Next Generation Canadarms Unveiled at MacDonald Dettwiler Facility in Brampton

The next generation robotic arms to be used for future space missions were unveiled this morning at the MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates’ (MDA) facilities in Brampton, Ontario. The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Astronaut Chris Hadfield joined other government, CSA and MDA representatives to make the announcement.

“Like all Canadians, I am proud of the iconic Canadarm, that served the Space Shuttle Program for three decades, as well as the Next-Generation Canadarm (NGC), which will further Canada’s legacy of excellence in space robotics,” said Minister Goodyear. “As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canada in space, this is but one example of how our Government’s investment in innovation continues to drive science and technology.”
CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield Credit: SPACEREF
Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on December 19, will be the first Canadian to act as Commander on the ISS. After touring the facility, he told SPACEREF: “I think the really important thing to focus on, is not what is going to happen in the next three minutes, or the next week or two, but to look at this thing in history. Look where we came from. Look back at the last 50 years of Canada in space, 30 years of Canadarm in space on those shuttle missions. Canadarm2 up there building and working on the space station, using Dextre to invent how to do remote robotics, and then look at the next generation stuff where we can, from Earth, go up and service a broken satellite, a billion dollar satellite and extend its life or we could reach inside a person’s brain while they are inside an MRI and do surgery to remove a cancerous growth or even to perform surgery inside a woman’s breast to remove real time while its being sensed with minimally invasive surgery. All of that is one long continuum. I think it is great to day to really see how far we’ve come and what’s coming next.”
In 2009, Canada’s Economic Action Plan allocated $53.1 million over three years to the Canadian Space Agency for the design and construction of the next generation of the Canadarm. The resulting robotic systems provide Canada the capability to study solutions for potential future missions or to service several types of spacecraft–from space telescopes to refueling satellites. Two arms are under development – a 15-metre robotic arm which can collapse and will fit onboard future smaller spacecraft. A smaller, 2.5 metre robotic arm is equipped with its own set of sophisticated tools and was designed to repair satellites in space.
A test-bed allows engineers to simulate bringing two spacecraft together for operations in close-contact. A second test facility simulates the steps required to dock two vehicles together and a mission operations station allows all NGC’s systems to be operated remotely.
“Regardless of future space destinations, space robotics will be required for a variety of missions, from rovers that act as robotic planetary explorers to robots that will repair and refuel satellites and space telescopes” explained Gilles Leclerc, Director General of Space Exploration at CSA. “No matter the mission, Canada will be ready.”
The Next Generation Small Canadarm Credit: SPACEREF
The Next-Generation Small Canadarm is a descendant of Dextre – the Canadian built robotic handyman which cam employ a suite of different tools to support multiple tasks on orbit. To celebrate the event today, the NGC pictured here was used to remotely cut a wire holding the red ribbon – a special ribbon cutting ceremony.
The Next Generation Large Canadarm Credit: SPACEREF
The Next-Generation Large Canadarm has the same reach as its cousin Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS) but is lighter and more compact. The booms can telescope one inside each other to shrink to a size which would fit in the back of a mini-van.
These prototypes are being tested for future development for long-duration missions into deep space – manned and unmanned – to the Moon, the asteroids and Mars. A practical application for this robotic technology is the repair and refueling of existing satellites in Earth orbit.
Also on display today were applications of the robotic technology here on Earth. Doctors can use robotic arms to perform delicate surgery to remove for example, brain tumours from a patient while they are in an MRI. Neuroarm has been used to successfully perform delicate neurosurgery.
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Astronaut Hadfield and Minister Goodyear team up to simulate delicate robotic activities with an earlier version of a medical robotic arm. Credit: SPACEREF
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The first Shuttle Canadarm awaits transport to Quebec. Credit: SPACEREF
Also on view today was the first Canadarm – the Space Shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System (RMS). This arm was first flown on the Space Shuttle Columbia in November 1981. After processing at MDA, it will be shipped to the CSA Headquarters in St Hubert Quebec in November to be put on display in the lobby of the headquarters building.

About Randy Attwood

Amateur astronomer, astrophotographer, space exploration historian. Executive Director, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada / Publisher - SkyNews magazine.

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