In the last week both Neptec and MDA, two of Canada’s leading commercial space companies, have been awarded contracts by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to build a Lunar Exploration Light Rover (LELR) prototype. The awards come four and half months after the CSA issued a request for proposals whereby up to two contracts would be awarded for $11.5 million each. Each team has until December 30th, 2012 to complete work on their respective prototypes.
The awards come as no surprise as the CSA had been given $110 million of stimulus money by the government to spend over three years in part on surface mobility systems.
By awarding two contracts the CSA will have two different lunar rover prototypes to test in 2012. What is not known at this time is whether a production rover will ever get built. Currently there is no funding to develop a production lunar rover that would actually go to the moon. However the investments made to date are intended to position Canada in such a way that if Canada’s space exploration partners agree on a rover mission to the Moon that Canada would be poised to contribute in a significant way.
Commenting on Neptec’s contract Mike Kearns, Neptec’s Vice President of Space Exploration said “the innovative design of this new Canadian rover will facilitate surface transportation for payloads, cargo and crew during moon exploration. In addition, it will also enable drilling and excavation, manipulator and tool integration, and vision and state-of-the-art communications systems.”
According to Neptec the Neptec Rover Team (NRT) will bring several innovations to the LELR prototype, including the use of a novel eight-wheeled skid-steer locomotion system, which is designed to ensure the safe navigation of the moon’s rugged, steep slopes.
Neptec’s partners for the NRT include Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd., COM DEV Canada, McGill University, Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc. and NGC Aerospace. MDA has yet to release who its partners are.