The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has released a public tender to fund up to six contracts worth a total of $1.5 million for concept studies related to its Exploration Core program. Proposals are due by August 10th and selected bidders will have approximately six months to complete their studies.
There are three categories of studies that will be funded. The first, Concept Study 1, includes one contract for a Canadian led space telescope. The second, Concept Study 2, includes two contracts, which can be for either studies on orbital debris removal or a miniature laser Raman spectrometer for planetary exploration. The third, Concept Study 3, includes three contracts for either a technology demonstration on the International Space Station or a functional textile demonstration on the International Space Station (ISS). The intellectual property from these studies will belong to Canada.
For the first concept study, that of a Canadian led space telescope, Canada does have a heritage in this field with SciSat, a small-satellite launched in 2003 to do atmospheric studies as well as MOST, a micro-satellite doing stellar astrophysics also launched in 2003. Canada also has two other satellites, NEOSSat and Cassiope waiting for launch opportunities next year from India. The CSA is interested in developing either a micro or small sized satellite that meets not only scientific goals but also showcases Canadian satellite technology to help further the industry. According to the CSA, costs for a micro-satellite mission range from $15-$30 million while small-satellites range from $50-$200 million.
The next concept study involves orbital debris removal, a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Not only by Canada but by every other spacefaring nation. Recently the CSA held its first orbital debris workshop. One of the outcomes of the workshop is that the CSA is interested in a concept study to develop a feasible and cost effective mission using robotic technology to remove large orbital debris that orbit the Earth. This proposal seems to be tailor made for MDA with their heritage of robotic technology and its recently announced satellite servicing initiative. However there are other companies that may be interested including Engineering Services who have robotic expertise as well.
Canada, being a smaller spacefaring nation does not currently have the budget to launch our own missions beyond low earth orbit to destinations such as the moon or Mars. And Canada’s policy is that we will provide hardware for those types of missions working in collaboration with other nations. With that in mind Canada is developing expertise in niche areas. One area Canada would like to do more in is small scientific instruments. The next concept study is for a Raman spectrometer. A spectrometer is an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, typically used in spectroscopic analysis to identify materials. Raman spectroscopy is a nondestructive measurement technique for information on the chemical composition, molecular structure, and molecular interactions in substances. Raman spectroscopy is a spectroscopic technique used to study vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system. According to the CSA the use of Raman scattering in materials and microbiology has seen an exponential increase. Canada would like to eventually develop and provide a Raman spectrometer for a future mission to the moon or Mars.
For the last concept study group the CSA is targeting the International Space Station for two types of studies. The first is a technology demonstration. The CSA is interested in the following key technology ares:
– Manipulators and servicing technologies
– Vision systems and LIDAR/Laser-based technologies
– Fourier transform spectrometers (FTS) and related far-infrared detector (FID)
– Fine guidance sensors
– Radiation prediction, monitoring and protection technologies
The other concept study for the International Space Station is that of a functional textile demonstration. The demonstration is meant to use the unique characteristics of the ISS to test radiation resistant textiles. According to the CSA the textile is not meant to provide complete protection but it must be significant. The demonstration will hopefully lead to further development or a product that can be used in future human exploration.