CSA Awards Lunar Rover Prototype Contracts to MDA, Neptec Design Group

Nov. 25, 2010

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is awarding two contracts valued at $11.5 million each to MDA and Neptec Design Group of Ottawa. Each company will develop two fully functional terrestrial prototypes of a lunar rover that could one day be part of a future space exploration mission. The investment flows from the Government of Canada’s 2009 Economic Action Plan, and aims to accelerate the development of terrestrial prototypes and their associated technologies to prepare Canada to play a credible role in future international exploration opportunities.

“Space missions are like marathons: it takes years of preparation, development, and dedication to achieve gold,” said The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the CSA. “The Government of Canada is taking concrete steps to ensure that Canada retains its enviable reputation as a world-class leader in space robotics and advanced space technologies. This means investing in innovative Canadian companies so that they retain their competitive edge, grow our specialized workforce, and position Canada on the cutting-edge of technology to play a key role when international opportunities arise.”

MDA and Neptec will each design, build and test prototypes of a Lunar Exploration Light Rover that can explore for resources and perform science experiments. The prototypes will be about the size of an all-terrain vehicle, weighing less than 1000 kg, and will be designed to carry a variety of tools and equipment. These semi-autonomous vehicles will be commanded by a remote operator, but will be able to make some decisions without the need for human intervention, like travelling between two points of interest. Although the prototypes are purely robotic, they will be designed to be upgraded to carry one or two astronauts for a short distance if ever the need arises. The prototypes will be ready for testing in 2012.

Prototypes like the lunar rover are used to demonstrate end-to-end operations of rovers and their payloads in realistic terrestrial field tests, reproducing key conditions of space missions and reducing the risks associated with such large-scale projects. The project will position Canada as a potential partner in future international space exploration missions, and maintain Canadian technical expertise in space robotics and advanced space technologies.