Canadian Manufacturing

NASA taps Canada’s MDA to build spacecraft platform for asteroid mission

MacDonald Dettwiler built the Canadarm for the Space Shuttle missions and has now secured a $100 million deal to supply a platform that will travel beyond Mars to the asteroid belt

January 6, 2017  by The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER—NASA has chosen a Canadian company to build a spacecraft platform that will venture to a metallic asteroid called 16 Psyche.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates says the contract, awarded to its U.S. subsidiary, is expected to be worth $100 million when finalized (US$75 million).

Its SSL unit in Palo Alto, Calif., will provide a spacecraft platform equipped with a high-power solar electric propulsion system.

NASA says the spacecraft is expected to be launched in 2023, pass by Mars two years later, and arrive at Psyche in 2030.


The U.S. space agency says the asteroid is about 210 kilometres in diameter and thought to be primarily made of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.

MacDonald, Dettwiler, also known as MDA, is the supplier of the robotic system used aboard the International Space Station and the Canadarm used in NASA’s retired Space Shuttle program.

It’s also involved in a variety of high-technology businesses including satellite-based data collection and information technology.