Canadensys Wins Mars Sample Fetch Rover Concept Contract

Illustration of robotic rover sample selection and collection tools from the request for proposals showing equipment from MDA, ESI and Deltion. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded a $400K contract to Canadensys for a Sample Fetch Rover mission concept study, one element of a possible future international Mars Sample Return mission.

It is yet another win for the small company started by several former MDA employees and which is based out of Caledon, Ontario, just northwest of Toronto.

Canadensys has quietly won several robotic related concept studies. The company also made a shrewd move in the fall of 2017 when it made a deal with Ontario Drive and Gear to acquire their space robotics team. That helped to solidify the companies core robotic expertise and the company has since opened up a robotics design and manufacturing office in Stratford, Ontario.

Over the years Canadensys has leveraged concept studies and early technology contracts into a suite of, what the company calls, robotic micro and nano-class systems including rover wheels, other rover parts, instrumentation and software. Clearly Canadensys is developing a variety of robotic rover technologies to meet a variety of challenges, be it on the moon or Mars.

The Sample Fetch Rover

In its request for proposals (available below), the CSA stated in its Objectives that the “Concept Study Category supports the development of a Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) Mission Concept, one element of a possible Mars Sample Return architecture illustrated” below.

Mars Sample Return Mission planned steps
Mars Sample Return Mission planned steps. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The CSA further stated that;

Mars Sample Return (MSR) is a goal of the international Mars Exploration Program. Numerous studies have considered the advantages of returning samples from known context on Mars for analysis in state-of-the-art laboratories on Earth. The broad science objective of a first Mars Sample Return campaign is to understand Mars history and its past habitability, including a search for signs of ancient life.

The primary objective of the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) element is to retrieve samples that will have been acquired by NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover [MRD-08] and deposited on the surface. Over the course of surface operations, the SFR will retrieve and deliver the samples to the Sample Retrieval Lander (SRL), hosting the sample container on the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) for launch into Mars orbit to then transfer back to Earth.

Two scenarios are being considered for the SFR:

(a) 120 kg mass SFR, 7 month sample retrieval surface operations with no winter survival, and
(b) 250 kg mass SFR, 7 month surface sample retrieval surface operations, with winter survival and extended mission and including up to 30 kg of scientific payloads.

A possible secondary objective is to conduct in situ science investigations that can build on or complement the Mars 2020 mission, and/or prepare for human exploration. The science investigation should target the extended mission phase in order to minimize impact to the sample retrieval surface operations.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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