In the competition between prime contractor MDA and the much smaller and less known Bolton based Canadensys Aerospace, the underdog won.
Canadensys Aerospace was founded in 2013 by former employees of MDA including CEO Christian Sallaberger. The goal, get Canada to the Moon. Now nine years later, and after a lot of hard work, the goal of Canada leading a mission to the Moon with a made-in Canada lunar rover is reality.
Today the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the winner of the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP) Lunar Rover competition, awarding a $43M contract to Canadensys.
It was a year ago that MDA and Canadensys were each awarded LEAP Lunar Rover Phase A contract. At the time MDA provided details on its impressive technical and science teams who would help them with public outreach, education and engagement.
Canadensys didn’t reveal its team until February of this year. That team included some prominent and experienced teams members from the United States including Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA’s Ames Research Center. The Canadian team was also impressive and includes NGC Aerospace, Maya Heat Transfer Technologies, Bubble Technology Industries, Resonance Ltd., Waves in Space, Simon Fraser University, Avalon Space, Western University, the University of Winnipeg, l’Université de Sherbrooke, Centre des Technologies Avancées, and Leap Biosystems. Other international partners include Nokia, Surrey Satellite Technology, Goonhilly (UK), RF Collins Consulting Incorporated, the Planetary Science Institute at Arizona State University, and Southern Methodist University.
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne said “Designing a rover that can withstand the harsh lunar environment is extremely complex, but today is proof that Canada’s space industry thrives on challenges and is ready to exceed expectations. This would not have been possible without Canadian ambition, skills and our talented workers. With this exciting mission ahead, Canadensys and its partners are strengthening Canada’s reputation as a world leader in the space industry.”
According to the Canadian Space Agency “the rover will have the ability to drive and operate through lunar polar regions that never receive direct sunlight. It is designed to survive the long lunar nights, during which the temperature can drop to less than -200 °C.
The rover will be flown on a NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission to the south polar region of the Moon as early as 2026.
Planetary geologist Gordon “Oz” Osinski of Western University “will serve as principal investigator and scientific lead on the project. His work will involve coordinating the science team, developing the overall science plan for the mission, working with the various institutions to finalize the development of their instruments, and analyzing satellite data from the Moon to identify potential landing sites.”
Osinski said in a Western University press releases that “This is an incredible opportunity for me but also an incredible opportunity for Western. Over the next few years, many students, faculty and staff will play a part of this historic mission, as we bring Canada and Western to the Moon.”
The Canadian rover payloads will include:
- A Lunar Hydrogen Autonomous Neutron Spectrometer (LHANS): Detection of hydrogen, one of the best indicators of water ice, will be the primary purpose of the instrument. It will also have the capacity to detect other key elements such as iron and calcium. This payload is provided by Bubble Technology Industries from Chalk River, Ontario.
- A Frozen Regolith Observation and Science Tools (FROST) imaging suite, provided by Canadensys, will encompass three payloads:
- A Lyman-Alpha Imager: will allow for identification of surface water ice with more certainty. It will measure lunar surface reflectance from faint sunlight (or starlight) at 121.6 nm. At that wavelength, water ice has lower reflectivity than the lunar soil.
- A Multi-Spectral Imager (MSI): will help identify the mineralogy present in the lunar soil. The lens of the MSI is surrounded by LEDs of different wavelengths that will allow scientists to learn the reflectance of the lunar soil.
- A MSI-Macro (MSI-M): will work in the same manner as the MSI but will offer the collected data at a much higher resolution.
- A Radiation Micro-Dosimeter: will allow scientists to estimate how much radiation human crewmembers and lunar infrastructures are exposed to. It will provide data on the radiation environment through time for the lunar south pole. Payload is supplied from Teledyne DALSA.
- A payload to be provided by NASA.
While Canadensys has already been awarded several contracts for payloads in low Earth orbit and the Moon, this award is the biggest and most prestigious to date.