Canadarm (SRMS)


Hard to believe that this wasn’t posted here a long time ago, but I guess it seemed too obvious (we did post one of MDA’s other space robots). Ever since its maiden voyage in 1981, the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), aka Canadarm, has been a source of national pride – Canada’s most notable and visible contribution to space exploration.

The design successfully borrows from nature, mimicking the human arm (shoulder, upper arm, elbow, lower arm, and wrist) and replacing flesh and bone with titanium, stainless steel, graphite epoxy (bones), copper wires (nerves), Kevlar bumpers (fat?), and an insulated skin with thermostatically controlled heaters. The resulting robot is actually more articulate than the human arm and capable of deftly maneuvering loads up to 266,000kgs. Canadarm and the even more ‘flexible’ Canadarm 2 have proven invaluable in launching and repairing satellites, constructing the International Space Station, as well as numerous space walks and improvised repairs.

Yesterday, MDA announced the sale of their Information Systems and Geospatial Services operations (which includes MDA Space Missions) to Alliant Techsystems of Edina, Minnesota for $1.325 billion in cash. Presumably, most of the bright minds formerly at MDA will continue their great work under the new ownership. But, I guess we won’t see the Canada wordmark decorating any more of the robots they create. Too bad, this made for some pretty great ‘placement’ in the past. I remember hearing an anecdote about NASA trying to make the US flag and wordmark on the space shuttle more prominent, in response to the giant Canadian billboard on the Canadarm.

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