The Canadarm

Canada's hand in the sky
The Canadarm -- Canada's Hand in the Sky (NASA)

The people from NASA were skeptical. Should they entrust one of the most crucial aspects of the new shuttle program to a relatively untested engineering team from Canada? Their decision, in 1975, to do just that has meant that Canadians are responsible for one of the most significant advances in space engineering—the Canadarm.

Actually called the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System, one of the Canadarm's most impressive engineering achievements is its ability to capture a free-flying payload in a zero gravity environment. The slightest contact with an object in space, regardless of size, will send it spinning away.  Astronauts had to be able to control a 50-foot arm over a wide range of commands and for a wide range of payload sizes. Operating the Canadarm may mean moving it very accurately and slowly over a distance of millimetres or it may mean moving it precisely over several metres at a very high speed. During more than 50 missions and after 7,000 orbits around the earth, the Canadarm has never malfunctioned. Indeed, it is used to help solve other problems on the shuttle, everything from knocking ice off the fuselage of the Orbiter to fixing the Hubble Space Telescope. And of course, it is instrumental in assembling the new international space station. The Canadarm is truly one of the greatest Canadian engineering achievements.

Graphite Bones -- the background to Canadarm as seen in 1982

The MSS -- the future of Canadarm

Design OK -- the design of the Canadarm

A high-technology floor show -- the Canadarm nears completion

Summa Cum Laude -- the success of Canadarm

The SRMS -- technical details

Other sites for information on the Canadarm:

CSA -- The Canadian Space Agency