Canadian government taps MDA to build Canadarm3

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

The government today announced through a news release that it intends to sign a contract with MDA to build the Canadarm3.

The Canadarm3 is meant to be Canada’s next-generation robotic arm that will incorporate advanced software, including artificial intelligence allowing the robotic arm to function independently after receiving commands from Earth based ground stations or by astronauts on the Lunar Gateway.

There may be more than one Canadarm3 attached the Lunar Gateway. NASA has stated interest in a potential arm being located inside the Gateway. While still only a concept, it is something that may be pursued in the future.

The announcement does not come as a surprise, though releasing the news on Friday afternoon, and not making a bigger deal of it, seems rather odd. Why not wait until the contract is signed and make an event of it?

SpaceQ spoke with some someone familiar with the announcement who said not to read much in the timing of it. The announcement is part a procurement process set out by Public Services and Procurement Canada. It was originally meant to be released this morning but was delayed.

It was February 28, 2019 that Prime Minister announced Canada “Canada is going to the Moon.” Since then as the Lunar Gateway and the NASA led Artemis program began to take shape and change, Canada has held fast to its plan.

An artist’s concept of Canada’s smart robotic system
An artist’s concept of Canada’s smart robotic system located on the exterior of the Gateway, a small space station in orbit around the Moon. Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA.

The Canadarm3 won’t solely be an MDA product. The government announced that it “will involve the application of the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy, which will ensure the participation of the broader Canadian supply chain and help motivate investments in key industrial capabilities within Canada’s space sector.” And with that, many smaller suppliers around the country will get a piece of the action.

Minister Bains stated in the news release that, “our Government is committed to the future of space exploration and ensuring Canada remains a global leader in space robotics. Our commitment to contribute Canadarm3 to the Lunar Gateway will generate high-quality jobs and economic benefits for Canadians while ensuring that our space industry continues to lead and grow. Canada will continue to push the boundaries of human ambition in space exploration, and inspire generations of kids – and adults – to always aim higher and aspire to something greater.”

Shortly after the Canadian Space Agency tweeted the announcement, MDA responded by saying “We look forward to working with the @csa_asc and to a long and successful partnership to build a highly advanced, next generation #AI-based #Canadarm3 for #GATEWAY.”

Meanwhile NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine retweeted the CSA press release and said “I am thrilled to hear this Gateway news from our @csa_asc partners! International support is critical to establishing sustainable lunar exploration later this decade as part of the #Artemis program.”

Story updated at 3:45 pm EDT.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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