About Canadarm3

Canadian Space Agency Fact Sheet

An artist’s concept of Canadarm3’s large arm on the Lunar Gateway. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA)

Canadarm3 will be Canada’s contribution to the US-led Gateway, a lunar outpost that will enable sustainable human exploration of the Moon. This highly autonomous robotic system will use cutting-edge software to perform tasks around the Moon without human intervention.

Components

The smart robotic system will include several distinct parts:

  • a large, 8.5-metre-long arm
  • a smaller, more dexterous arm
  • a set of detachable tools

Tasks

The next-generation Canadian robotic system will be designed to:

  • maintain, repair and inspect the Gateway
  • capture visiting vehicles
  • relocate Gateway modules
  • help astronauts during spacewalks
  • enable science both in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon

Canadarm3 is designed to work autonomously. However, the system could also be operated by robotics flight controllers in Canada, or by Gateway crew during spacewalks.

Building on a legacy of leadership in space robotics

Canada is internationally recognized as a leader in space robotics. Our success in critical projects like Canadarm  on the Space Shuttle fleet and Canadarm2 and Dextre on the International Space Station (ISS) have established Canada’s reputation for excellence.

Contributing Canadian robotics to an international project like the Lunar Gateway ensures our involvement in the next chapter of space exploration, including missions to the Moon’s surface, and eventually to Mars.  Canadarm3 will create more flight opportunities for Canadian astronauts and will give Canadian scientists a possibility to conduct research and experiments that cannot be done on Earth.

How it will work

Canadarm3’s smaller arm will be equipped to transfer mission-critical material between the interior and the exterior of the space station.

The small arm will be able to help repair the larger arm in space if necessary. This means that, thanks to advances in autonomy and artificial intelligence, Canadarm3 will be able to maintain itself in space – swapping out parts and keeping itself constantly ready to perform precise operations.

How Canadarm3 will move on the Gateway

Each end of Canadarm3’s arms will be able to attach to the Gateway using specially designed interfaces on the Gateway’s exterior. Each anchoring “hand” will plug into an interface that supplies power, data, and video connections.

These interfaces will also allow the large and small arms to work together to accomplish tasks, and will help store tools when not in use.

 Impacts on Earth

Canadian robots on the ISS have led to the development of many technologies that benefit our lives here on Earth:

  • neuroArm, the world’s first robot capable of performing brain surgery inside an MRI machine
  • IGAR, precision technology that has the potential to accelerate breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Modus V, a robotic digital microscope set to transform the way surgery is performed in hospitals

These spinoffs exemplify how space robotics and expertise developed in Canada help bring tangible benefits to people on Earth.

When will it operate on the Gateway?

The Canadian Space Agency is actively working with its partners on defining Gateway architecture and determining when Canadarm3 will be needed in the mid-2020s. The exact launch date depends on the overall Gateway schedule.