MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) was awarded a $6 million (CAD) contract today by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop a terrestrial prototype of a science rover for Mars exploration. The Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR) prototype is part of the CSA Exploration Surface Mobility (ESM) program.
The investment is part of the Government of Canada’s 2009 Economic Action Plan in which $110 million stimulus funds were allocated to the Canadian Space Agency over three years.
The news comes just days after MDA had announced that it had reached a major milestone in it’s $14.5 million (USD) contract for an advanced information solution for NASA’s next mission to Mars, the Curiosity Mars Rover.
The semi-autonomous rover prototype will be built and tested by MDA. The rover will be equipped with vision systems and detectors for navigation and will provide the interfaces for hosting a small robotic arm and upcoming sciences and payloads. it will be tested in the field in 2012.
The CSA hopes the project will position Canada as a potential partner in future international space exploration missions as Canada builds upon its expertise in space robotics. The technologies being developed for the rover could also be used for Earth-based applications in areas such as mining, transportation and security industries according to the CSA.