CSA Awards Robotics Contract to ESI

Oct. 25, 2010

The Canadian Space Agency has awarded a contract valued at $3 million (CAD) to Engineering Services Inc. (ESI) of Toronto, Ontario, to develop prototypes of a robotic arm, control stations and exploration tools. In the coming months, these technologies will be integrated into terrestrial prototypes of lunar or martian rovers. The contract also includes an option for a second arm worth $500,000. The investment is part of the Government of Canada’s 2009 Economic Action Plan and aims to accelerate the research and development of new technologies for space exploration.

“For nearly three decades now, Canada has earned a reputation as a global leader in space robotics,” says Steve MacLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency. “The prototypes that will be built by ESI under this contract will build upon that legacy to ensure that Canada will remain a sought-after partner for future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars,” he adds.

ESI will design, build and test a working prototype of a light-weight, versatile robotic arm with a long reach that can be operated from a remote location, as well as autonomously. The arm will be fitted with a set of exploration tools for a variety of tasks, including a scoop, grippers and a powered socket wrench. Delivery of the prototype is expected in early 2012

Prototypes like this robotic arm are used to demonstrate end-to-end operations of rovers and their payloads in realistic terrestrial field tests, reproducing key conditions of space missions. The project will position Canada as a potential partner in international space exploration missions, and maintain Canadian technical expertise in space robotics. The technologies developed for the project may also be used in a variety of applications on Earth by advancing robotic autonomy and enhancing the ways robots sense their surroundings in unstructured environments.