Minister Paradis Announces New Contract to Support Cutting-edge Space Technology
LONGUEUIL, QUEBEC -- (Marketwire) -- 02/27/13 -- Today, the
Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister
responsible for the Canadian Space Agency, announced a $15.8-million
contract to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) for the design
of a sophisticated mapping system known as the OSIRIS-REx Laser
"Our government has always been a strong supporter of the Canadian
space sector, and this groundbreaking project will position the
industry to take full advantage of future space and non-space
opportunities," said Minister Paradis. "Canada has a proud legacy in
space, and our government is ensuring that the sector can continue to
create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians."
OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to return a sample from an
asteroid to Earth. The successful completion of the Laser Altimeter
will further enhance Canada's competitiveness in space robotics, a
key sector of our economy.
These are achievements every Canadian can be proud of, and they are
proof that Canadian ingenuity and leadership in advanced space
technology are alive and well. OSIRIS-REx will be launched in
September 2016 and will reach asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2018.
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Canada's Contribution to the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission
Canada has been selected as NASA's sole international partner for
OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. mission to return a sample from an
asteroid to Earth that will better explain our solar system's
formation and how life began. The data collected will also help our
understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. OSIRIS-REx marks
the first time Canada takes part in an international mission to
return an extraterrestrial sample to Earth.
Overview of the mission
Under the Origins-Spectral Identification-Resource
Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission, NASA
will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm
to retrieve samples of material. OSIRIS-REx is part of NASA's New
Frontiers Program, which will explore the solar system with frequent,
medium-class spacecraft missions that conduct high-quality, focused
scientific investigations. NASA is investing $800 million in the
14-year mission (excluding the launch vehicle).
OSIRIS-REx will be launched in September 2016, and will encounter the
asteroid in 2018. It will then study the asteroid for about 6 months,
globally mapping the surface from a distance of 7 km down to 250m.
The sample will be returned to Earth in 2023.
The OSIRIS-REx Mission is led by Principal Investigator Dante S.
Lauretta of The University of Arizona, supported by a science team of
40 Co-Investigators, with project management at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center and development partnership with Lockheed Martin Space
OSIRIS-REx's Destination: Asteroid 1999 RQ36
The target asteroid, Near-Earth Object (NEO 101955) 1999 RQ36, is an
exciting and accessible volatile and organic-rich remnant from the
early Solar System, as well as one of the most potentially hazardous
asteroids known to humanity. Observations using telescopes have
revealed that 1999 RQ36 is very dark. Scientists have classified it
as a B-type asteroid, a rare subgroup of the dark, carbonaceous
C-type asteroids. These asteroids are considered to be primitive
objects, having changed little from their time of formation.
Carbonaceous asteroids like 1999 RQ36 are the direct remnants of the
original building blocks of the terrestrial planets. The presence of
complex organics in primitive meteorites has led to speculation that
similar meteorites from asteroids seeded the early Earth with the
building blocks of life. Their chemical and physical nature,
distribution, formation, and evolution are fundamental to
understanding planet formation and the origin of life.
OSIRIS-REx marks the first time Canada participates in an asteroid
mission - providing our highly-skilled scientists with access to new
materials to research. It is investments in projects like this that
ensure critical economic sectors, like our space sector, can continue
to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
Through funding from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Canada is
contributing the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), an advanced lidar
(Light Detection and Ranging) system that is a hybrid of the lidar on
the Phoenix Mars Lander's Canadian weather station and an instrument
flown on the 2005 US Air Force eXperimental Satellite System-11
(XSS-11). OLA will scan the entire surface of the asteroid to create
a highly accurate, 3D model of the asteroid, which will provide
mission scientists with fundamental and unprecedented information on
the asteroid's shape, topography, surface processes and evolution.
OLA uses a receiver and two complementary lasers to provide the
information beamed back to Earth. OLA's high-energy laser transmitter
will be used for scanning from further distances (1-7.5 km from the
surface of the asteroid). The low-energy laser will be used for rapid
imaging at shorter distances (500 m to 1 km) to contribute to a
global topographic map of the asteroid, as well as local maps to
assist scientists select the best sites for sample collection.
As the prime contractor for OLA, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates
(MDA) is designing, building and testing the instrument for the CSA.
The Principal Investigator for the Canadian science team is led by Dr
Alan Hildebrand of the University of Calgary. Dr. Michael Daly from
York University is the OLA instrument scientist. The team also
includes researchers from University of Winnipeg, University of
Toronto and the University of British Columbia.
The successful completion of the Laser Altimeter will further enhance
Canada's competitiveness in space robotics, a key sector of our
economy and will provide the Canadian scientific community with its
first-ever access to an asteroid sample. The development of this
technology will position Canadian industry well to pursue future
space and non-space opportunities.
With Canada's contribution to this important and groundbreaking
project, the Government of Canada is supporting high-quality jobs for
the men and women of the Canadian space industry.
Canadian Space Agency
Media Relations Office
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