Canadian firms play key roles in comet landing

Two Canadian companies were bursting with pride Wednesday after important roles in the historic landing of a spacecraft on the surface of a comet.

SED Systems of Saskatoon built three ground stations used by the European Space Agency to communicate with the Rosetta spacecraft, which sent its Philae lander down to the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

Ottawa-based ADGA-RHEA Group, meanwhile, provided software to handle complex operation procedures and commands.

The Rosetta spacecraft was more than 500 million kilometres away from Earth when it released its Philae lander. That’s more than 1,000 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

ADGA-RHEA Group’s contribution was software called “MOIS,” which stands for Manufacturing and Operating Information System.

Managing director Andre Sincennes pointed out that the company’s engineers and scientists have been involved since the early days of the mission.

“Basically, going back to 2000-2002, we worked very closely with the European Space Agency to develop that application and now it’s been proven over the last 12 years and it’s being used in almost every single mission,” he noted.

Sincennes said the software came into play during a crucial period three months ago.

Rosetta was put into hibernation in June 2011 to limit its consumption of solar power.

The MOIS technology helped to reawaken the satellite last January –a process that required Rosetta’s 11 science and 10 lander instruments to be reactivated and readied for scientific observation.

“Basically, in excess of 1,000 procedures had to be reviewed, revisited, changed, adapted and realigned,” Sincennes said.

Each of the manoeuvres was critical in making Rosetta’s rendezvous with the comet possible.

Sincennes said ADGA-RHEA officials were thrilled about the final outcome.

“There’s so much pride and all that pride from a Canadian standpoint, from a European standpoint, comes from the effort — the relentless effort conducted and performed by our engineers, our scientists, in that 10-year-plus period,” he added.

“We are now in deep-space exploration. It will provide an array of information that will benefit and hopefully make the world a better world and we’re extremely proud as Canadians. We’re extremely proud to be part of that success.”

ADGA-RHEA has about 600 employees in Canada and another 200 in Europe.

Sincennes said the system-engineering company has been established in Canada for 47 years and has had a design facility in Montreal since 1970.

CTV News article with video.