MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) announced today that they had secured a $46 million contract from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop next generation technologies and prototypes for future space exploration missions which could include Lunar and Martian orbital missions. As well, MDA will develop technologies for servicing spacecraft in Earth orbit. The contract also includes options for an additional $4 million of prototypes.
The contract, which came as no surprise as MDA is a global leader in space robotics, comes at time when the US space program is once again in transition as the White House dwells on what to make of the recently released Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee report. Speculation is that the White House will be making an announcement on the future of their manned spaceflight program by American Thanksgiving (November 26).
The contract details released by MDA are vague enough to suggest the CSA has left itself flexibility in what types of robotic technology it wants to spend money on and for where. The Canadian space exploration program, although not tied directly to the US space program, does try to provide complementary niche expertise so that they can work cooperatively with the US and other space programs.
And while the US space program conducted its review Canada was to have released its new Canadian space strategy no later than this past summer. However with the US space program under review the government has held off releasing the new space strategy. The new strategy was coordinated by the Canadian Space Agency working with other agencies, academia and industry. Canada’s current space strategy was released six years ago.
Once the US has signaled where its manned spaceflight program is headed we will most likely see a Canadian space strategy released not too far in the future and a technology roadmap better defined for which MDA will be a key contractor.