Canadian Manufacturing

MacDonald Dettwiler subsidiary wins $20.7M contract with U.S.’s DARPA

California-based Space Systems Loral will build a pair of robotic arms designed to repair and upgrade satellites already in orbit



PASADENA, Calif.—A West Coast subsidiary of Canadian aerospace company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) has won a contract to design and build space-based robotic arms.

Part of a program that will service and upgrade geosynchronous satellites already in orbit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded the US$20.7 million contract to California-based Space Systems Loral (SSL) July 21. The agreement covers the construction of two arm systems that could capture and berth satellites in space—including past-generation models that were not designed for docking.

“The ability to safely and cooperatively service satellites in GEO would expand public and private opportunities in space,” Al Tadros, vice-president of Civil and DOD Business at SSL, said. “It could enable entirely new spacecraft designs and operations, including on-orbit assembly and maintenance, which could lower construction and deployment costs while extending satellite utility, resilience and reliability.”

MDA said the robotic system would have multiple joints “enabling dextrous movement” as well as the capability to use a range of tools.

Ultimately, DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program aims to inspect, capture, reposition, repair, and upgrade satellites already in orbit.

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