MDA Space receives contract for next phase of development of Lunar Gateway robotic arm

WASHINGTON – MDA Space has received a contract from the Canadian Space Agency worth C$1 billion ($730 million) for the next phase of development of a robotic arm system for the Lunar Gateway.

MDA Space announced on June 27 that it received the contract to continue work on the Canadarm3 system. The contract covers phase C, the final design of the system, and phase D, its assembly and testing. The work is scheduled to last until March 2030.

“We are entering an exciting period where Canadarm3 will take shape and come to life on our production floor,” Mike Greenley, chief executive officer of MDA Space, said in a statement. “This major milestone also reflects our strategy in action as we build our significant backlog and bring to market a new generation of commercial space products and services.”

The Canadian government announced in 2019 that it would participate in Gateway, becoming the first international partner to join NASA. At the time the government said it would invest C$2 billion over 24 years in the program, providing the Canadarm3 robotic arm system that is an evolution of the original Canadarm used on the shuttle and the Canadarm2 currently on the International Space Station.

MDA Space, then known as MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, received the initial contract to begin work on Canadarm3 in 2020. The company was expected to win the contract because of its work on previous robotic arm systems.

“Building on the legacy of strategic investments in space robotics, Canadarm3 demonstrates our commitment to innovation,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, whose portfolio includes the Canadian Space Agency, in a statement.

MDA Space has been working to leverage the investments made in Canadarm3 and previous systems for commercial products. The company unveiled its MDA Skymaker line of space robotics systems in April. The Lunar Dawn rover, developed by a team led by Lunar Outpost, will use that technology. It was one of three rovers selected by NASA in April for initial funding for its Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services program.

MDA Space also plans to provide a Skymaker robotic arm system for Starlab, the commercial space station being developed by the Starlab Space joint venture. MDA Space formally joined the joint venture in May, taking an undisclosed equity stake as part of the deal to provide the station’s robotic arm system.

In an interview after Starlab Space’s announcement, Greenley said the space robotics work fits into a broader company strategy that includes projects in Earth observation and communications satellites. “We have now produced our offering to make it more accessible to the commercial market in all three business areas,” he said.

For space robotics, that work includes moving to a new facility in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, that serves as what he called a space robotics “center of excellence” for building and testing robotic systems. That facility also contains multiple mission control centers to operate the robotic arms on the ISS, Gateway, and commercial facilities.

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