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MDA begins flight phase of asteroid mission


MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) Richmond BC, a global communications and information company, has received a follow-on contract for $6.6-million from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. The total contract value to-date is $25-million.

MDA will build a laser-based instrument that will be used for the six-month task of mapping the surface of the 500-metre diameter asteroid called Bennu, creating a high resolution 3D model of its surface.

“MDA’s participation in this landmark mission builds on the expertise and technology developed for NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander and U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) XSS-11 missions,” says Craig Thornton, general manager for Robotics and Automation at MDA. “As future commercial and government space ventures emerge, we are well positioned to provide flight-proven vision systems that meet stringent mission requirements.”

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch in September 2016 to study an asteroid and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023. Data collected from the mission will help scientists to better comprehend how our solar system was formed, and how it has changed from its earliest beginnings. It will also provide a better understanding of the threat that asteroids pose to our planet.

The CSA is supporting a Canadian science team and the development of the science instrument for the mission.