While the Canadian government has not publicly committed to the long-term NASA led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway program, it is preparing the way, and sources inform SpaceQ that Canada is likely to sign-on.
The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway program is a long-term human and robotic presence in orbit near the moon in a small space station with a hoped for permanent presence on the surface of the moon.
At last weeks Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa, ISED Minister Navdeep Bains would not commit Canada to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway when talking with media after his panel appearance. However, during that panel with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine he did get in the last word, and in making his final remarks he looked to his right at the moderator and then made the effort to look to look his left and address these remarks to Bridenstine, “Canada has every intention of continuing our relationship with NASA going forward for years to come. So it’s going to be really exciting for years to come here in Canada.” His comments seemed sincere, and it was perhaps the one signal during the event by anyone from government that Canada was prepared to move forward in cooperation with the U.S. on new programs.
Preparing the way
In anticipation of Canada becoming a partner in the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway program, the government announced in Sherbrooke yesterday that Canada was going to upgrade the software on the International Space Station Canadarm2 and Dextre with the ability to conduct certain tasks autonomously using Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The partnership is between the Canadian Space Agency, MDA and Menya Solutions, AI experts based in Sherbrooke.
The press release from the government says “the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is now exploring ways to equip future space robots with AI. Giving robots some autonomy will be critical for new missions into deep space. Set to be located in increasingly distant destinations, space robots of the future will have to work without human help, relying on AI to make decisions.”
ISED Minister Bains said in the press release “artificial intelligence is transforming all industries and sectors, providing new opportunities for Canadians. It’s exciting to see how the collaboration between Canada’s space sector and our world-leading AI research is already helping small companies grow, innovate and export their expertise. By working together, we are supporting the creation of high-skilled jobs that play a significant role in boosting Canada’s digital economy.”
The press release further states that “countries from around the world are preparing plans to build the successor to the International Space Station (ISS): an outpost in the vicinity of the Moon called the Gateway that will serve as a stepping stone for deep-space exploration. Unlike the ISS, which has been continuously inhabited for almost 20 years, this future orbiting lunar station will rely upon AI-based autonomous robotics for its upkeep. Robots will assemble and service the Gateway, and will capture visiting spacecraft and help conduct science on behalf of researchers on Earth.”
The Gateway they are referring to is the NASA led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway program. It’s a small step, but it is a step, and it signals that Canada is continuing down the path of eventually announcing it will join the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway program.
Froduald Kabanza, CEO at Menya Solutions said “Menya Solutions is excited and proud to work with the CSA and MDA on the next generation of AI-based autonomous robotics. Working with these world leaders in space and robotics technologies will create opportunities for us in other sectors and contribute to the growth of our business. This collaboration aligns well with our other ongoing efforts in helping different organizations to deploy AI solutions that support humans and machines in making decisions, improving living and working conditions, and allowing us to save money, time and lives.”
Canada is recognized as an AI technology leader. Taking AI to space may help Canada solidify part of its future role in space.