Canada Taps MDA Corp. To Design Osiris-Rex Sensor

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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.”