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Canadarm2 at Work

The Canadarm2 Space Robotics Arm on the International Space Station


Dateline: 07/24/01

Canadarm2, a major part of the Canadian space robotics system completed its first official construction job on the International Space Station (ISS) in July 2001. American astronaut Susan Helms used the Canadian space robotics arm to lift the new station airlock from the Atlantis space shuttle and install it in the space station Unity module. The airlock, called Quest, lets astronauts make space walks from the International Space Station.

Canadarm2 Space Robotics Arm

Canadarm2 is a bigger, more advanced version of the Canadarm used as the space shuttle robotics arm. Canadarm 2 was installed on the ISS in April 2001, with the help of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Canadarm2 is 17.6 m (55 ft) long and has seven motorized joints. It has no fixed end, unlike the Canadarm which is attached to the shuttle at one end. Canadarm2 is designed to move end-over-end to reach many parts of the space station. With the installation of the Mobile Base System on the International Space Station in 2002, Canadarm2 can travel the full length of the space station. Canadarm 2 even has sensors which provide it with the sense of touch.

Canadian Space Robotics System

The Canadian space robotics system, formally called the Mobile Servicing System or MSS, is an essential component of the International Space Station. The Mobile Servicing System gives astronauts the ability to move equipment and supplies around the International Space Station. It supports astronauts when they are working in space and can even be used to release and capture satellites. The system has three parts:

  • Canadarm2, the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) - delivered to the ISS in April 2001

  • the Mobile Remote Servicer Base System (MRSBS) - a work platform which moves on rails along the length of the space station - delivered to the ISS in 2002

  • the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator - the space robotics "Canada Hand," which has two arms of its own - scheduled for installation in 2007.

Canadian Technology in Space

The contribution of technology, including Canadarm2, helps Canada pay for its share of International Space Station operating costs. It means Canadian astronauts have access to the space station lab facilities for experiments. It also means that Canada can send an astronaut to the International Space Station every three years, for stays of three to four months.

It's been more than 25 years since the Canadarm first went into space in 1981. The Canadarm was originally designed and built by Spar Space Robotics, now MacDonald Dettwiler Space and Advanced Robotics Ltd (MDR), under a contract to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). The first Canadarm cost about $100 million, and was given to NASA as Canada's contribution to the Space Shuttle Program. NASA has since ordered four more, worth about $600 million.

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