WASHINGTON — MDA Corp. will design a mapping and navigation sensor for NASA’s Osiris-Rex asteroid sample-return probe under a Canadian Space Agency contract modification valued at 15.8 million Canadian dollars ($15.4 million), the Richmond, British Columbia, company announced Feb. 27.

The $800 million Osiris-Rex mission, being developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, will launch in 2016 and rendezvous with the asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2019. Once within about 5 kilometers of the object, the probe will begin a six-month mapping mission to be followed by collection of a small sample to be returned to Earth in 2023.

The MDA-supplied sensor, a laser altimeter, will be used for topographic mapping and to identify possible sites for the sample acquisition, the company said in a press release. The sensor also will assist Osiris-Rex in navigating the primitive object, which measures some 575 meters in diameter.

The total value of MDA’s Osiris-Rex Laser Altimeter contract is now 19 million Canadian dollars, the company said.

The sensor is Canada’s primary contribution to the Osiris-Rex mission. According to the Canadian Space Agency, the sensor, featuring light detection and ranging technology, is a hybrid between Canadian instruments supplied for NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander and the U.S. Air Force’s XSS-11 on-orbit rendezvous experiment.

“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,” Christian Paradis, Canada’s minister of industry, said in a separate press release issued Feb. 27. “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.”

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...