News From Space: Canada’s Plans for 2014

canadarm2_chrishadfieldEarlier this month, Industry Minister James Moore announced that Canada’s new space plan will be made public in early in the new year. The announcement came on Monday Dec. 2nd at an aerospace forum in Montreal which also brought together leaders of Canada’s space industry. Emphasizing the achievements of Canada’s space industry, he also went on to claim that next year’s goals would reach beyond these traditional areas:

Our companies are leaders in optics, in robotics, radar imagery and satellite communications, but we will not stop at this success… The industry has spoken up, has worked collaboratively, has given the government advice on how to proceed (and) we’ve taken the advice and we’re putting it into action.

A background paper provided by Moore outlined the government’s strategic goals for its space activities, which include jobs and growth, sovereignty, security and the advancement of knowledge. Moore also told the space industry executives assembled that the government will examine all opportunities to work with the private sector and Canada’s international partners to encourage innovation in the country’s space activities.

Canadarm2_Steve_RobinsonFollowing up on the Emerson report’s recommendations, Moore announced various actions, including the establishment of a space advisory board composed of industry leaders and chaired by Walt Natynczyk, head of the Canadian Space Agency.

This framework will provide the foundation for the next phase of our government’s space program. It will be based on the principles of partnership with other countries and the private sector, catering to our strengths and inspiring Canadians.

The industry minister also said the government will double current support for its space technologies development program to $20 million annually by 2015-2016:

This will bring the kind of predictability and stability of funding that you asked for. And (it) will help develop more groundbreaking space technologies that Canadian space companies are so recognized for.

spacex-dragon-capsule-grabbed-by-iss-canadarm-640x424Beyond these stated objectives, its not quite clear what in store’s for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). After Hadfield’s high-profile tour as the mission commander aboard the ISS, it is safe to say that interest in this field is growing. And with our nation’s ongoing commitment to providing new robotic arms (aka. Canadarm’s) for the ISS, parts and technical workers and astronauts for manned missions, any increase in public interest is likely to have positive results.

What’s more, with the Obama government dedicated to pursuing some extremely ambitious objectives – towing an asteroid to Near-Earth Orbit, a manned mission to Mars, establishing an outpost on the Moon – it would seem obvious that one of their greatest colleagues in space exploration and research would want to get on board.

Source: cbc.ca

News from Space: The Canadarm2!

Astronaut Steve K. Robertson during STS-114
Astronaut Steve K. Robertson during STS-114

For decades, the Canadian Space Agency has been building the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) – also known as the Canadarm. Since 1981, aboard the shuttle STS-2 Columbia, this model of robotic arm has come standard on all NASA shuttles and was used as its main grasper. However, due to the progress made in the field of robotics over the past thirty years and the need for equipment to evolve to meet new challenges, the Canadarm was retired in 2011.

Luckily, the CSA is busy at work producing its successor, the Mobile Service System – aka. Canadarm2. The latest versions are in testing right now, and their main purpose, once deployed, will be to save satellites. Currently, an earlier version of this arm serves as the main grasper aboard the ISS, where it is used to move payloads around and guide objects to the docking port.

canadarm2However, the newest models – dubbed Next Generation Canadarm (NGC) – are somewhat different and come in two parts. First, there is the 15 meter arm that has six degrees of freedom, extreme flexibility, and handles grappling and heavy lifting. The second is a 2.58 meter arm that comes attached to the larger arm, is similarly free and flexible, and handles more intricate repair and replacement work.

This new model improves upon the old in several respects. In addition to being more intricate, mobile, and handle a wider array of tasks, it is also considerably lighter than than its predecessor. When not in use, it is also capable of telescoping down to 5 meters of cubic space, which is a huge upshot for transporting it aboard a shuttle craft. All of this is expected to come in handy once they start the lucrative business of protecting our many satellites.

canadarm2_missioncontrolIt’s no secret that there is abundance of space junk clogging the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This moving debris is a serious danger to both manned and unmanned missions and is only expected to get worse. Because of this, the ability to repair and retool satellites to keep them in operation longer is of prime importance to space agencies.

Naturally, every piece of equipment needs to undergo rigorous testing before its deployed into space. And the Canadarm2 is no exception, which is currently being put through countless simulations. This battery of tests allows operators to guide dummy satellites together for docking using the arms in both full manual and semi-autonomous mode.

canadarm2_chrishadfieldNo indication on when they will be ready for service, but it seems like a safe bet that any manned missions to Mars will likely feature a Canadarm2 or two. And as you can see, Chris Hadfield – another major Canadian contribution to space – is on hand to help out. Maybe he and the new arm can perform a duet together, provided it can handle a guitar!

And be sure to check out this video of the NGC Canadarm2 in action, courtesy of the Canadian Space Agency:


Source:
Wired.com