MDA Space lands $250M contract extension from CSA for space station robot

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MDA Space's Canadarm2 onboard the ISS. | Source: MDA Space.

MDA Space’s Canadarm2 onboard the ISS in 2021. | Source: MDA Space

MDA Space this week announced that it has received a $250 million contract extension from the Canadian Space Agency. The contract will allow the company to continue supporting robotics operations on the International Space Station, or ISS, from 2025 to 2030. 

Brampton, Ontario-based MDA Space specializes in satellites, Earth and space observation, and space exploration and infrastructure. The company said it has 55 years of experience as a mission partner to the space industry, and it has completed more than 450 missions. 

MDA Space said it will add the contract extension to its backlog in the second quarter of fiscal year 2024.

Robot to fulfill flight-controller duties

As part of the contract, MDA Space will fulfill robotics flight-controller duties to support mission operations on the ISS. The company has worked alongside the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and its international partners since 2001 to provide operational readiness for the Mobile Servicing System (MSS). 

“Robotic flight controllers are the pilots in the control room who make real-time decisions and plan exactly how robotics on the ISS are utilized and executed to support immediate and long-term mission plans,” stated Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA Space.

“We’re honored to be taking on this important role,” he added. “This further solidifies MDA Space as a trusted mission partner and global leader in mission-critical space robotics operations and strategically positions our team to offer mission operations as a commercial service to customers globally.”

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MDA Space co-developed Canadarm2, MSS

Canadarm2, the first key part of the MSS, is a 57.7-ft. (17.6 m)-long robotic arm that MDA Space developed with the CSA. Each end of the arm features an identical manipulator known as a Latching End Effector (LEE).

The LEEs contain cables that tighten to ensure strong grip. This allows the robotic arm to firmly grasp objects to latch itself to the station. Either end of Canadarm2 can be used as an anchor point, while the other end remains free to carry out tasks. 

The next part of the system is Dextre, or the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. The robotic hand performs maintenance on the ISS, like changing batteries and replacing cameras outside of the station. 

Dextre is equipped with lights, video equipment, a tool platform, and four tool holders. It has a dual-arm design, reducing the need for spacewalks. 

The last part of the system is the Mobile Base System (MBS), which provides a movable work platform for Canadarm2 and Dextre. MBS moves along the Mobile Transporter rail car along truss rails covering the space station. This allows it to traverse the main trusses to access the eight workstations that have power connections for the base. 

Earlier this month, MDA Space released its MDA Skymaker product line. The company said this latest release is a line of space robotics purpose-built to meet the diverse needs of its customers. 

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