Canada is continuing to make itself known in the space industry—one self-guiding robotic arm
(or moon rover) at a time.
Vancouver-based MDA announced the sign-off of four contracts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) valuing a total of $53.75 million. MDA is a business unit of Maxar Technologies, formerly named MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.
The contracts span a few different areas, with the majority of cash going to improvements on current infrastructure, like the well-known Canadarm2, while some will be reserved for developing new technology.
Approximately $52.25 million has been allocated towards continued support of the Mobile Servicing Systems’ robotic operations. This will come through two contract amendments, the first of which was valued at $35 million and first announced in September 2016. This second amendment will be valued at approximately $17.25 million.
These new enhancements will streamline operations and reduce operator communication loads. The MSS is comprised of a highly dexterous two-armed robot known as “Dextre,” a mobile Base System, and the Canadarm2. Together, these three devices perform a variety of operations including resupply, maintenance, and service tasks on the ISS. Its continued operation allows the CSA to achieve Canada’s obligations and goals as a partner with the ISS.
“Canadian robotics play a key role on the International Space Station and the advances in space robotics associated with this project not only enhances the MSS capabilities, but also provides a long-term benefit in ensuring Canadian technology retains its best-in-class status,” said Marc Donato, general manager at MDA. “The technologies being developed under this contract offer direct spin-offs related to commercial initiatives that MDA has undertaken, such as robotically servicing satellites in space.”
Check out a video below to see famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield control the Canadarm2.
The other two contracts involve research and development. The first one is valued at $800,000 and will look to develop technology that can enable autonomous control of further space hardware like robotic arms, rovers, scientific instruments and satellites. This could at one point have made Hadfield’s job, as shown in the video above, much easier. There are currently no Canadians in space but David Saint-Jacques will head to the ISS in November 2018 and bring some technology and research projects with him.
The final contract, worth $450,000, will fund a concept study for two different kinds of space rovers. One is a small rover that can be sent to the moon to collect lunar samples and test the technology needed for the second rover, which will be a pressurized rover meant to transport astronauts on the moon’s surface. Though this technology is far from being developed for practical use, it could mean astronauts will one day race from dune to dune on the moon with Canadian-pioneered rovers.
MDA is a global leader when it comes to producing space robotics, as well as technology like radar and intelligence systems. The company has recently worked with companies like Boeing and received contracts to develop and maintain satellites.