The federal government has put out a call for ideas on space exploration, hoping Canadian companies will come through with plans to support future missions to Mars and the moon.
This past week, the Canadian Space Agency tendered a Request for Information, “Seeking Ideas for Future Canadian Contributions to Cislunar Space Mission Exploration Initiatives,” and asking for Canadian sources to submit their ideas “for advanced and essential technologies” to help facilitate robotic and human space exploration.
The focus is on Cislunar missions —to that part of space in-between the moon and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) — and will relate to future partnerships with other space agencies, including NASA and the European Space Agency, with which the CSA hopes to play a contributing role.
NASA has said its near-future objectives will include the creation of a moon-orbiting space station to serve as a technology testing ground for the eventual target: Mars.
The NASA-led program aims to use a new-generation Orion spacecraft, aided by the massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, to ferry materials and people to the moon, with annual flights slated to begin in 2023. The Orion takes over from the Space Shuttle program, which for decades helped launch probes, satellites, telescopes into orbit, along with bringing people to and from the International Space Station. Now retired, the Space Shuttle was a low-Earth spacecraft, whereas the Orion is able to head into deep space.
The new RFI comes with a long tech wish list, everything from entry, decent and landing systems, robotics and autonomous systems to in-space propulsion systems and even ideas on plant growth and food production.
The announcement is only a first-stage fishing expedition for the CSA, says Marc Boucher of Space Q and co-founder of the Canadian Space Commerce Association. “There’s no guarantee that this RFI will turn into a Request for Proposals (RFP),” says Boucher in a recent post. “The CSA says it’s for planning purposes only. However, should a concept study RFP be issued it might be a maximum $100,000 contract for a concept study completed within a few months time.”
Michelle Mendes, executive director of the Canadian Space Commerce Association, says that the proposal lines up with much of the work being done by Canadian companies already. “Canada does tend to be well recognized for robotics and for our rover development,” Mendes said to MetroNews. “Everyone knows about the Canadarm, which has been a huge success and has allowed a lot of success for other countries as well,” she said.
This week, the University of British Columbia will play host to the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) National Forum, a networking and idea-sharing event for the various players within the Canadian aerospace industry.
“While the government is planning significant investments to encourage trans-disciplinary innovation, participants in the 2017 Forum will have the unique opportunity to contribute to the necessary positioning of the aerospace sector on this issue,” reads the Forum briefing.
The meeting will take place on August 8th and 9th.