to give the program unrelenting support. While American space spending had already passed its apogee by 1969, the Canadian budget for space--though smaller in absolute spending--only trended up as a fraction of federal spending. With the benefits flowing to embattled Canadian industrial centers, the CSA(ASC) had seen its budgets more than double, enabling them to keep their first launch on schedule for 1974 even as the establishment of launch facilities at Cold Lake and the transition from the simpler Gemini/Titan production to the wholly redeveloped Arrow/Nanook system progressed.

Delays were perhaps inevitable as the Arrow capsule proceeded through prototyping and ground testing, but they loomed larger in program managers’ minds than in hindsight. Ultimately, few recall that the first Arrow training mockup failed to arrive at CSA(ASC) headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec until almost two months behind schedule or that arrangements with NASA to reserve time at their astronaut training facilities in Houston dragged on for weeks over minor details. The first test firings of a Canadian-produced CLR-87 occured in the spring of 1972, and a complete first stage followed within 8 months as de Havilland Canada finished spinning up their tank production capacity and testing on both the first stage and second stage engines was completed. The sharing of astronaut training facilities with NASA was not an isolated incident: despite the stubborn Canadian insistence on an independent program, in reality they ended up depending heavily on bemused American assistance. Early tests of the Arrow capsule took place at NASA's Plum Brook vacuum chambers when Canadair's smaller facility wasn't able to be activated in time, and retired NASA Gemini mockups were shipped to the CSA(ASC) for training, and Canuck astronauts came south to train in the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and other facilities whose equivalents were yet to exist in the great white north. As training for the Apollo mission wound down and the first flight of the Space Shuttle still loomed years in the distance, NASA was pleased to help out a fellow space program, even an upstart NASA believed was placing excessive importance on a symbolic trivial manned capacity, by selling time on underutilized equipment. Another example of American assistance came with early tests of the Arrow capsule, whose early suborbital trials of the launch escape tower and heat shield were made on top of American Titan II rockets from the Cape--the toxic American cousin of the cryogenic Canuck rocket.

By 1974, though behind schedule, Canada was ready for their first flight. The Nanook rocket made a series of risk-reduction flights from Cold Lake over the course of the year, with both the first and second stages performing nominally. Unmanned orbital trials of the Arrow aboard the later of these flights also showed expected performance, though experiments with the parafoil under automatic control were as problematic as they had been during aircraft drop trials. It took crew aboard during the drop trials to reliably ensure parafoil landing success. However, it was what happened after the nominal missions which produced concern among the CSA(ASC) and within the broader federal government. Launching overland presented the Canadian program with the same issues with overflight of land, even largely unpopulated land, as the Russians had dealt with for years. However, unlike the authoritarian Soviet Union, the Canadians downrange had a voice in their own affairs. The intended standard practice had been to use the first stages’ destruct packages to shred the tanks and heavier components after staging to ensure little more than debris made it to the ground. However, as rapidly became apparent, this wasn’t a workable solution. After the initial few launches, the First Nations reservations near the debris landing zones began to complain loudly of the clouds of shrapnel spread randomly over fields and, in one case, near a town due to an unanticipated variation in wind downrange from Cold Lake. Simple aerodynamics and explosives weren’t a valid solution, a fact proven all the more when the July 1, 1974 test flight of an Arrow capsule to orbit saw the destruct package fail, and the nearly-intact Nanook first stage plummeted into a barley field near one of the Meadow Lake reservations and caught fire. The next Nanook launch three months later (the fifth of the program) placed the rocket’s first non-Arrow payload into orbit using an aerodynamic fairing...both halves of which were also recovered nearly intact, having been slowed sufficiently by their low weight and high area to come drifting down along two back-country roads, only to be found by a First Nation farmer the next day. Clearly, something had to be done.

The initial concept, particularly given issues encountered with unmanned operation of the Arrow parafoil landing scheme, was to simply abandon Cold Lake entirely, and rebuild the program’s launch site someplace in the Maritimes. However, while the representatives from Saskatchewan aired their constituents justified grievances, the representatives of Alberta were less than eager to see the space program leave them behind, and pointed out the enormous waste of money which would be required to duplicate Cold Lake’s facilities--particularly range equipment like radars and communications systems--somewhere in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. The CSA(ASC), for their part, were frustrated for having badly misjudged the problem for themselves, but also were less than eager for the multi-year delays to the manned Arrow program which the switch would entail. A desperate solution was proposed to prevent the stages from landing downrange: attaching parachutes to the stages, and grabbing them out of midair with a CH-124 helicopter, a plan similar to American recovery of spy satellite film buckets. The parachutes would slow the stage enough to allow the helicopter multiple chances to make the catch, and mean that even if the helicopter missed the capture, the Nanook first stage would still be travelling slow enough to make any damage on the ground relatively minor.

The changes were to be implemented immediately, to keep the program on track for the 1975 manned debut, and involved modifications at Downsview to the production lines for Nanook stages and engineers from de Havilland and the CSA(ASC) set to work training with Canadian Forces pilots at the test ranges near Cold Lake with interim “battleship” stages attached to parachute packages. Deploying the parachuted proved to require a set of deployable fins to stabilize the stage in the tail-first attitude the weight of the engines dragged it into, but once the challenges of deploying the parachutes initially had been worked out, the plans proved very workable--with two chase helicopters pacing the drop plane, they were able to recover the stage before it hit the ground nearly every time in dozens of trials. On one of the few occasions where they did, the stage gently crunched into the ground under the canopy and toppled gracefully over. The solution was first tested in flight in September of 1975--the solutions had managed to be implemented in less than a year. A Nanook rocket roared off the pad at Cold Lake, and aboard was the first Canadian to travel in space. As the second stage separated and carried William “Bill” Anderchuk [3] on his historic mission, the first stage reached apogee and tumbled back to Earth. It was, exactly as planned, snatched from the air by one of the pre-positioned CH-124 helicopters and carried back to Cold Lake. It was a success, but one which would eventually turn into yet another problem for the Canadian program.

Meanwhile, Anderchuk’s Arrow 1 capsule separated from the Nanook’s second stage and began the final circularization process on its internal Orbital Maneuvering System. As the slow, steady burn completed and ground controllers in Longueuil verified his stable orbit, Anderchuk spoke on a live broadcast carried by every Canadian network, which many citizens had gathered with families and friends in homes, workplaces, and bars to watch and listen to. “From the heights of space, I view the visage of our planet of blue. Commencing in the present and continuing into the future, it is important that we, the inhabitants of Terra, are able to form an accord with nature to continue to survive until we can all safely voyage into space.” The speech, Anderchuk revealed, had been selected for its ease of translation and large number of French cognates. Though he repeated it again in French, he wanted to make his first broadcast understandable to any Canadian, regardless of origin [4].

The subsequent Canadian program is more heavily covered by other sources, but its succession of firsts--first two person Canadian flight aboard Arrow 2 in March, 1976, first Canadian spacewalk on Arrow 3 in June of 1977 was interrupted by one which best exemplifies the the issues encountered by the Canadian program and the ongoing complex truth behind the “independent” Canadian program. While the Canadian program was flowering in the mid-seventies, it was limited by its launchers. Launched aboard Nanook, Arrow was capable of very little more than a week or so in space with a crew of two. It could become a capable taxi to another station, but any “space station” launched aboard Nanook would have been at best little larger than a van--one which barely deserved the name compared to the American Skylab and the ongoing Soviet Salyut series. Thus, the Canadian program would have been stymied if not for their ongoing friendly relationship with their larger southern cousin. NASA, for their part, found themselves also stuck as the seventies drew towards a close. With the final flight of an Apollo capsule for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in July 1975, American spacelight had hit a roadblock. Manned missions--or indeed any launches for human spaceflight purposes--would have to await the debut of their new Space Shuttle. Aiming for cheap and reliable reusable launch, with the large Orbiter capable of carrying more than a dozen metric tons into orbit with a crew of eight and the boosters parachuting into the Atlantic for recovery like a solid version of the Nanook first stage, Shuttle was an impressive system, and one Canada could for the moment only dream of matching.

However, the date for the maiden flight of that new system was proving annoyingly variable, and the US found themselves hemmed in by their reliance on Shuttle for the program. As the Shuttle was delayed, plans for using Shuttle to salvage and refit the Skylab space station ran into trouble. It had been expected that the station--which still had substantial reserves of food and other consumables onboard and offered a massive habitable space--would last on orbit well into the 1980s, which would enable early Space Shuttle launches in 1979 to reboost the station, outfit it with enhanced power generation and orbital control equipment, and return it to operational use even beyond its original temporary manned roles. This would enable the station to replace the large Saturn-launched station modules which had been envisioned as early Shuttle destinations. Unfortunately, as the Shuttle debut slipped to the right, the date of Skylab’s date with destiny slipped to the left. Increased solar activity meant higher atmospheric drag on the station, and the date for Skylab’s fiery end moved from a far-off problem to an immediate concern. By 1978, it had reached a crisis point. Shuttle, it had become fully clear, would not be ready to fly for more than two years. Despite the use of station attitude modes to minimize drag as much as possible throughout most of 1978, Skylab had less than a year left before it would come down. A solution had to be found.

The Arrow and Nanook provided just such a solution. Though small and limited in capabilities, Arrow was proven, and the Canadair had already finalized, among other docking collar options which could replace Arrow’s Aft Module rear bulkhead, a plan to modify Arrow if necessary with an American probe-and-drogue docking system. The CSA(ASC) offered NASA a solution: they would finish this version of Arrow and launch it to save Skylab, if NASA would let them launch their own small station aboard Shuttle at a future date--a payment in kind. NASA agreed, but with their own proviso: they would demand to have an astronaut aboard the mission which would fly to Skylab’s rescue, in exchange for which Canada could fly their own astronauts aboard Shuttle. It was a moment of great pride for the Canadians: the Americans had been forced to come, hat in hand, to a program many had considered a joke a decade before. Not even the martialed forces of the entire European continent (France, Germany, and to a lesser extent Britain within the European Space Agency) were able to offer such a solution with their Europa II and III rockets--while capable, they were limited by not possessing such a manned program. For NASA, it was indeed a recognition of what the Canadians had accomplished, though few at NASA really grasped the morale implications of their offer to the Canadian program. Engineers from NASA and the CSA fell immediately to work on plans for how Arrow would dock with and stabilize Skylab, while de Havilland Canada was put to work on the implementation of the modifications to produce a docking-capable version of Arrow.

The story of the salvage of Skylab needs little retelling, given its feature role in the “Saving Skylab” major motion picture, produced with partially Canadian funding in 1995. A crash program over the next year managed to get an Arrow capsule outfitted and ready to fly, while NASA astronaut Vance Brand trained with Canadian pilots in Houston and Quebec on the actual procedures necessary to dock to the station and to reactivate enough dormant systems to save the station. Time pressures proved a sticking point throughout training--a real life element taken to great effect in the film was the use of large “ticking clocks” displaying days, hours, and minutes until the expected decay of the Skylab station. While Canada struggled to stay on schedule and the docking modifications to Arrow began to slip by days, then weeks, and finally running as much as two months behind the original plans as March, 1979 rolled around, Marshall engineers micro-managed EOVV (End On Velocity Vector) mode [5] to minimize drag and maximize orbital life, stretching the station’s life past the original summer 1979 decay projections to stay alive long enough for Arrow to ride to the rescue while carefully balancing the ailing station’s available power and CMG authority.

This resulted in a problem when only a week before the launch Bill Anderchuk, the veteran Canadian pilot intended for the Arrow 5 salvage mission [6] came down with an inner ear infection only a month before the flight. The backup, Jean-Pierre Boisvert [7], had never flown in space before, resulting in the oddity of a Commander who was a rookie being accompanied by an American Flight Specialist who had flown in space before and trained specifically for the task at hand--a tension the film exaggerated for dramatic effect. The mission launched from Cold Lake in July 1979, just months before Skylab’s orbit was anticipated to bring it down, and the Arrow 5 crew of Boisvert and Brand made their rendezvous with the derelict station on July 30, 1979. However, as has been much remarked upon since the film came out, “Saving Skylab” also drastically condenses the process required to re-activate the station. While they were able to stabilize the station and boost it enough to delay entry another year, it would take the Arrow 6 and 7 missions in September 1979 and March, 1980 respectively to fully boost the station to a stable altitude and restore basic power and control. Even with this Canadian effort, though, the station was largely inert and incapable of supporting crews without the consumables and provisions brought up on their own vehicles. More power generation equipment, consumables, and spare parts would be required than any numbers of Arrows could carry, both to restore critical functions and scientific capacity and to modify the station’s airlock and Multiple Docking Adapter to handle the higher internal pressure of the Space Shuttle.

Only when the American Shuttle came online was the station fully restored to functionality. Vance Brand, this time commanding the Space Shuttle Columbia, flew the STS-5 mission to fit Skylab with its new Power Module. Vance Brand, therefore, can without a doubt make the claim of being “Mr. Skylab”--the man who embodied the mission of “Skylab Rescue” more than any other, and who would fly more missions to the station than any other astronaut. The American program began to ramp up with the debut of Shuttle, and rapidly the older Skylab began to be overshadowed by newer accomplishments. Though the station was regularly over-run by large American crews, in between these visits the station would be left as the preserve of Arrow crews, working with partial direction from mission control Houston, relayed through the CSA(ASC) mission control in Longueuil. Even that wouldn’t last long, as the station would eventually be retired, replaced by other, newer stations.

As the Americans focused on their plans for larger modular stations assembled by Shuttle (many derived from the 20 kW Skylab Power Module developed and deployed to improve that station), the Canadians developed their own plans for a separate station, Polaris. Similar in construction to a European Spacelab module coupled to a copy of the Skylab Power Module, the Polaris Space Laboratory was designed as a 5.5m long, 4.12m diameter pressurized module. Though only a third the volume of the Skylab station, Canadian Arrow crews would have Polaris all to themselves, and it was designed to play host to Arrow capsules almost indefinitely. Moreover, the Polaris would act as a complement, not a competitor, to American Shuttle mission and to the eventually planned large American station. Polaris would fly to a 57 degree orbit, higher inclination than Skylab (at 50 degrees), and much higher than typical Shuttle missions (which often only went to roughly 40 degrees). Later, the station (sometimes referred to by Americans with the diminutive name “CanLab” for its origin and distinctive barrel shape) would be boosted by successive Arrow capsules into an even higher inclination orbit, enabling better observation of the poles than was possible aboard Skylab or the more equatorial NASA Shuttles--a particularly interesting fact for the Canadian program.

While Skylab rescue was being achieved and Polaris was only in early planning, the Canadian program wrestled with the relics of the decisions made to get Arrow flying. The decision to recover Nanook boosters (and, eventually, fairing sections) by parachute and helicopter hadn’t been made with any intention of doing anything beyond preventing complaints from angry Saskatchewan and First Nation farmers. Unfortunately, it left them with a dilemma: by 1980, as the drumbeat tempo of Skylab rescue died off with the program’s success, the Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne) was facing a boneyard of more than half a dozen recovered flown Nanook stages. Engineers, more out of curiosity than any real planning, decided to tear several down to examine their post-flight condition. They were found to be in remarkably good shape, and after tearing down three stages, engineers put the fourth back into the test cell in Thunder Bay, Ontario (the test site for stages making their way from Downsview to Cold Lake) and refired it. With only a few weeks of work--certainly less than the Americans were suffering with the “reusable” solid boosters plucked from the Atlantic for Shuttle--Canadian engineers were able to demonstrate multiple flight-length firings of multiple recovered stages. Thus, de Halland Canada came to the CSA(ASC) with a bold proposal: implementing the reflight of recovered Nanook boosters as a cost-reduction measure-- a critical matter given the massive fraction of the general federal budget consumed by the space program. The measure was tested with a full orbital test flight of a recovered booster, which worked without any more hassle than a typical Nanook flight. Further trials followed, and the production of Nanook boosters was temporarily paused after the twentieth flight core. It was eventually determined that the life of a flown Nanook core was only three flights before further reflight became inefficient from a cost perspective, but a modified “Nanook II” was produced by de Havilland Canada starting in 1984 which incorporated changes allowing Nanook cores to fly as many as ten missions with minimal overhaul which could be made on-site at Cold Lake. A planned second Nanook launch site was activated for static testing the reflown cores, and Canada inadvertently became the second nation to introduce a reusable orbital-class rocket.

The question of what would follow Nanook thus became a key concern. While incredibly cheap to fly with reused boosters starting in 1983, and particularly with Nankook II entering service after 1985, Nanook’s capabilities limited the program. The launch of Polaris in 1985 aboard an American Shuttle helped, as Arrow crews could now rely on the greater power and volume available aboard Polaris to increase flight capabilities. Still, the program was limited. Even while the Nanook II modification were going on, the Canadians were making studies of a new, larger booster. In honor of the Cree reservations whose protests had lead to the beginning of the Canadian recovery program, the new studies were aimed at a booster to be called “Wisakedjak”. The new booster would break from much of the Titan legacy remaining in Nanook. Though it would retain the same basic CLR-87 and CLR-91 engines, they would be uprated by almost 25%, and it would use many more of them under a new, larger core. Though initial plans started with 4 or 5 engines, eventually as many as 17 were considered under cores as large as six meters in diameter, though the final plans would be less radical.

With the overhaul of the core would come a new approach to recovery. To loft the kind of payload desired by the Canadian space program, the core would need to be heavier than could be retrieved mid-air with any helicopter in the Canadian Forces. However, by the time the parachutes were deployed, Nanook-II first stages were already well within the atmosphere and had survived the worst of entry--and the stability provided by the deployable fins required to steer them to rendezvous with waiting helicopters was already quite accurate, to the extent that operational practice actually placed the helicopters outside the impact ellipse of the no-catch case to avoid collisions with the booster until the parachutes deployed. An innovative Canadian engineer proposed that instead of using parachutes at all, the rocket could simply land on the thrust of its own engines. Simulations of the concept proved that the Heinleinian idea was surprisingly workable. Eventually, the plans for Wisagatcak coalesced as a 9-engine, 4-meter first stage, capable of lofting more than 12 tons to orbit and landing downrange on its engines and deployable landing gear. With this additional capability, the CSA(ASC) and Canadair could modify the Arrow capsule could be modified with a stretched Aft Module to enable a radical increase in the capsule’s capabilities, adding more volume and consumables, as well as more propellant load for reboost of Polaris and the incremental increase of the platform’s inclination. With a small third stage derived from this new Aft Module without the Command Module, Wissaketchak would even be capable of delivering many tons to geostationary orbits, a useful capability for both Canadian internal programs and posible commercial sales.

While Wiisagejaak preparations were ongoing, the Canadian program was advancing by leaps and bounds. Polaris launched aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, and was visited by crews aboard Arrow capsules in 6-month rotations, establishing the first permanent manned presence in space. manned platform. The launch of Polaris, however, would be followed by tragedy: later the same year the American program would suffer the disastrous loss of the Space Shuttle Discovery during a return from orbit. Among the crew were many who had flown with Canadian pilots aboard Skylab or on Canadian astronaut exchanges on Shuttle, and the CSA(ASC) mourned right along with NASA. While the Shuttle was grounded, the Canadians became unanticipated beneficiaries. The failure of Shuttle, and its difficulties meeting the per-flight costs which had been promised, saw many commercial customers fleeing to other vehicles, and the Nanook II and the still-in-testing Weesageechak were perfectly positioned to reap the benefits. Nanook had proved to be an extremely cost-effective launcher and had capacity to spare, both in contrast to the European’s slow launch pace of their similarly-sized Europa III. The test program of Weesackkachack was long, exacerbated by the need to incrementally test its downrange vertical landing techniques, but it was able to draw on the extensive flight history of the Nanook II rocket in designing for easy turnaround, something which the American Shuttle had proven was no trivial concern for a reusable system, and its flights beginning in 1989 quickly racked up a staggering history of rapid and cheap launches, mixing the Canadian manned program’s Arrow Block II with Commercial Woesackootchacht launches to polar, LEO, and geostationary orbits, with boosters landing on tails of flame on concrete landing pads scattered across the great untamed north.

The history of the Canadian program after 1990 is much newer and in general more familiar, thus we shall discuss it in less depth. Almost every Canadian schoolboy (and more than a few schoolgirls) had posters of Vasaagihdzak rockets landing in the western prairies and the shores of Lake Athabasca in their lockers, right alongside photos of hockey players and other heroes, and no bookshelf was complete without a model of an Arrow capsule nestled among copies of Anne of Green Gables and hockey trophies. Canada’s participation in the American International Space Station, and their consultation on the Block II Shuttle’s liquid boostback boosters (drawing on the flight heritage of Wiskaytchachthe) were points of national pride, but the space program became a political hot button issue due to its high profile and massive annual expense--despite being only a tenth as large in population and economy as the United States, the Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne) routinely received almost a third the budget granted by the less space-mad Americans to their own NASA. One of the most infamous examples of space being unable to escape Canadian politics came during the lead up to the 1995 Quebec independence referendum, when Canadian astronauts, broadcasting live in the regular transmissions made to explain science to Canadian schoolchildren, pointed the Polaris station’s TV camera out the window to show Canada sweeping along below and solemnly intone how no divisions could be seen in the great nation from space--a sentiment that while laudable was taken by some as “No” propaganda--indeed, in the station’s control station in Longueuil several controllers made a point of simultaneously standing and symbolically turning their backs on their control consoles for several minutes later the same day in protest of the broadcast, which they argued had been demanded by the federal government in Ontario.

Time healed all such wounds, though, and the nation came together as a whole just four years later to watch the fulfillment of Pearson’s original promise that one day, Canada might go where the United States could not. In the last months of the millennium, Canada would use two Whiskeyjack launches to assemble an Arrow capsule with a modified kick stage to boost a pair of astronauts on the first trip around the moon in almost thirty years. The mission was, according to ratings, watched by nearly every household in the entire nation along with hundreds of millions around the globe. It also stands in the history of Canadian broadcasting as one of few things to cause television and radio stations to cut away from hockey when the first broadcast made by a Canadian crew as they returned from the lunar farside’s communications blackout ran long. The words of astronaut Chris Hadfield are still recalled, to this day, by almost every Canadian alive:

“My friends, I’m pleased to say to all of you back on the great, green Earth: Poisson d’avril! April Fools!


[1] Please, I said it! Release my children!

[2] This broadcast date is actually historical, please note. The bizarre Canadian fascination with all things space is, of course, less so.

[3] Fictional, last seen in Eyes Turned Skyward aboard Spacelab 22.

[4] In French, this would read a bit like this: “En hauts d'espace, je vois le visage de la planete bleue. Commencement au present et continuer au futur, c'est important que nous, les habitants du terre, faire un accord avec la nature pour continuer de survivre jusqu'a nous pouvons voyager dans l'espace.” Many thanks to @Brainbin for his assistance in preparing this dialog and with other Canadianisms throughout this work.

[5] Many thanks to @TimothyC for his assistance in locating this NASA study on how Skylab’s orbital life was stretched and managed in its last years to try to enable a Shuttle to come to the rescue, and additional options which were not finally used. Take a look at PDF pages 22-34 (Section 2.1.1) and Figure 2-1 on PDF page 24. I used the chart and stretched Skylab a little past its original final entry date based on continued EOVV usage to have the station just barely saved in time even with that adjustment.

[6] Fictional, last seen in Morning of the Maple Leaf aboard Arrow 1.

[7] Fictional, first seen in Morning of the Maple Leaf as the backup commander of Arrow 5.
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So I’m Canadian and biased (as fuck) but what a lovely timeline! I love all of your space timelines and contributions to various folk’s timelines (and me!) but hey Canada—this is of course the best one :). Lol.
@e of pi , I am glad that I was able to help, and do say that I found this a very enjoyable romp. I especially found both the silly Easter eggs (American Block II Shuttle, Europa & the European Confederation, ect) and the fact that the entire 1980s shuttle manifest gets up-ended just a treat. Bravo good sir, bravo.
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the regrettably premature cancellation of Avro Arrow, a remarkably fine aircraft [1],


In all seriousness, neat scenario. Interesting to see the Canadians essentially converge on a Falcon 9-like design--by 9 CLR-87 engines, am I to understand that it uses 18 nozzles? Or did they go back to the original 1-chamber configuration?

Maybe they'll go back to LH2 in a future up-rating of the Wiisagejaak--to enable second-stage reuse.
By enabling 2nd stage use do you mean using the superior Isp to carry the larger dry mass of a stage with all the stuff needed to enable reentry and landing? So that as a single stage it is mediocre in performance, but the economics of reuse cause the launch price to be lowered?

This is the one way BFR of OTL would break sharply from the 1960s conventional wisdom about a Shuttle--well that and vertical landing of course. Everyone including Bono assumed that of course for reusable stages to work you needed the most energetic propellant available, whereas of course using methane is just an incremental step up from using ker-lox, not even halfway between ker-lox and hydrogen, more like 1/3 of the way. Yet it works (assuming they can hit those published targets of parameters) because the compactness of meth-lox offsets the paper advantage of Isp; I gather that includes it being easier to make an engine design work--even so they have gone for the moderate superiority in Isp of a vacuum-only Raptor design parallel to a lower Isp SL version.

Interestingly kludging around with Silverbird, I modeled BFR as a three stage vehicle (a "virtual" second stage modeling the thrust of all seven Raptors with a calculated intermediate Isp, and zero dry mass, just a share of the 1100 tonne propellant load) and found that the higher thrust of using all seven Raptors more than compensated for the lower Isp, apparently without limit--I chickened out on taking it all the way to orbit that way, and resolved to hold the "second" stage operation to 900 tonnes of the propellant--the lion's share obviously--to limit the acceleration to 3 G's a la Shuttle. So payload was not quite maximized, but it was within a tonne of the apparent absolute maximum.

This suggests to me that if they wish to upgrade Wiisagejaak they would do better perhaps to maximize ker-lox Isp and thrust with high performance upgrades to the chamber and pumps and rely on the familiar propellant mix, and follow a SpaceX style program for returning the upper stage--ablative TPS, even if it is heavier, on replaceable mounting, to enable it to enter for vertical landing. Though actually if they are unable to have as lightweight a coating as PICA-X apparently enables BFS to have--nonwithstanding that it is meant for hundreds of entries without refurbishment!--they might wind up with a structure so robust that it can take simple parachuting and hard landing or splashdown, and still be suitable for reuse. It would require a lot more propellant mass to reach orbit with a given payload, but that's the reusable game for you.

Anyone remember the odd TPS notion I had in the past couple years--coat a high temperature metal heat sink style TPS with an ablative layer calibrated not to be adequate for return all by itself, guaranteed to be burned off completely before reentry is complete--but in ablating off, it guarantees that the craft will be slowed enough on entry that the metal will be quite adequate for the remaining job. Ablatives can handle much higher peak rates of heating--they just boil off that much faster, so a hard brisk reentry can be planned so that about when the ablative is gone the craft goes over to a gentler entry path that a fixed non-consumable sublayer can handle well. The craft returns to Earth cleaned of the last layer of ablative, ready for a new one to be applied to the substrate pretty simply--"painted" on or with shaped pieces being glued on.

BFS is apparently going to rely on the tail delta wing for roll control as well as pitch control (the combination gives yaw control indirectly too) and that means that one side of the more or less cylindrical hull will always be face-down; I presume that the PICA-X is not applied uniformly but is much thicker on that side, laid down so that the same percentage of ablator is burned off all around. I am not sure how an upper stage that is a lot simpler would achieve pich control--one method might be to pump reserve propellant enabling it to land up and down the length rapidly to control CM. If they can achieve adequate pitch control without a winglike device, perhaps then the cylinder can be made to roll at a steady rate, with suitably curved little fins pinwheel style (a sideways pinwheel to be sure) that cause its ablative to be baked evenly. Or that might enable a bare metal surface with no ablative at all?

I complicated it more by proposing a third layer of reflective insulator tiles under the metal. The upshot would be a three layer job where the main function of the metal layer is to protect the tiles and secure them, the tile insulation being the main protection in the moderate to low heating regime--the burn-off ablative outer layer delaying the process of the metal middle layer being heated. It would be bad for some small patches of metal to be exposed long before the rest is is, since differential heating would warp the structure, but I figured if the outer metal were highly conductive and the attachment interface designed to weaken rapidly upon being heated that we could guarantee a rapid transition from first burn-through to shedding the whole ablative layer cleanly, at the cost of much of the ablative not being burned--I suppose that also means, in view of being slowed down very rapidly and having ablative resistance to heating, that the fragments would reach Earth's surface still in rather large chunks, and these would hit the surface at terminal velocity, which might hurt someone downrange someday. If we can guarantee that shedding event happens over ocean, hopefully a patch of sea with little commercial traffic, this could be a non-problem.

Anyway, could we see the Canadian agency adopting such a strategy, making their upper stage a rather large and thick-skinned simple hypersonic entry vehicle--a cylinder or a biconic cone, perhaps with my goofy three layer ablative, maybe simplified to just ablative and dumb thick high temperature metal, with a propellant reserve for vertical landing or a parachute? No hydrogen, just ker-lox?

Titan based rockets seem suitable to consider a multi-core "heavy" upgrade all right.
Like all of your writing, it has not only entertained me, but inspired me to go and do a little research of my own Happy Easter!
Please keep going my friend! Excellent stuff so far, I'm looking forward to the emergence of the Greater Canadian Space Empire! (Even if this is only an April Fool's joke, haha)
Thank you all for the kind words. The Canada-in-space/"what's so bad about Canada that space seems better" thing was something I actually came up with during the writing of Dawn, when I really, really wanted to drive home how silly it was for China in that timeline to be spending so much on space in, say, the early 80s when it definitely wasn't the economic juggernaut it's since become. The tale had to wait for an opportune moment, and obviously it grew a bit in the telling--the original idea was to have it be about a third this long, and more jokey like the tone of the first paragraphs. A few times later on in writing I had to sit down and stop myself from writing an Eyes or Right Side Up post, and remind myself to be funny. Hence Canada launching inland and ending up inventing recoverable parachuting rockets basically by accident and niceness--though that's partly inspired by musing over the years (@Shevek23, you may have had some role in this musing) about how it's hard sometimes given how much easier it is to land downrange on land that you get the feeling Russia or China could have been recovering rockets for decades if they'd ever just had ten dollars more budget and any inclination to try not dropping rockets on peasants. It's also where my favorite joke in the piece comes from--the name of the rocket which replaces Nanook-II. A Canadian Falcon 9R with a name that's impossible to spell the same twice seemed perfect for something that kept trying hard to get more serious than it deserved. All are alternate spellings listed on Wikipedia, and please let me know how long it took to notice or if you got it immediately! For the record, I don't know their second-gen rocket ever gets a Heavy or a reusable second stage. A Heavy would help payload a lot but has ground-handling implications. The use of Arrow as a third stage might not help much with that as the second stage probably makes about 3/4 of an orbit and enters over the ocean someplace obnoxiously far from Canada. Maybe they'll work on the Heavy first and the upper stage only if the country it lands on complains. :)

I also wanted to draw some lines under what options Canada had here that gave them chances China didn't in Dawn, but that also made their stubborn insistence on their own manned program a little silly, hence explicitly discarding the tiny tin-can space stations that originally inspired Dawn and instead using Shuttle-launched larger "independent" stations and piggybacking on the US Skylab, Spacelab, and ISS programs as a full partner of the scale of ESA. It felt right for Canada, a country which has a very close and generally mutually beneficial relationship with the United States despite us Americans often thinking of it like a lost, cold little brother who needs to be show the right way to do things (as if we actually know better) and which has a tendency to be fiercly proud of native Canadian stuff and to almost deliberately cultivate a Canadian identity by finding the things that they do that the US doesn't and making sure to draw a line under them a few times, then circle it in red with a few exclamation marks. I'm sure ITTL there's heritage minutes about the Nanook program, "How Canada Saved Skylab," the Arrow capsule and how much better Canada made it than Gemini, and the first words spoken by Canadians in space and around the moon. The US and the Canadians both end up stronger for their collaboration, though neither really realizes it--the US because they can't know without our TL how much difference having Skylab up as a destination station for Shuttle from the start helps prove the vehicle's purpose, and the Canadians because they manage to ride American coat-tails a lot for an "independent" program. Also, at the end, the Canadian program's visit to the moon probably isn't in a race with the US--but it's also probably not entirely divorced from an American effort, either.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this joke that ended up a bit more serious than intended, and it's cleared my throat a bit on working on my next actual serious timeline. Not sure when that will be out, but I've had a lot of fun with research and brainstorming it, and I'm hoping to have it ready to show off soon!
I hope someone can come up with a Japanese manned space program TL, which would be great.

I've had some idle thoughts about this in a TL where Japan avoids its OTL fertility crash and thus doesn't have OTL's "lost decade".

Morning of the Maple Leaf

Fun TL, though I doubt that the US would be so willing to let McDonnell Douglas and Martin Marietta export so much shiny technology to the Canadians.


In all seriousness, neat scenario. Interesting to see the Canadians essentially converge on a Falcon 9-like design--by 9 CLR-87 engines, am I to understand that it uses 18 nozzles? Or did they go back to the original 1-chamber configuration?

Maybe they'll go back to LH2 in a future up-rating of the Wiisagejaak--to enable second-stage reuse.
I think LH2 is off the table, just because fitting enough LH2 into a tank that the second stage can do the part of the mission it needs to with first stage recovery is ahrd, and may not be worth the loss of the benefits from consistent propellant throughout the stack. Methane though...hmm. Maybe.

I annoyingly managed to fail to save the spreadsheets I had going for Nanook and Weesackkachack, so I can't rattle off precise numbers on the uprating and tank assumptions. Still, the plan was 9xCLR-87 chambers, not 9x(2xCLR-87). With the uprating, depending on how creatively you interpret the baseline for CLR-87, you can get about between 800 kN and 1.12 kN (sea level) per chamber. Enough for about 625-900 metric tons on liftoff, and the 12+ metric tons cited as Wisakedjak's payload is actually on the low end given this uprating, so I think I based the uprating on the 645 kN original kerolox chamber.
A great write up

Actually kind of sad it won’t continue.

But well done
Thanks! I'm a little sad too, but to be honest I'm not entirely sure where I'd take it. To go much further I'd really have to sit down and develop the alternate American program, the European program, the Russian program, the Japanese program, etc, and that would start to be more work than I want to put into this given the other timelines I have on the burner. This got enough to point out some unique Canadian program advantages, do a couple fun things, and then have a punchline or three. :)
I loved the variant spellings for Grey Jay.
Oops. Wrong bird.
'whiskeyjack' is another name for the Grey Jay, but I misremembered what the original Cree was.
I liked it too. Aren't they all fun to sound out? :) How long did it take to notice?
Fun TL, though I doubt that the US would be so willing to let McDonnell Douglas and Martin Marietta export so much shiny technology to the Canadians.

I could see them signing on for the license-production export and even for the originally-planned limited improvements--they did for the Canadair Sabre, CF-5, and CF-104 and for the Japanese Delta-derivatives. Looking those up does make me think I missed a trick--I hadn't realized Canadair was still active in this era, and so they should have gotten some of the space business (geographic balance, too--DHC is Toronto, Canadair is Montreal). Anyone have a preference for if DHC gets the Nanook booster and Canadair gets the Arrow capsule, or vice-versa?
I could see them signing on for the license-production export and even for the originally-planned limited improvements--they did for the Canadair Sabre, CF-5, and CF-104 and for the Japanese Delta-derivatives. Looking those up does make me think I missed a trick--I hadn't realized Canadair was still active in this era, and so they should have gotten some of the space business (geographic balance, too--DHC is Toronto, Canadair is Montreal). Anyone have a preference for if DHC gets the Nanook booster and Canadair gets the Arrow capsule, or vice-versa?

Interesting. I didn't know there'd been so much technology sharing.

Another thought that occurred is that the Nanook could really change the Titan IV. Much as the Japanese H-1 influenced the Delta III (indeed, some parts of the Delta III were manufactured in Japan). The switch to the Shuttle really hit the US rocket industry hard. So DHC could be sending consultants to Martin to help them set up their production lines after Challenger and just like the Delta, some parts for the new Titans could be imported from Canada. And this could also lead to a ker-LOX Titan IV.

And this could also lead to a ker-LOX Titan IV.

If that happens, I doubt we'd see an Atlas V ITTL--Martin-Marietta/Lockheed Martin would instead be more likely to build an American clone of Whiskeyjack (though probably retaining Centaur). Since core-stage reuse is already baked right in, this might also lead to a Heavy variant with reuse of all lower-stage components.
If that happens, I doubt we'd see an Atlas V ITTL--Martin-Marietta/Lockheed Martin would instead be more likely to build an American clone of Whiskeyjack (though probably retaining Centaur). Since core-stage reuse is already baked right in, this might also lead to a Heavy variant with reuse of all lower-stage components.
I think a reusable kerolox core instead of Atlas V of OTL is likely whether Titan IV is kerolox or not. There's an argument for keeping Titan hypergol on the ground of sunk cost and the expense of converting all the pad and production facilities, though Canadian engineers ITTL would have experience in what's required and there's a Delta precedent. It'd also be tied up in the timing and technical specifics of the Block II Shuttle LRBs--how much thrust, planned first flight, and whether they go with hydrolox or kerolox for the RTLS/VTVL boosters. Depending on when exactly that goes on and what decisions are made, the Titan IV might end up staying as a temporary hypergol launcher first flying in 1989 as IOTL, but then either a single-stick LRB comes on as a replacement for it within a few years or the new boosters help the Block II Shuttle actually hit better cost and performance targets (or both).

Woesackootchacht from Florida with a hydrogen upper stage is an interesting vehicle. With a 60-ton hydrogen second stage (which has Earth Departure Stage applications with any potential future Shuttle-C), it matches Weesageechak from Cold Lake with downrange landing in cost and beats it on payload. I'd certainly see it, or something along similar lines (new-build American stage, LRB with upper stage, etc) as the leaders for any EELV-type program.
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