The Canadian Space Agency is Looking for Ideas for Secondary Planetary Science Payloads

The Canadian Space Agency issued a request for proposals (RFP) this morning looking for concepts for secondary science payloads for future missions*.

According to the RFP, Space Exploration Concept Studies for Planetary Secondary Payloads and Nanomissions,  “planetary secondary payloads include nanomissions and penetrators that would be released from a host spacecraft at orbit entry or from orbit of the planetary body, and stand-alone packages (including small rovers) that could be deployed by a large rover or lander platform at the surface of the planetary body.”

This leaves open the possibility for a wide variety payloads giving the agency flexibility in deciding what would work based on future mission decisions by NASA.

The proposal is based on ideas from the 2015 joint CSA-NASA Ames Information Session on Low Cost Space Exploration Missions.

The secondary payload would most likely be on a small satellite as the cost to perform a mission from a small satellite is lower, and according to the CSA less complex “than typical space science missions.”

The idea of contributing a small secondary payload on a NASA mission is a result of NASA’s decision to consider including “small secondary payloads on every future planetary science launch”.

The CSA says in the RFP that “for the purpose of this study, planetary secondary payloads include nanomissions and penetrators that would be released from a host spacecraft at orbit entry or from orbit of the planetary body, and stand-alone packages (including small rovers) that could be deployed by a large rover or lander platform at the surface of the planetary body.”

“Nanomissions are here defined as satellite missions under 20 kg mass, and are assumed to be based on the CubeSat form factor. Cubesats are built from a set of standardized subunits that each measure 10x10x10 cm and weigh 1.33 kg (designated ‘1U’). Common configurations include 1U, 2U, 3U, and 6U (2Ux3U) spacecraft.  This Concept Study Category includes the use of CubeSat form factors from 1U up to 12U.”

Interested parties have until January 8 to submit their proposals which will be funded for 1 year. Up to three proposals will be selected with a maximum of $200,000 per proposal. A bidders virtual conference will be held on November 30th.

Should a mission concept be selected the mission budget for phases A,B,C and D would be capped at $20 million.

From the RFP: Program Requirements and Objectives

The study must be compliant with following Space Exploration (SE) Program Requirements for Secondary Payloads (SP):

  • Requirement SP-1. The secondary payload mission must directly address Canadian science priorities (MRD-08).
    Concepts should be science-driven, technology enabled.
  • Requirement SP-2. The secondary payload mission must be Canadian-led.
    Contributions from other Canadian and international organizations should be clearly identified, with detailed roles and responsibilities, and ‘in-kind’ and financial contributions. Mission investigations are sought that are compelling opportunities for Canada to pioneer a significant new technological or scientific approach with expectation of follow on benefits to Canada.
  • Requirement SP-3. The Concept must include an imager in the mission baseline and a plan to communicate results and benefits to the public.
  • Requirement SP-4. The planetary protection categorization for the mission must be provided.
  • Requirement SP-5. For penetrators and landed missions, the reference landing site information must be provided.
  • Requirement SP-6. The Concept must clearly define the expected environmental conditions at the destination (radiation, dust, etc.) and demonstrate that the mission can be
    accomplished at the intended destination beyond low Earth orbit (BLEO).

In addition, the study must address the following SE Program Objectives for Secondary Payloads

  • Objective OSP-1: Mission Cost
    Costs to CSA should not exceed C$20M for secondary payload phases ABCD as defined
    in MRD-06 (Systems Engineering standards).
    This cost cap includes industry and science team costs for the baseline mission investigation and excludes taxes and CSA overhead. There is no cost cap for the phase E operations and data analysis phase as the duration of phase E can vary significantly according to planetary destination. Cost estimates and technology readiness and risk analysis arising from this study will be an important factor for future planning.
  • Objective OSP-2: Mission launch date
    Targeted launch dates should be no earlier than 2020 and the secondary payload should be designed to be transferrable to later opportunities.
  • Objective OSP-3: Secondary payload interface and mission architecture
    A realistic interface and mission architecture that will deliver the payload to its destination should be described. Specific target host mission details should be supplied, if known. The secondary payload should be designed on the basis of non-interference with the host spacecraft to maximise opportunities for flight.
  • Objective OSP-4: Secondary payload mass and volume
    An upper mass and volume limit is not provided for small rovers or deployed packages. Landed mass is always at a premium so the contractor must provide justification for the mass and volume of the system in terms of compelling science objectives commensurate with the proposed mass, cost and technical feasibility.
  • Objective OSP-5: Mission management
    CSA Technical Reviews Standards (MRD-05) allow for modifications of the full-upapproach to reviews for low cost missions. The Contractor should propose and describe a low cost systems engineering approach to secondary payload project management in CDRL 006 (Concept Study Report)

* This originally said the CSA was “looking for concepts for secondary science payloads for a future mission with NASA.” The CSA contacted us to clarify that the future mission is not limited to just NASA. SpaceQ had inferred that it would be with NASA based on how the RFP was written with its predominance of NASA references.


About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 18 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 25 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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