Mission Control Space Services Inc. (Mission Control) is pleased to announce a contract awarded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for the development of a novel payload to advance lunar scientific exploration, the first contract to be awarded under the $150M CSA Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). Titled ASAS-CRATERS (Autonomous Soil Assessment System: Contextualizing Rocks, Anomalies and Terrains in Exploratory Robotic Science), the project leverages previous CSA-funded space technology developments by Mission Control in robotic exploration and artificial intelligence (AI), and will advance Canada’s pioneering role in deep space exploration robotics and science. Mission Control applauds Canada’s rejuvenated support for space exploration. These investments re-affirm Canada’s reputation as a leader in the international space community.
ASAS-CRATERS leverages cutting-edge AI algorithms for terrain classification, novelty detection, and data aggregation, and will advance a planetary rover’s capability to autonomously assess its surroundings for scientific value. It is designed to be a multi-mission system that can support a wide range of scientific payloads and reduce the operational workload of scientists, enabling them to operate their missions more efficiently.
“The new paradigm of commercially-led lunar missions calls for a new wave of AI-powered robotics and we’re ready to offer state-of-the-art technologies that will help enable the future of low-cost and autonomous space missions,” said Dr. Michele Faragalli, Chief Technology Officer at Mission Control.
Mission Control is proud to lead a diverse team of experts in topics ranging from planetary science to robotics and embedded systems for spaceflight. The Science team includes Dr. Gordon Osinski, Director of Research at Western University’s Institute of Earth and Space Exploration (IESE), and Dr. Ed Cloutis, Director at University of Winnipeg’s Centre for Terrestrial and Planetary Exploration.
The science team is also supported by Dr. Ryan Ewing of Texas A and M University who was a Surface Properties Scientist for NASA’s MSL rover. The technology will be developed with support from MDA, the world leader in space robotics, and Xiphos Systems Corporation, a Canadian SME that boasts four generations of space products over 17 years. The technology development will also be supported by Dr. Ken McIsaac at Western’s IESE and Dr. Krzysztof Skonieczny at Concordia University.
“Canada is a recognized leader on the global stage in AI, space robotics and embedded systems, and planetary science. ASAS-CRATERS leverages Canadian expertise in all these areas and represents a novel contribution to international space exploration,” said Kaizad Raimalwala, Product and Business Development at Mission Control.
The potential mission opportunity for ASAS-CRATERS would be a very high-profile lunar surface mission, one of the first to deploy science payloads using a commercial model. The development of this technology would help position Canada at the forefront of lunar science in the commercial space age, helping to drive scientific discovery, stimulate economic growth, and inspire the next generation to pursue studies in STEM.
“We’re really excited to develop this technology not only because it will enable cutting edge science for Canadian researchers but because it’s built on Mission Control Software,” said Ewan Reid, President and CEO of Mission Control. “With this project we see a tangible near-term opportunity to deploy AI on the Moon and inspire all Canadians.”