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The Canadian Space Agency awards contract for Gateway external robotics interfaces

An artist's concept of Canadarm3

Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway will be a smart robotic system which includes a next-generation robotic arm known as Canadarm3, as well as equipment, and specialized tools. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA)

The Government of Canada has entered into a contract worth $35.3 million with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) from Brampton, Ontario, for the preliminary and detailed design of external robotics interfaces that will allow Canadarm3 to operate on the Lunar Gateway.

These robotics interfaces will:

  • be installed on Lunar Gateway modules, allowing Canadarm3's large arm to anchor itself and move around the outpost
  • be installed on payloads to allow Canadarm3's smaller arm to retrieve them as they are delivered to deep space
  • supply power and data connections to the robotics elements and any attached payloads
  • be installed on visiting vehicles for future missions

The Government had previously announced its intent to enter into this contract with MDA on . The development of these interfaces is part of Canada's plans for lunar exploration outlined in Canada's Space Strategy. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is pursuing a range of opportunities for Canadian lunar science, technology demonstration, and commercial activities, and has secured two astronaut flights to the Moon. A CSA astronaut will be part of Artemis II, the first crewed mission to the Moon since .

The Canadian Space Agency funds new Canadian lunar science

Moon's distinctive craters

This image of the lunar surface taken from orbit in includes some of the Moon's distinctive craters. (Credit: NASA)

Though it is a familiar sight in the night sky, the Moon still holds many mysteries. Scientists have used telescopes and orbiters to try to uncover its secrets, and Apollo astronauts collected and returned lunar rock and dust samples that have been the subject of countless analyses over decades.

But there is still a great deal to learn about Earth's only natural satellite. Its uneven, pockmarked terrain – featuring highlands, ancient impact basins, and frigid polar regions – promises to reveal much to the researchers who dare to explore it.

As part of a new chapter of lunar exploration, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is positioning Canada's academic community to take an active part in developing deeper scientific knowledge of the Moon.

Researchers from across Canada will have the unique opportunity to conduct science that sheds light on the Moon's origin, composition, and structure:

  • Dr. Gordon Osinski of Western University, and researchers from the University of Alberta, Université de Sherbrooke, and MacEwan University, will develop a research program to address key scientific questions related to geology, geophysics, and prospecting. They will use impact craters to learn more about planetary interiors and study lunar volatiles, chemical components that are important to the future of deep-space exploration.
  • Dr. Behraad Bahreyni of Simon Fraser University, and researchers from the University of Manitoba and McGill University, will use miniaturized seismometers and gravimeters to develop new models of the Moon's structure. They will conduct high resolution studies of the lunar subsurface while strengthening Canada's talent pool in space by training eight postgraduate researchers.

The CSA awarded $900,000 over 5 years to each of these projects, under the lunar science support element of the Agency's Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). The projects were chosen subsequent to a LEAP Announcement of Opportunity published in .

The CSA's first Canadian Lunar Workshop: a collaborative success

Full Moon on Star Field

The Canadian Space Agency's (CSA's) very first Canadian Lunar Workshop was held from to . Through this event, the CSA aimed to bring together Canada's key players in the field of space exploration so that Canada will play an important part in missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars. Space exploration leads to discoveries and benefits, particularly in health, robotics and international collaboration, that will have a positive impact on all Canadians for generations to come.

The Canadian Lunar Workshop was a great success: over 500 participants attended online. The presentations covered a wide range of topics related to lunar exploration.

Day 1 featured presentations on NASA's and ESA's Moon exploration programs, the development of potential Canadian science instruments under the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP), and innovative technologies for lunar exploration.

On the second day, participants had the opportunity to learn about contributions in the fields of lunar geology, geophysics and prospecting; the lunar space environment; and deep-space healthcare.

The last day focused on rover development under LEAP, Lunar Gateway utilization and the CSA's future planning for space exploration.

The workshop wrapped up on a high note with CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who led the closing plenary. Throughout the workshop, participants had access to a virtual networking room where they could talk to one another in an informal setting.

Canada-made AI and robotics technologies are going to the Moon

A high forward oblique view of Rima Ariadaeus on the Moon, as photographed by the Apollo 10 astronauts in May of 1969

Moon: Ariadaeus Crater (Credit: NASA)

As countries around the world prepare to return to the Moon, there are great opportunities for Canadian entrepreneurs and scientists to advance lunar science and technology, and be part of the highly competitive global supply chain to the Moon.

That is why we were pleased to announce recently that we are funding Ottawa-based Mission Control Space Services (Mission Control) to help them demonstrate advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technologies in lunar orbit and on the Moon's surface.

Mission Control will test a cutting-edge flight computer on board a lunar rover mission led by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. The computer will identify and classify types of lunar geological features visible from the rover's navigation camera during operations.

Mission Control will also test software that will send data in real time to scientists, which will help with science operations and navigation decisions. Four Canadian universities (Concordia University, University of Winnipeg, Western University and Carleton University) will join Mission Control in this demonstration by analyzing data from the AI image classifier.

In addition to supporting Mission Control, the Canadian Space Agency is also helping two other Canadian companies, Canadensys Aerospace Corporation and NGC Aerospace Ltd., demonstrate innovative technologies in lunar orbit.

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