About Canadarm2

Canadarm2 is part of Canada's contribution to the International Space Station (ISS). This 17-metre-long robotic arm was extensively involved in the assembly of the orbiting laboratory.

Canadarm2's tasks

This Canadian robotic arm lends a helping hand to:

Animation of Canadarm2 catching and berthing SpaceX's Dragon

This computer-generated animation demonstrates Canadarm2's cosmic catch of SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship. (Credit: CSA)

Canada's contribution to the International Space Station consists of cutting-edge robots Canadarm2 and Dextre, and the Mobile Base System, a transport and storage platform.

All three elements are essential for many maintenance tasks and regular operations.

How Canadarm2 works

Each end of Canadarm2 features an identical "hand," known as a Latching End Effector. These pieces contain cables that tighten to ensure a strong grip. They allow the robotic arm to firmly grasp objects or latch itself to the Station.

Canadarm2's Latching End Effector (LEE) Illustration

Credit: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

Canadarm2 - Servicing the ISS since 2001 - Text version
  • Assembled the ISS
  • Works independently or with Dextre, the Canadian robotic repairman, to maintain the ISS
  • Is used to relocate Dextre, science experiments, spare parts and even astronauts
  • Performs "cosmic catches": capturing and docking of unpiloted cargo ships
  • Is operated from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency or the ISS
  • 400 km above Earth
  • 1,641 kg
  • Length: 17 m

Canadarm2 has two "hands" known as Latching End Effectors (LEEs)

  • Cosmic catches to date: 25
  • 196 kg

How Canadarm2 moves on the Station

Canadarm2 can easily be commanded to move wherever it needs to go around the ISS. Each of its ends can be used as an anchor point while the other carries out various tasks.

The anchoring end must be secured to a power data grapple fixture. These fixtures are located at a number of key points on the Station's outer structure.

Each grapple fixture provides:

Canadarm2 can walk end-over-end, connecting to these fixtures as it travels along the exterior of the ISS.

Canadarm2

A close-up of Canadarm2's "hand" after it released a Dragon resupply spacecraft from the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

Canadarm2 is tremendously strong. It can handle loads of as much as 116,000 kg—the weight of eight school buses!

Special features

Canadarm2 is made up of parts that can be replaced while in space. If components wear out or fail, they can be swapped out individually.

The robotic arm was designed to be refurbished in orbit because this far-out Canadian technology will never return to Earth.

 Impacts on Earth

Canadian robots Canadarm2 and Dextre have led to the development of many technologies that benefit our lives here on the blue planet:

  • neuroArm, the world's first robot capable of performing brain surgery inside an MRI machine
  • IGAR, precision technology that has the potential to accelerate breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Modus V, a robotic digital microscope set to transform the way surgery is performed in hospitals

Who controls Canadarm2?

Canadarm2 can be controlled by astronauts on board the ISS. It can also be operated by the ground team at the CSA headquarters or NASA.

Who built Canadarm2?

Inspired by the original Canadarm, Canadarm2 was built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, based in Brampton, Ontario. Canadarm2's journey from design to deployment culminated in its launch to the ISS in .

Explore further

Date modified: