CSA contract giant leap towards launching Western into Space

Western University’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (Western Space) has landed a major contract from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop an Integrated Vision System for future rover missions that could ultimately represent a flagship Canadian technology contribution for international missions to the Moon.

The Integrated Vision System, which will be mounted on a rover for lunar surface operations, will consist of an integrated multi-wavelength LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and multispectral imager to provide 360-degree data collection. The primary goal of the instrument will be to characterize the lunar surface and support the selection of return samples to Earth.

A multispectral LIDAR would provide a unique advantage for exploring the Moon, since cameras can only provide images of an area that is directly illuminated by sun light, which is absent on the Moon. By combining multispectral imaging capabilities with LIDAR, this remote-sensing method could revolutionize planetary surface operations for both scientific applications and rover guidance, navigation, and control.

Western Space Director Gordon “Oz” Osinski, Western Space Associate Director (Training and Education) Jayshri Sabarinathan and Western Space Research Scientist Livio Tornabene led the successful bid. The project team also includes several post-doctoral students and graduate students from Western’s Faculty of Science and Faculty of Engineering.

Western Space is also collaborating with MDA Visions Systems and Sensors on developing the Integrated Vision System.

“Winning this contract marks a major step towards achieving one of our Institute goals of launching Western into Space,” says Osinski. “The world is focused on returning to the Moon with robots and humans in the next few years and to think that Western faculty and students may play an integral role in developing the instrument that will be the eyes of lunar rovers is incredibly exciting.”

This project is funded by CSA’s Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP), which is preparing Canada’s space sector for humanity’s return to the Moon by earmarking $150 million over five years to help small and medium-sized businesses in Canada develop new technologies that could be used and tested in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface in fields that include artificial intelligence, robotics and health.

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