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MDA Space Gets $999.8M Contract to Complete Design, Construct and Test Moon-Bound Canadarm3

Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Government of Canada today awarded MDA Space a $999.8M contract for Phase C, the final design, and Phase D for construction, system assembly, integration and testing of the Canadarm3 robotics system.

An artist’s concept of Canada’s smart robotic system, Canadarm3
An artist’s early concept of Canada’s smart robotic system, Canadarm3, located on the exterior of the Gateway, a small space station in orbit around the Moon. Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA.

The contract follows the $268.9M Phase B contract awarded to MDA Space in early 2022 for the preliminary design of the Canadarm3 robotics system.

The Canadarm3 will be used at the Lunar Gateway as part of the NASA-led Artemis Program. The Gateway will be a small outpost “one thousand times further from Earth than the International Space Station (ISS)” according to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). For part of the year it will crewed by American and international astronauts, likely including Canadians at some point.

The first Canadian to ever travel to the Moon’s vicinity will be CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen who is part of the Artemis II mission that will make the journey in an Orion spacecraft no earlier than September next year. The Lunar Gateway won’t be in orbit around the moon by then and the Artemis II mission will do a lunar flyby as illustrated below.

The CSA says the “Canadarm3 will serve as a critical component and will be used to maintain, repair and inspect Gateway, relocate modules, enable science in lunar orbit, help astronauts during spacewalks and capture spacecraft visiting the station. Much like Gateway itself, Canadarm3 operations will be highly autonomous, minimizing the need for direct human intervention, representing a leap forward in spacecraft capability.”

MDA Space said it “will support commissioning of the Canadarm3 robotics system once in orbit from the company’s new mission control facility at its global headquarters and Space Robotics Centre of Excellence in Brampton, Ontario. The contract will also include planning and personnel training in preparation for on-orbit mission operations.”

MDA Space added that the “contract will involve over 200 Canadian companies in the MDA Space supply chain, supporting job creation.” Over the course of the 10 year project the government said the “investments are expected to create and maintain more than 1,000 well-paying jobs in an industrial sector that is amongst the most innovative and R&D intensive.”

MDA Space expects the contract to run until March 2030. While no launch date has been set for the Gateway, NASA said “on-orbit assembly of the fully realized Gateway space station will commence with the Artemis IV mission that will launch no earlier than September 2028.”

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and Executive Vice President, Content of SpaceNews. Boucher has 25+ 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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