Overview of Canada’s Space Technology
Canada has maintained a limited interest in space technology since the inception of the worldwide space race. Due to federal budget constraints on the national level, the majority of Canada’s advancements in space technology revolve around support features for other nation’s projects, notably NASA’s Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station. The biggest achievements by the Canadian Space Agency have primarily been Canadarm, Canadarm2 and the Radarsat satellite platform.
The first of Canada’s advancements in space technology came in the form of the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), otherwise known as the Canadarm. It allows astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle to lift a payload from the spacecraft’s bay and deploy it into position. The Canadarm can also be used to inspect the exterior of the Space Shuttle for possible damage to the thermal shielding.
Designed with the idea of a human arm in mind, it can articulate at six different points. It measures a little over 50 feet (15 meters) in length and has a diameter of 15 inches (38 centimeters). The entire system weighs roughly 994 pounds (450 kilograms). While in space, the Canadarm is capable of dealing with payloads of 29 tons (65,000 pounds). However, while on the ground, it cannot even lift its own weight.
The Canadarm was first deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981. In total, five different arms have been constructed, however, two were destroyed in the Challenger and Columbia disasters. While the shuttle is still in operation, the SRMS is primarily responsible for deploying pieces of the International Space Station during its final construction stages.
Above left: Canadarm. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/1996_s72_Scott_EVA.jpg)
Installed on the International Space Station in 2001, the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) is the second-generation robotic system known commonly as Canadarm2. During the station’s assembly and maintenance, the MSS is a major asset to astronauts and cosmonauts serving aboard.
The Canadarm2 represents one of Canada’s advancements in space technology that has assisted its goal of becoming a major contributor to the world’s space programs. It is larger than the original Canadarm, measuring 57.7 feet (17.6 meters) long and nearly 14 inches (35cm) wide. It weighs 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) and can lift 256,000 pounds (116,000 kg), four times as much as the original.
Above right: Candarm2. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/STS-114_Steve_Robinson_on_Canadarm2.jpg)
Canada’s advancement in space technology does not end with the Canadarms. Canada has also used its space agency to develop a pair of satellites known as Radarsat. The first was launched in 1995 and the second in 2007. Radarsat is designed to take images of the Earth for use by private and scientific research in fields such as agriculture, oceanography, geology and general surveillance. So far, Radarsat has been highly effective in monitoring ice sheets in the polar regions and identifying oil slicks in the ocean.
Above left: Radarsat-1. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Radarsat-1.gif)