Thursday, January 18, 2018

MDA Issues a Recruitment RFI for New Canadarm Technology

          By Chuck Black

BC based MDA Corporation, generally considered (even by its current owners) to be "a business unit" of the larger San Franscisco, CA based Maxar Technologies, has taken the unusual step of issuing a January 15th, 2018 request for information (RFI) under the title, "Canadian Capabilities to Support a Future Canadian Robotic Manipulator System."

No doubt the move has absolutely nothing to do with the fast growing Federal government perception, bolstered by recent articles such as December 28th, 2017 Globe and Mail post, "How Canada lost its foremost space company," that the current MDA is no longer quite the same company as it was when it was known as "MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates" and served as the one stop private sector prime contractor for Canadian space "capacity building."

And, no doubt, MDA's move has nothing whatsoever to do with the growing understanding that robotics tools very similar to Canada's current space born manipulators are at the core of several other potentially highly profitable initiatives related to satellite servicing.

The latest of these to surface, as outlined in the January 17th, 2018 2018 Space News post, "Effective Space signs first contract for satellite life extension services," is UK based Effective Space Solutions, which recently signed its first contract with a “major regional satellite operator,” covering the launch of two of its satellite life extension vehicles to dock with existing satellites to provide station-keeping and attitude control capabilities.

According to the Space News article, the multi-year contract has a total value of more than $100Mln US ($124Mln CDN).

Join Up Now! According to the January 15th, 2018 MDA RFI, "the international space exploration community is pursuing the long-term goal of permanent human presence beyond low Earth orbit. A manned station in lunar orbit, called the Deep Space Gateway, is in the planning stages and will be a proving ground for technologies that will take us to the Moon’s surface, Mars and beyond." To ensure "uninterrupted expansion" of the human presence into the solar system, "the time for action is now." The wording in the RFI is broadly evocative of the recruitment videos in the 1997 Paul Verhoeven directed movie, Starship Troopers and its sequels. So are you doing your part? Graphics c/o MDA & Touchstone Pictures/ Jon Davison Productions.

As outlined in the MDA RFI:
The Canadian capabilities of interest for this RFI are applicable to the Robotics and Automation Division of MDA for commercial and civil applications. 
Responses to this RFI will help identify potential Canadian companies, capabilities and services that could be engaged in to develop a robotic manipulator system that could be used in future commercial opportunities or international collaborations. 
The Robotics and Automation website for space based robotics listed at ...
It also attempts to be inspiring:
Canada is considering a robotics contribution as part of this international collaborative project. This builds on Canada’s current robotic leadership position and expertise used extensively for decades on NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station. Canada’s robotics contributions helped construct the ISS itself and are used on an on-going basis for its maintenance and logistical operations. 
This technology is so iconic that it is depicted on our $5 bill and is a globally recognized symbol of Canadian innovation.
The RFI was issued a little over a week after the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) issued a related NPP for a "dexterous interface and tool for planetary and deep space."

That NPP was discussed in the January 8th, 2018 post, "New "Canadarms" Will Now Compete Against Maxar/ DARPA & Orbital ATK/ NASA Satellite Servicing Technologies."

It's worth noting that MDA expects to win any contracts deriving from the recent CSA NPP. They still consider themselves to be the one stop private sector prime contractor for Canadian space "capacity building."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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