Washington—The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is working to develop lunar science payloads and small rover vehicles that may fly to the moon in NASA-sponsored landing missions.
CSA announced on November 27 that it had awarded six contracts worth 2.9 million Canadian dollars (2.2 million US dollars) to five companies and universities for the initial “phase 0” research of lunar scientific instruments. Instruments range from spectrometers and particle telescopes to “agricultural feasibility” payloads.
The individual value of these contracts is between US$300,000 and US$600,000, and is designed to study the feasibility of the proposed instruments and how they support lunar science. The contract is expected to last up to nine months.
These contracts are part of CSA̵
In addition to receiving scientific awards, CSA also signed contracts worth $3.3 million with two companies (Canadensys Aerospace Corporation and NGC Aerospace Ltd.) on October 29 to develop lunar technology payloads. Canadensys will develop a 360-degree camera to provide panoramic images of the lunar surface, and NGC Aerospace will demonstrate a navigation system.
CSA is still in the early stages of a “mini-roamer”, and it plans to cooperate with NASA for development and flight. The agency issued a letter of intent on October 23, announcing that it will formally issue a proposal for the Mars rover in early 2021, and award two Phase A feasibility study contracts in the summer. Then, CSA will select one for full development.
The rover weighs 30 kg and carries two payloads, one provided by CSA and the other provided by NASA. CSA Space Exploration Development Director Erick Dupuis said at the Canadian Space Summit online conference held on November 27: “Our idea is that we hope this mission can demonstrate Canada’s lunar maneuvering technology and collect scientific data on the moon.”
Dupuis said that CSA has conducted moon landing negotiations for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) landing mission. He said: “In order to replace us, we are providing accommodation for the American instruments on the rover.” He said that the agreement with NASA also includes flying additional Canadian lunar science payloads on CLPS missions fixed to the lander.
He did not disclose the estimated cost of the rover mission, but said it will be launched no later than the second half of 2024, and more likely in 2025. The goal is to make the roamer run at least once in a lunar month, if any, it may run for a second. Can survive two weeks of cloudy night.
Canada is not alone in seeking other countries to drive a lunar rover. The United Arab Emirates announced plans in September to build a small rover weighing only about 10 kilograms and carrying three scientific instruments. Officials said they will seek to cooperate with another space agency or purchase space on a commercial lunar lander to transport the rover to the moon.
Although the CSA rover project is related to NASA’s CLPS program, Dupuis said the agency is open to other partners to fly its payload to the moon. He said: “We have reached a pre-negotiated agreement with CLPS to launch our payload to the moon, so this is our scope of responsibility, but other opportunities may be there,” he said, such as with Eurospace Partnership with the bureau. “We are open to all mechanisms.”