Press Release

Canadian Mining Technology May Extend Future Space Missions

By SpaceRef Editor
May 6, 2011
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The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc. (NORCAT), under Canadian Space Agency contract, is developing innovative drilling technology which will shape the future of Canada’s contribution to future space missions. This project supports Canada’s role in the Global Exploration Strategy as a key component of the utilization of planetary resources for mission support.

The requirement for mining activity on the moon or near earth objects in support of robotic and human activity is paramount. In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is the process of using existing resources to produce valuable elements in space, such as oxygen and water. NORCAT’s expertise in microgravity mining leads the way in pioneering future space exploration missions. This project will focus on the development of a flight prototype sample drilling system as a key component of a prospecting system intended to search for water on the moon. The technology is based upon a sample coring drill familiar to the mining industry which will be adapted to the harsh environment of the moon.

This Canadian mining technology has the potential to be a major contribution to robotic missions as an infrastructure tool, without which long term (greater than 72 hours) human presence on the moon or mars could not occur. The inclusion of this system would allow Canadian scientists to examine data sets and samples taken on virtually each robotic pre-cursor mission requiring ISRU investigations. It is a key component of human exploration and In Situ resource utilization.

“We have just passed our first major milestone on this project,” says Dale Boucher, Director of Innovation at NORCAT. “We are now working to integrate this Canadian Space Agency funded project with the sample analysis system being built by NASA in preparation for field testing in June of 2012. It is very exciting for NORCAT and our partners, including EVC of Val Caron and Neptec of Ottawa, to play a critical role in this new venture for the Canadian mining and aerospace sectors.”

The ability for Canada to exercise its world leader status in mining systems and extend this capability beyond the confines of the planet is key to the establishment of a significant and uniquely Canadian contribution to human exploration activities throughout the next few decades. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2012.


The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc. (NORCAT) is a not-for-profit, non-share incorporated company based in Sudbury, Ontario Canada. NORCAT has been developing space mining equipment since 1999, with the primary focus on a drilling unit for subsurface exploration.

SpaceRef staff editor.