MDA Space Unveils SKYMAKER

The new MDA SKYMAKER logo. Image credit: MDA Space.

Today at the 39th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, MDA Space announced a new product line, MDA SKYMAKER which builds on the heritage of their space robotics products including the venerable Canadarm. The new product line consists of a “new suite of space robotics products and services.”

In a press release MDA Space described the new product line as “derived from peerless Canadarm technology, MDA SKYMAKER provides innovative space companies and ventures with access to the world’s most flight-proven space robotics solutions and services, supporting a diverse range of missions including lunar surface rovers and landers, space stations, satellite servicing in all orbits, and in-space assembly and manufacturing.”

SpaceQ spoke with Holly Johnson, Vice President, Robotics and Space Operations to learn more.

Johnson said the company has “been developing these products, the product suite, in earnest really for two years.” One of those products that has been in development for some are external payload interfaces. Axiom Space is already customer having purchased 94 external payload interfaces in two lots. At the time, MDA Space said the “interfaces provide mechanical, electrical, and data connections for payloads that are externally mounted on Axiom Station to perform activities including scientific research, Earth observation, communications, and a host of other applications.”

Axiom Space will use the external payload interfaces for their planned Axiom (space) Station, a potential commercial replacement for the International Space Station when it is decommissioned.

And although they could not announce at the time, Johnson said last weeks announcement of contracts to three companies for NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle program will include products from MDA SKYMAKER. MDA Space is on the Lunar Dawn Team who could be the beneficiary of a contract worth up to $4.6 billion if NASA selects them.

MDA SKYMAKER, a new suite of space robotics products and services derived from peerless Canadarm technology and purpose-built with the flexibility to meet the diverse needs of the most ambitious missions. Image credit: MDA Space.
MDA SKYMAKER, a new suite of space robotics products and services derived from peerless Canadarm technology and purpose-built with the flexibility to meet the diverse needs of the most ambitious missions.” Image credit: MDA Space.

The name SKYMAKER was chosen after a lengthy process working with an external agency. Johnson said she thinks the agency started with thousands of names. They wanted a “bold and confident” name. Johnson said Canada and MDA Space “are the world leaders in space robotics and we have the history and the resume to prove that. So eventually they “settled on on SKYMAKER which I really liked because it’s bold, it’s confident and it’s a it’s a great brand that allows us to kind of live up to everything that it can offer in the future.”

In discussing what makes up the new product suite Johnson said “It’s a kit of parts, different sizes of joints. That can be combined into different lengths of arms, different tool sets, different robotic interfaces, different software modules that can be added. And so it’s really think of it like Lego building blocks that are ready to go.”

Image credit: MDA Space.

Johnson said robotic arms could be quite small, around 1 meter but could be significantly larger, at over 15 metres. The kit also includes software which can be updated as needed. And while the kit can include different hardware and software, they’re also offering full mission ops from their new mission control in Brampton, Ontario which is almost ready.

MDA Space outlined the benefits to customers including.

  • Greater efficiency and robotics flexibility: Customers can now select from a range of high-performance high-reliability robotics products and services for a tailored solution.
  • Significantly improved mission economics: Customers, regardless of size or application, can now benefit from economy of scale pricing associated with one-to-many commercial products and services.
  • Faster time to market: Modular solutions, long-term product roadmaps and state-of-the-art manufacturing and production capacity minimize time to deployment for customers with aggressive commercial mission schedules.
  • Full-service mission operations: Customers can reduce operational costs by having MDA Space perform mission operations from our new state-of-the-art commercial mission control centre, leveraging decades of robotics space mission design and mission operations support.

As for future customers, Johnson said we “are in a variety of talks with multiple potential customers at the moment,” but “they cover kind of space applications and missions from on orbit servicing in space platforms, commercial space stations, lunar infrastructure, and robotics.”

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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