The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded six contracts to four organizations to develop concept studies in areas related to future space exploration ventures. The studies are part of the CSA’s strategy to invest in emerging ideas that could become Canada’s next revolutionary technologies, like a high resolution Canadian-led space telescope; robots to remove space debris and tune-up ailing satellites; an instrument to measure the composition of the atmosphere of planets; and a device that measures radiation exposure more accurately.
“The space business is about turning science fiction into reality,” says Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean. “By funding concept studies, the CSA helps nurture ingenious Canadian ideas so that our space industry can work on designing tomorrow’s space missions.”
Under these contracts (valued at $250 000 each), each supplier will develop preliminary designs for six mission concepts:
The Canadian Space Telescope Mission: COM DEV (Ottawa) and its industry partners will work with a large team of astronomers on a design for a Canadian-led space telescope. Although smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope, the proposed telescope would offer much wider panoramic views and comparable sharpness. Such a telescope could survey the deep reaches of the Universe in unprecedented detail, and provide clues to dark energy, the formation of galaxies and the solar system.
The Clear Sky Project: Led by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), a consortium of Canadian industrial and academic organizations will build on Canada’s heritage in space robotic servicing to design a robotic vehicle to remove space debris and clear pathways for valuable orbital tracks for new satellites.
Mission for Orbital Debris Elimination: Under this contract, COM DEV and its Canadian partners will develop a mission concept for state-of-the-art Canadian robotics; visualisation systems; guidance, navigation and control technologies; and techniques to tackle the growing concern of space debris, which poses a risk to satellites.
Canadian On-Orbit Automated Servicing Experiment: MDA will prepare a concept study for an experimental payload on the International Space Station (ISS) to demonstrate the critical technologies and techniques required to capture a satellite. Developing this capability could one day assist in the repair and refueling of the existing fleets of satellites; removal of space debris from crowded orbital slots; tracking and capture of sample return capsules; and the creation of new methods to assemble satellites.
Compact Fourier Transform Spectrometer for Space Exploration: ABB Canada (Quebec City) will demonstrate a lightweight, low-cost, low-consumption science instrument to probe the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere. Building on technology it developed for Canada’s current SCISAT mission (which monitors pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere) and a similar version that will probe the atmosphere of Mars in 2016, ABB Canada will work on a new generation of the instrument that could initially study Earth from the vantage point of the ISS, but might one day be used for planetary exploration.
Canadian Sweeping Energetic Particle Telescope (SWEPT): Developed by the University of Alberta together with industrial and academic partners, this study will propose technology for modelling radiation dose and more accurate measurement of radiation exposure on the International Space Station (ISS), for future missions to the Moon or Mars. This topic is one of the major issues of future long-term human exploration missions.