MDA has been awarded a contract from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop Canadarm3, the third generation Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based robotic system destined for "Gateway", a lunar-orbiting international space station. The contract involves the award of Phase A of the Canadarm3 program, with options for the follow-on phases.
As MDA's most ambitious space exploration project yet, Canadarm3 will operate aboard Gateway, a NASA-led deep space outpost that will orbit the Moon beginning in the mid-2020s, supporting both human and robotic missions to the lunar surface, serving as a science laboratory, and acting as a proving ground for exploration missions into deeper space.
Canadarm3 will include the full robotics system, comprised of an eXploration Large Arm (XLA), an eXploration Dexterous Arm (XDA), specialized tools for performing maintenance and science tasks, as well as the ground control systems and AI-based control and mission planning software.
Because of extremely limited and delayed communication with the ground due to the Gateway's location some 400,000 kilometres from Earth, Canadarm3 will be highly autonomous and will use its advanced AI-enabled sensors and systems to safely conduct operations without requiring oversight and monitoring by the ground or on-board astronauts. The ground planning and control operations for the system will take place exclusively in Canada, in contrast to the previous generation Canadarm and Canadarm2, also built by MDA.
This initial Phase A of the Canadarm3 program will establish the technical requirements needed for the future design and manufacturing of the robotic system. This phase will further evolve the concepts developed by MDA in Phase 0 and advance the readiness level of critical technologies. Follow-on phases include Phase B (preliminary design), Phase C (final design) and Phase D (manufacturing, integration and test).
MDA has also committed to produce a ''Value Proposition'' through the Government of Canada's Industrial and Technological Benefits policy that will optimize economic benefits to Canada from the Canadarm3 investment.
With unmatched space operations capabilities developed through various government programs for almost 40 years, the Canadarm3 program will further strengthen Canada's global leadership in operational mission-critical space robotics, and will position MDA for continued success in the commercial space robotics market, an emerging business area forecast to generate global revenues reaching upwards of CAD $7 billion in the next 10 years.
"We are proud to partner once again with the Canadian Space Agency to contribute world-leading Canadian technology and operational expertise to an international space exploration endeavour. In addition to delivering the most advanced space robotics system ever built, the Canadarm3 program will serve as a catalyst for economic and socio-economic benefits in Canada, and will inspire a new generation of Canadians to think about what can truly be accomplished here in Canada." ~ Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer of MDA
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA have signed the Gateway Treaty, a historic agreement that confirms Canada's participation in the next major international collaboration in space exploration, the planned Lunar Gateway space station.
Under the Treaty, a Canadian will be part of the Artemis II mission, the first crewed mission to the Moon since 1972. This mission, planned to launch in 2023, positions Canada to make history as the second country to have an astronaut travel to deep space and fly around the Moon. The Treaty also confirms a second flight for a Canadian astronaut to the Lunar Gateway.
This announcement also affirms Canada as a key partner of the U.S. in space exploration, bringing Canadian and American technology and science to the Moon.
Hundreds of Canadian companies are expected to be involved in the development of Canadarm3 for the Lunar Gateway, working with the prime contractor MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and research organizations, to drive innovation and Canadian excellence in emerging technologies. Canada's Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy applies to the development and build of the Canadarm3, which will generate significant economic benefits in the Canadian space sector. In addition, the Canadarm3 control station will be located on Canadian soil. Canada's leadership in space robotics, from design to operations, will position industry for future global opportunities .
Canada's participation in lunar exploration will keep our space industry strong and growing, while opening up new possibilities for Canadian research and innovation. The most significant space partnership since the establishment of the International Space Station, the lunar outpost will enable sustainable human exploration of the Moon and help advance the technologies necessary for a future mission to Mars.
Canada's participation in the Lunar Gateway is the cornerstone of our Space Strategy, which aims to leverage Canadian strengths like robotics, while advancing science and innovation in exciting areas like artificial intelligence, biomedical technologies, food production, and research on the impact of climate change on Earth's atmosphere.
"This is a significant moment in Canada's space history. The Canada–U.S. Gateway Treaty takes Canada to the Moon for the first time. Our country will collaborate with the most advanced space organizations in the world on cutting-edge science and technology for the benefit of humankind. As Canada joins the U.S. and other international partners in this great adventure, our continued leadership in space robotics will be a source of national pride – and all eyes will look to the sky as one of our astronauts becomes the first Canadian to travel around the Moon." — The Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
• On February 28, 2019, the Prime Minister announced historic investments in Canada's space program and Canada's commitment to Moon exploration.
• Since the early 1980s, Canada's astronauts have advanced science and technology and inspired Canadians. Nine extraordinary CSA astronauts have flown to space 17 times.
• Artemis II will be a mission around the Moon. It will be the first crewed mission to the Moon since 1972.
• The Lunar Gateway is a planned space station in lunar orbit. About one-sixth of the size of the ISS, this new outpost will be developed, serviced, and utilized in collaboration with international and commercial partners. The Gateway will be a science laboratory; a testbed for new technologies; a rendezvous location for exploration of the surface of the Moon; a mission control centre for operations on the Moon; and one day, a stepping stone for voyages to Mars.
• Canadarm3 is a highly autonomous robotic system that will use cutting-edge software to perform tasks without human intervention. It will be critical to Artemis missions, from maintaining, repairing and inspecting the Gateway, to capturing visiting vehicles, helping astronauts during spacewalks, and supporting science both in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon.
• On June 26, 2020, the Government of Canada announced its intention to enter into a contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) for Canadarm3. The contract for Phase A (to establish the technical requirements needed to design and build Canadarm3) was awarded on December 7, 2020, at a value of $22.8 million.
• With the application of the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, Canadian-built space robotics for the Gateway are estimated to contribute up to $135 million annually to Canada's GDP and create and maintain some 1,300 high-quality jobs for Canadians over an estimated 10-year build period.
• To grow companies, including small and medium-sized businesses, and position them to access global markets, the CSA created the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program to prepare Canada's space sector for missions to the Moon and beyond. For example, the CSA recently announced two contributions and six contracts, for a total value of $6.2 million.
• Canada and the United States have built one of the closest relationships between any two countries in the world. This includes our partnership stretching back to the 1960s to explore outer space together.