The Next-Generation Canadarm
Extending the frontier of human exploration to near or distant points in space relies on the ability of Canada and its international partners to build on past successes and to anticipate new demands.
Canada has a long and storied heritage of world-class robotic technologies and operational experience. Throughout three decades as the workhorse of NASA's space shuttles, the original Canadarm epitomized the value of robotics and human collaboration, while Canadarm2, with its two-armed robotic handyman Dextre, is an indispensable mainstay in the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station.
Building on this legacy, the Next-Generation Canadarm (NGC) is the futuristic centrepiece of Canada's next step in advanced space robotics.
Whether the destination is low-Earth orbit or the Moon, Mars and the uncharted territories of other planets and asteroids, future spacecraft and satellites will require supporting service systems that are lightweight, cost-effective and capable of performing intricate missions in a forbidding environment.
To meet those challenges, MDA of Brampton, Ontario, is developing prototypes of an integrated set of NGC components that will simplify repairs and perform other anticipated tasks for a variety of future missions that range from even deeper explorations of space by humans to galactic probes by robotically autonomous astronomy satellites.
The NGC prototypes of robot arms, a ground control station, end-effectors and other next-generation tools will showcase unique Canadian hardware and software technology designed to also extend the life of existing satellites, such as the Hubble telescope, by enabling the robotic servicing of sensitive equipment such as thermal blankets, cables and connectors.
Celebrated for its mastery of jobs that require either heavy lifting or a delicate touch, Canadarm2 and its robotic features are controlled by astronauts during spacewalks or from within the space station. With the NGC, tasks such as refueling in space and the capture and docking of two spacecraft can be accomplished either on-site or remotely by an operator on the ground.
Once the prototypes are completed in 2012, operators in a ground-based mission control station will demonstrate the NGC's advanced servicing capabilities by conducting tests of the model components using either the actual hardware or computer simulations.
Next Generation Large Canadarm: With the same 15-metre reach of Canadarm2, but in a much lighter, more compact package, this prototype of a large robotic arm is designed for streamlined spacecrafts of the future. In addition to retractable telescopic booms, the system also features advanced hardware, software, control architecture and operational capability. As precise as it is robust, Canada's next-generation workhorse will handle tasks as delicate as the repair of sensitive instruments and as demanding as the capture and berthing of large space vehicles.
Next-Generation Large Canadarm
Next-Generation Small Canadarm
Next-Generation Small Canadarm: By necessity, components of future satellites and spacecraft will be simple, accessible and modular. With a 3.4-metre reach, the prototype robotic arm will be used to refuel satellites in space and repair or replace essential components, including thermal blankets, valves, cables and connectors. Controlled either manually or automatically, the smaller Canadarm component will be carried to various workstations by its larger sibling, much the same way as Dextre is transported by Canadarm2.
POST: The joining, or rendezvous, of two vehicles in space is a finely tuned operation. Equipped with two robotic systems, this prototype system will be used to bring two spacecraft to within 50-metres of each another. At that point, the separate SADS takes over, guiding the spacecraft through a series of robotically performed procedures that begins with initial contact, known as the soft dock, and ends with the final stages of the hard dock that lock the two vehicles together.
"Canada is a leader in the design and construction of robotics for the space industry, and is well known for the Canadarm. The CSA plays an important role by working with the private sector to support advanced research, development and prototyping for new space-based technologies. Budget 2009 provides the CSA with $110 million over three years so that it can contribute to the development of terrestrial prototypes for space robotic vehicles, such as the Mars Lander and Lunar Rover, and for the further development of other technologies and space robotics."
– Federal Budget 2009 –
The Next-Generation Canadarm project is funded through Canada's Economic Action Plan.
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