Canada to build radar instrument for NASA Mars probe

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VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian government will develop a radar instrument for NASA’s future Mars orbiter as well as 13 cubesats to be deployed from the International Space Station.

The projects, which also include a demonstration of the applications of quantum technology in space, will cost (CAN) $90 million ($65 million).

The funding for the programs starts this year.

Innovation Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said the radar instrument will be developed for a future orbiter mission to Mars. It would be used to study the surface and subsurface of Mars and could contribute to developing a high-resolution map of the surface of that planet. “Canada could play a key role in providing critical geological information for the landing sites of future spacecraft to Mars,” Bains said.

The instrument, an ice-surface sub sounder, would be for NASA’s Next Mars Orbiter or NeMO. In preparation for that, on March 17 the Canadian government awarded a (CAN) $344,000 contract to MDA Corp. in Quebec to conduct a study of such a system on NeMO.

That orbiter is planned for 2022.

In addition, money will be provided for a demonstration of the applications of quantum technology in space involving the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Quantum encryption uses highly advanced computing technology to create virtually unbreakable security codes. This technology could lead to more secure communications in banking, transportation and other areas, Bains said.

The two projects will cost a total of (CAN) $81 million over the next five years. Bain did not provide a break down of the funding between the two.

Another (CAN) $8 million will be spent on what is being called the Canadian CubeSat project. The Canadian Space Agency announced April 27 that it would award up to 13 grants to fund selected proposals from post-secondary institutions to build miniature satellites. The cubesats will be launched to and then deployed from the International Space Station, the CSA noted. The teams will then operate their satellites and conduct science according to the objectives of their missions, which could last up to 12 months.

Each grant will be worth about $200,000. “The CSA will also make arrangements for the CubeSats’ launches from the International Space Station and cover the associated costs,” the agency stated in document calling for letters of interest in the project from post-secondary institutions.

The CSA plans to support three sizes of cubesats.