TORONTO, ON / 01 JUNE 2014 – Canadensys Aerospace Corporation has been awarded a contract by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to advance the preliminary engineering and programmatic definition of a next generation meteorological sensor package as a potential Canadian contribution to a U.S. instrument suite for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission.
ARES (Aeolian Research for Exploration and Science) is comprised of two elements – a wind sensor and a dust sensor – which together augment a U.S.-led international meteorology suite currently proposed for NASA’s next Mars rover mission. The ARES wind sensor is based on the gold standard terrestrial wind sensor, the sonic anemometer, specially developed and adapted for the Martian atmosphere in partnership with MicroAcoustic Instruments Inc. of Gatineau, Québec. The ARES dust sensor would use an innovative non-contact optical sensor system that would be unperturbed by atmospheric properties yet would be simple in design and mechanically robust. These sensors form the “front end” of the Atmospheric Characterization for Exploration and Science (ACES) instrument suite led by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) of Boulder, Colorado and proposed for Mars 2020, notionally residing on the deployable boom and the main science deck of the rover respectively.
The Canadian ARES core science team is led by Dr. Carlos Lange of the University of Alberta, a veteran of the highly successful CSA meteorology (MET) station on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission. “All the meteorological sensors that have been flown on past missions, such as the Viking Landers, Mars Pathfinder, the Phoenix Lander and the Curiosity Rover had severe limitations in their measurement ability,” says Dr. Lange. “Should ARES be developed, not only Mars 2020 but every new mission to Mars will want to use the sonic anemometer wind sensor and non-contact optical dust sensor technologies.”
“After 13 years of developing the ultrasound technology needed to enable this powerful new wind instrument for Mars, MicroAcoustic would obviously be entirely thrilled to finally see it touch down on Mars and start doing its thing,” says Dr. David Schindel, President of MicroAcoustic Instruments Inc. “It’s a uniquely Canadian solution too, with a unique Canadian team, and has real spin-off benefits for our commercial offerings back here on Earth, so it would be a pretty exciting opportunity all-around.”
“We are delighted by CSA’s support in developing the ARES concept further,” says Dr. Nadeem Ghafoor, VP for Space Exploration at Canadensys. “The suite not only builds on advanced technologies developed by MicroAcoustic and other partners, but deploys them in a way that would transform our understanding of Martian atmospheric dynamics close to the surface, and that really changes the game in terms of the safety of future human and robotic Mars landers.” Understanding the surface wind and dust environment on Mars is also important to the sustainable exploration of Mars, for example, for an atmospheric in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) demonstration that is currently being discussed for the 2020 mission.
“ARES represents a true Canada-U.S. partnership of complementary strengths, with the Canadian team members providing the ‘last mile’ wind and dust sensor heads and the U.S. team members providing the supporting sensor-level systems engineering, flight software and electronics infrastructure elements,” says Dr. Scot Rafkin, SwRI ACES principal investigator. “I look forward to a continued partnership with Canada on what is certain to be a very scientifically exciting and highly visible mission.”
Canadensys Aerospace Corporation is a Canadian-owned and managed space systems and services company located in Toronto, Ontario. The company is founded on heritage and expertise that spans a number of Canada’s historic space achievements of the last three decades, but breaks with traditional high-cost and long development cycles with a stronger balance between heritage and commercial space approaches.
This press release may contain certain forward looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from the results indicated in any such forward looking statements.