MDA continues to put Canada on the world’s radar for space exploration
Recently, there has been more exciting news when it comes to space exploration in the Canadian context. The Canadarm3 will be built by MDA to contribute to the Lunar Gateway. MDA describes the Canadarm3 as “Canada’s – and MDA’s – most ambitious space exploration project yet.” Canada will also see one of its astronauts go to the moon during the Artemis II mission in 2023. This mission will be the first crewed mission around the moon since 1972 and will make Canada the second country in history to send an astronaut around the moon.
The Lunar Gateway, set to launch in 2023, is a small space station that will orbit the moon. This space station will be approximately one-sixth the size of the International Space Station (ISS) and 40,000 km away from Earth. The Gateway, once fully constructed, will act as living quarters for a team of four astronauts that can spend up to three months on board. During this time the astronauts will be able to travel back and forth to the lunar surface. The Lunar Gateway, led by NASA, will serve as a science laboratory and will also be the stepping stone for deeper space explorations.
MDA began to work on the design of the Canadarm3 in 2014. In December 2020, the Canadian Space Agency awarded a $22.8 million contract to MDA to build the Canadarm3, an essential Canadian addition to the Lunar Gateway.
A few important components of the Canadarm3 include a small dexterous arm and a larger arm about 8.5 meters in length, highly specialized instruments, six 4K colour cameras, and robotics interfaces. These components will operate to ensure the Gateway is maintained and will work to make any repairs if needed, assist astronauts in performing spacewalks, capture any visiting vehicles and reposition the Gateway’s modules. The Canadarm3, unlike its predecessors, will use advanced artificial intelligence, have the ability to work autonomously and have its ground control operations run entirely in Canada. The Canadarm3 is set to be delivered to the Lunar Gateway in 2026, a journey that will take five days. This will be a joint Canadian effort as hundreds of companies across Canada will be involved and work with MDA to develop the Canadarm3.
In recent news, MDA announced last month that it would be partnering with robotics researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth to design a robotic prototype. They hope that this intra-vehicular robot (IVR) may be utilized in the Lunar Gateway or on board the International Space Station (ISS). The flexibility that this prototype provides by allowing full control from Earth to carry out tasks, such as rearrangement of cargo and surveying of inventory, would be a huge step forward for space technology as there would be less reliance on human intervention on board to carry out such tasks.
Canada has been recognized internationally for being an innovator of space robotics technologies. In the coming years Canada will continue to contribute vital instruments and technology to space exploration projects.