Canada’s MDA to supply NASA with spacecraft platform for asteroid mission.
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, a global communications and information company, today announced that its U.S. business unit, SSL, was selected to provide a spacecraft platform for a NASA Discovery Mission to explore the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. SSL will work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support Principal Investigator Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a mission to research the 210 km diameter asteroid, which is believed to be the only place in the solar system where a metal planetary core can be studied.
When finalized, the contract with SSL is expected to exceed US$75 million (approximately CA$100 million), and represents the second major U.S. Government project for the company in recent months, demonstrating growing momentum in this sector. As the industrial partner for the Psyche asteroid exploration mission, SSL will provide the “power-propulsion chassis,” a highly capable composite structure spacecraft platform equipped with a high-power solar electric propulsion (SEP) system.
“We are very pleased to be able to serve NASA and the U.S. government on an increasing number of missions,” said Howard Lance, chief executive officer of SSL MDA Holdings. “SSL brings a depth of resources and experience to scientific missions such as the exploration of 16 Psyche and we are committed to demonstrating how we can deliver innovative solutions to U.S. civilian, defense and intelligence agencies going forward.”
The NASA Discovery Program goal is to deepen the knowledge of our solar system by launching modest cost-capped missions on a routine cadence. Scheduled to launch in the 2020s, the Psyche mission was selected for flight out of five Discovery Mission candidates.
“Our many years of experience and success in building state of the art spacecraft, position us well to support NASA programs and to contribute to this NASA Discovery Mission,” said John Celli, president of SSL. “SSL is honored to partner with ASU and JPL to enable this ground breaking research, which will help us better understand the early days of the solar system and formation of terrestrial planets.”
The spacecraft design is based on the SSL 1300 platform, which has been proven on more than 100 missions, and has the flexibility to serve a broad range of applications, ranging from space exploration and remote sensing to commercial communications. SSL is also contributing to a variety of other next generation U.S. government missions, including the Restore-L mission for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which will demonstrate the ability to extend the life of a satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and the Dragonfly program for NASA and DARPA, which will demonstrate on orbit satellite assembly.