Canada has been making massive strides in the space industry of late. With over 60 years of contributions to the International Space Program the country has become a robotic pillar of the space tech community. It will now take a stride forward in joining other countries exploring the moon with its own lunar rover. Canada’s largest space company, MDA Ltd. announced that it has been awarded a contract by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to undertake a Phase A initial design study for a Canadian Lunar Rover mission to the Moon.
As part of the CSA’s Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP), the Lunar Rover will advance eight key technologies that are foundational building blocks for planetary rovers, including mobility, communications, operations, thermal control for lunar night survival, power generation and storage, and semi-autonomous plus autonomous operations.
The rover will conduct its mission at the South Pole of the Moon, providing the opportunity to explore resources in the permanently shadowed regions, including lunar volatiles and water ice, as well as thermal and radiation safety analysis for future human lunar landings.
MDA announced it has assembled a world-leading team of Canadian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and scientific and academic experts to deliver the LEAP Lunar Rover, paving the way for Canada to establish technologies and capabilities that feed into future commercial lunar supply chains.
Team Canada MDA will include:
· Technology team: Mission Control Space Services; CTA (Centre de Technologies Avancées BRP-UdeS); Institut national d’optique (INO); Clearpath Robotics; Kepler Communications; Xiphos Systems Corporation; Delton Innovations Ltd.; NASA Ames Research Center; University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies; and Carleton University.
· Science team: York University; Western University; Concordia University; University of Hawaii; Stoney Brook University; Ingenium, Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation; and the Natural History Museum. The team will be led by Professor Michael Daly of York University.
MDA made news by successfully going public this year after Canadian investors purchased the company on 8 April 2020. Toronto-based investment firm Northern Private Capital bought the MDA assets from Maxar for C$1 billion (US$765 million). Canada successfully joined NASA to take part in the upcoming Artemis mission which will see Canadian astronauts put their boots on the moon for the first time in the country’s storied space history.
The Canadian Space Agency is preparing Canada’s space community and collaborating sectors – including Canadian companies, universities, research institutions, and other organizations – for potential roles in the long-term exploration of the Moon, a crucial stepping stone in humanity’s quest to travel onwards to Mars. The Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) was created to provide a wide range of opportunities for Canadian science and technology activities in lunar orbit, on the Moon’s surface, and beyond.
LEAP is looking to foster innovation in areas of strength for Canada, like artificial intelligence, robotics, science and health. It will support the commercialization of innovative ideas from Canadian industry, including small and medium-sized businesses, in order to help them become an integral part of the growing new-space economy. The scientific and technological advancements stemming from LEAP are expected to generate tangible benefits for Canadians in their everyday lives.
- Enable the Canadian space sector to develop and conduct science experiments designed for lunar conditions, to help prepare for robotic and human missions
- Advance and demonstrate innovative technologies in lunar orbit, on the Moon’s surface, and beyond
- Begin to develop technologies that will be required as part of future deep-space missions
LEAP has a total budget of $150 million over five years to support technology development, in-space demonstration and science missions. Available budget will vary depending on the funding opportunities issued by the program.