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NASA's Zero-Gravity Robotic-Arm Partnership With Canada

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the see-ya-to-da-iss-eh dept.

NASA 41

AndreV writes "We've entered into an extraterrestrial quid pro quo with our Northern neighbors: After celebrating 25 years of the Canadarm's first venture into space, NASA has reached out (so to speak) to the Canadian Space Agency and begun research and development on a new generation of robotic arms, which would ultimately be used for the US agency's Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that will provide transportation for Moon missions and jaunts to the international space station. In exchange, Canada will trade the robotic-limb technology's use on Orion and other future US-manned spacecraft for flight time for Canadian astronauts. And seeing solid results shouldn't be far off — the engineering company designing the bionic branch, responsible for the previous Canadarms, has already begun investigating the effects of zero gravity on their components. (Another forward-looking project being bartered for astronaut time is a rover for the Moon and Mars.) Fair trade?"

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Obama won't allow it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541833)

He realizes that the American people have come to understand what pointless pork Nasa is all about.

Re:Obama won't allow it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27542063)

Or perhaps the American people are tired of walking around with their right forearms so much bigger and stronger than their left forearms. So they have a robotic arm to do their jacking-off for them. In fact it's a high-performance robotic arm, certified for circle-jerks up to 50 members. Huh, huh, he said members...

well... (1)

DavidChristopher (633902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541887)

There was some controversy a little while back when SPAR/MacDonald Dettwiler was to be bought out by foreign interests. Nice to see CSA is on the ball again :)

Re:well... (1)

DavidChristopher (633902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541909)

I had to look it up- but my last post felt incomplete:

There was some controversy a little while back when SPAR/MacDonald Dettwiler's Information Systems and Geospacial Services operations division was to be bought out by to Alliant Techsystems of Edina, Minnesota for $1.325 billion..

However, that move, while approved by the shareholders was blocked by the Canadian Federal Government.Nice to see CSA is on the ball again :)

(There, that's better)

Let's hope they can use the toilets (3, Insightful)

Exp315 (851386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541901)

The Canadarm has been an example of successful cooperation in space. Let's hope the Canadian astronauts can use the U.S. toilets when they're up there, unlike the Russians: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7973747.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Why not just trade with Richard Branson (2, Insightful)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541915)

NASA is a very closed system. You don't just "get" to become an astronaut because you want to. It's a long and involved project.

What surprises me is that we haven't seen foreign nations with a fair amount of intellectual capital but without a real space program attempt like types of trade with private space endeavors. It could eventually work out to being on a smaller scale, and could promote a more international, global interest in space.

Re:Why not just trade with Richard Branson (2, Interesting)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542113)

Just because it is difficult to become an astronaut doesn't mean NASA is a closed system. Anyway, your other paragraph is almost nonsensical but I think I understand what you're trying to say. This whole "space thing" is 'relatively' new, so I'm not surprised only a few big nations are investing heavily into it. Eventually it will be globalized and NASA will have to find new ways to stay ahead of the game instead of just having a relative monopoly on the ability to launch people into space. This is rocket science after all...

Controversy Mining ... (3, Insightful)

gordguide (307383) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541917)

" ... [Nice, thoughtful and reasonably accurate news summary aimed at people with a brain}.
Fair Trade? ..."

What is this, Fox News? Do you think /.'ers can't come up with a controversy and discussion themselves, unless prodded with a tagline designed to con viewers to wait for the story after these messages from our fine sponsors?

Re:Controversy Mining ... (0, Troll)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542027)

(reposted from fox news message boards)

i think if the canoodlians cant make their own space ships they should take their robots and go back to wear they came from. there robot doesnt even have anything but an arm lol

we'll bring you back some moon cheese losers

Re:Controversy Mining ... (2, Funny)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542299)

they should take their robots and go back to wear they came from

"Sir, you can't end your sentence with a preposition."
"Oh, really? Well, what would you say?"
"Well, I guess I'd say either, 'Go back from where you came,' or the preferred Queen's English, 'Go back, thee, from whence thou came.'"

- Canadian Bacon, 1995

Re:Controversy Mining ... (2)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542593)

lol ... can we take back our body armour systems, sniper teams and pilots too?

Queue uninformed responses ...

Re:Controversy Mining ... (1)

optikSmoke (264261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27543769)

Queue uninformed responses ...

You'll have to cue them before you can queue them.

Re:Controversy Mining ... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27546389)

i think if the canoodlians cant make their own space ships they should take their robots and go back to wear they came from. there robot doesnt even have anything but an arm lol

That illustrates two things...

1. Why sometimes I find myself ashamed to be a US citizen

2. We have made this whole 'computer...on the internet' thing way too easy!

Re:Controversy Mining ... (1)

Doggabone (1025394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27570433)

i think if the canoodlians cant make their own space ships they should take their robots and go back to wear they came from. there robot doesnt even have anything but an arm lol we'll bring you back some moon cheese losers

Probably posted on the Fox board from the guy's Blackberry.

Re:Controversy Mining ... (2, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542881)

I'm not sure what you're referring to (cross-border commercial agreements?) but I think the summary was asking "is exchanging a robot arm for a ride on a spaceship a good deal?" and I think that yes, yes it is a good trade. Seems like everybody wins (which is fair).

Re:Controversy Mining ... (1)

gordguide (307383) | more than 5 years ago | (#27543975)

" ... "is exchanging a robot arm for a ride on a spaceship a good deal?" ..."

I appreciate your on-topic answer. I too think that trading something of value for another thing of value is a decent way to save a few bucks.

Perhaps the submitter should have asked the question three decades ago, then, when they started doing this stuff; the Canadians began developing the Shuttle robot arms in the late 1970's; the first one was used on STS-2, the second Shuttle Mission ever, on November 13 1881.

In other words, this is very old news. What's the point of his tagline? What does it add? Did he do it just because "it sounds like something a journalist would say?" They do that to make ad money, you know. No other reason. Is Slashdot broke?

Had he left it off, you and I perhaps could be posting about NASA and some cool tech right now.

Re:Controversy Mining ... (1)

gordguide (307383) | more than 5 years ago | (#27543997)

" ... November 13 1881. ..."

Or maybe a century later, say, 1981 ;-)

NASA's internal robot research (5, Interesting)

Big Smirk (692056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542047)

NASA had a big robotics research going on in the mid to early 1990s. The big issue was cost. NASA was down sizing the space station and actively seeking other countries to help fund it. For a brief moment, Orbital Sciences won the contract to develop the arm for the space station. It was based on an underseas robot technology - just with much weaker motors and other environmental considerations (zero-g, zero pressure, grease tends to evaporate under zero pressure). Canada piped in and said they would build the arm if NASA pays. NASA essentially said 'nuts' and awarded the contract [eventually] to Orbital, only to pull it back when Canada said, "just kidding we'll pay for it."
So my opportunity to work on a really cool project evaporated.
Few months later Canada came to Orbital trying to figure out how we were going to do it so cheaply. "nuts" to them.
Anyway: http://www.robotics-research.com/ [robotics-research.com] and ultimately: http://www.robotics-research.com/SATBaysmall.jpg [robotics-research.com]

Re:NASA's internal robot research (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542555)

Orbital Sciences won the contract to develop the arm for the space station......
Few months later Canada came to Orbital trying to figure out how we were going to do it so cheaply. "nuts" to them.

        More recently, NASA came to Orbital trying to figure out how you were going to do launcher shrouds so cheaply. Then they found out.

          Brett

Re:NASA's internal robot research (1)

Big Smirk (692056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27543193)

True true. I don't work for Orbital (and haven't for about 10 years) but Orbital was trying to make cheap Communication satellites and bought what was left of Fairchild Space and Defense to help them fix things. It was the Fairchild arm that was supporting NASA not the Orbital side and it was quite the culture clash. The Orbital guys refered to Fairchild as "Jurasic Park" and the Fairchild guys alternatively used "nursery school" or "kindergarten" when talking about Orbital. The difference between dotting every i and cross every t in the NASA world and the bean counters trying to figure out the cheapest way of doing things in the commercial world (Orbital). Hopefully they will find a good balance.
When I was at Fairchild I had to order some standoffs that would allow us to rapidly replace EPROMS. I made the mistake of mentioning that they were gold plated pins on the standoffs. This triggered a quality control issue which turned my $1 standoffs into effectively space flight hardware and dropped them into bonded storage. I couldn't get them out of bonded storage without senior VP permission that essentially relegated them to scrap and O.K. to use on my prototype board - so long as everyone up and down the chain of command swore the parts would never come near an actual space flight (or any other) program. I'm guessing it burned a couple of man-days on that one. Most people would call that 'anal'. Fairchild called that SOP (I'm guessing NASA expected that of them).
It is the same Fairchild based team (or at least the foundations) that worked (and AFAIK still working on) the Hubble repair missions. See the picture at http://www.robotics-research.com/SATBaysmall.jpg [robotics-research.com] for a image of the arm that Fairchild built for the mission. That picture is taken inside the massive clean room at Goddard Space Flight Center. That particular arm has boosted servo motors so that it can work in 1G (at least with light/simulated loads).

Re:NASA's internal robot research (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27542573)

The Canadarm was in use before 1990 ..... and that's the device with the 25th anniversary

The Canadarm 2 was developed for the IISS, oh and I believe "your project" was done with work from both sides of the border, in fact with "your" company

"SPAR Aerospace Ltd., a Canadian company, designed, developed, tested and built the SRMS. (SPAR was later indirectly acquired by Richmond, B.C. based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), after going through the hands of American company Orbital Sciences Corp. and becoming a part of MD Robotics in Ontario, Canada.)"

Not so "nuts" to them

Re:NASA's internal robot research (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 5 years ago | (#27545219)

Bitter = Bias

Sorry, but you *story* wreaks of it.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27553307)

Canada, a continent-spanning nation with a population exceeding 30 million, had a conversation with you? And then it actually came to your door?

I think you might want to consider getting back on your meds.

Cool (2, Informative)

bikehorn (1371391) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542057)

My sister in law worked on the Canadarm 2. She said they used the good old Intel 386 to control its functions for reliability reasons.

Re:Cool (1)

Trails (629752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27545831)

Yes, because it takes that long to do all the testing they need to do before electronics can be certified for space (at least according to NASA specs). I heard, through the grapevine, though I have no link to back it up, that Pentium 2's just got certified.

Not surprising... (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542085)

Canada has been building robotic arms for NASA for quite some time, and they've done their job well. Canada has been a good strategic ally, and there's no reason to switch vendors.

Re:Not surprising... (1)

annex1 (920373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27545953)

Excellent post. Is it exactly this kind of dialog that promotes the friendliness between our two nations. I would imagine that a lot of the American people have no idea that America even does a lot of business with Canada. During the 3 years of various call centre work that I did, it was amazing how many American citizens could not believe that a U.S. company would outsource their support/service lines to Canada(although I mostly chalk that particular example up to the idea that most Americans, rightly so, don't believe in the outsourcing of any industry). A great many yet, didn't believe that we had the technical prowess/know-how and infrastructure to support such an operation. In contrast, a great deal of Canadians know about the things that we provide the rest of the world, from soft lumber to robotic arms to vast quantities of Canadian Whisky/Beer/Maple syrup. ;) And not necessarily is that because we all WANT to know. To be Canadian, one must accept that they will have Canadiana(?) stuffed down their throats quite forcibly(The Tragically Hip or Hockey anyone?). Although I imagine that can, in fact, be worse in America, as the symbols of a nation as proud and strong as America are surely waved wildy and in abundance(Toby Keith anyone?) To the point, if a country/company/person does something very well and no other country/company/person is offering to do it as well or better, than why change? To "keep it exciting"? Just "for kicks"? No. If they do it well, they deserve to keep doing it well, until either they stop doing it well or somebody else does it better. Again, great comment. I'm glad to see examples of our two countries getting along at every level. :D

Unpause (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27542087)

What the hell is with this "Click to unpause" and auto-refreshing? it is extremely annoying!!!

(Not on topic, but have no idea where else to post this.)

Canadians are armed after all! (3, Funny)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542161)

Take off without a Canadarm, eh? Not going to happen! You try to get out and they keep pulling you back in with their stinking robotic canada arm! They've got leverage! They've got rotating joints, and as we all know Canadian joints are the best in the world! They've got Jack Baur and Captain Kirk and some awesome singers too! You try to get out and they keep pulling you back in with the long flexible reach of the canadarm...

Gotta hand it to Canada, it's an awesome technology! No wonder as up in the Great White North (it's melting, it's melting, no, it's freezing, it's freezing, no it's melting, no it's irregular climate, ...) there is nothing to do but play with robotic and non-robotic arms and hands! You see we Canadians got tired of our own hands we decided to invent a flexible third hand for those extra special moments when a helping hand is needed to reach those spots that you just can't get to.

Canadians keep grasping at the future getting a tight grip upon it! You keep trying to get out but they keep pulling you back in! ;-)

Re:Canadians are armed after all! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542377)

If Canada was smart, they would invest heavily into robotics. Right now, they are allowing lots of temp workers to come from Mexico. BUT by focusing on automation, they could lower their costs of goods.

Re:Canadians are armed after all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27543339)

We've already got Canadarms, now add in Mexicolegs and we could really get going!

Re:Canadians are armed after all! (1)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27543923)

Isn't it the USA that has lots of Mexilegs? Most Mexicans find it kinda cold up here, after all the hot to cold principle applies: It's the cold that gets you [wordpress.com] .

We'd also need torsos, where would we obtain those from? Nice ones please.

Who needs your steenking rockets? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542401)

If they could just make a big enough arm that could throw hard enough, they wouldn't need a rocket.

Re:Who needs your steenking rockets? (2, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542571)

A Canadian scientist once tried to make it possible for Canadian satellites to be launched without the use of southern rockets.
He had his budget cut on request from the Overlords, so en went to work on his giant canon project with funding from Saddam Hussein. He ended up dead in front of his door with his keys in the lock and the very clean gun next his body.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Bull [wikipedia.org]

Re:Who needs your steenking rockets? (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 5 years ago | (#27543755)

Do not imply it was the US. No, Israel is most likely to blame as the cannon could have been used to lob projectiles into Israel. Realistically speaking, it would have not been much of a threat. It would be too bit to be mobile and could easily be taken out by an air-strike.

Re:Who needs your steenking rockets? (2, Informative)

dakohli (1442929) | more than 5 years ago | (#27546697)

Actually, he didn't imply anything. Just that his budget for launching Canadian Satellites was cut by the "Overlords", prompting him to go work for Saddam, anyone who knows the story suspects Mossad, but who knows for sure?

Well ... (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542751)

Lets give them a big hand of applause ... 'hand' get it? ... oh dear I need my coffee.

How does this work? (1)

ukemike (956477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27542759)

The space shuttle fleet will be retired soon. The Russians will be giving us lifts up to the ISS. How does this work? Maybe I am unaware of some replacement vehicle that we have in the works?

we love us (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27544985)

We've entered into an extraterrestrial quid pro quo with our Northern neighbors

Well yes of course. I forgot the whole wide world had Canada as Northern neighbours.

Kiss of Death (1)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27545101)

"A Canadian scientist once tried to make it possible for Canadian satellites to be launched without the use of southern rockets. He had his budget cut on request from the Overlords, so en went to work on his giant canon project with funding from Saddam Hussein. He ended up dead in front of his door with his keys in the lock and the very clean gun next his body." Or forget the Avro-Aero (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Aero) also found dead at the door with a nice clean American made gun beside it. South Park - "Mexico has a space program?"

Defending the Earth from the giant Space Monsters (2, Interesting)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27545675)

A little known feature of the Canadarm is a set of explosive bolts, designed that in the event of the arm swinging an object towards the station in a manner that it cannot stop, the manipulator can be jettisoned.

In essence, the ISS can rocket-punch.
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