The International Space Station armThe International Space Station arm

© Canada Space Agency/NASA

On April 19, 2001, at 6:40 p.m., Chris Hadfield took off from Cape Canaveral. Aboard the shuttle Endeavor, he headed toward the International Space Station with six other astronauts and five tons of material. His mission? Install Canadarm2, the new arm manufactured by the Canadian Space Agency.

Measuring 17 metres in length, this arm helps the astronauts assemble the space station, which is scheduled for completion in 2011. The Canadarm2 is attached to the wall of the station through a system of large interlaced steel wires that latch on to the many anchor points located on the Space Station. This allows it to crawl like an inchworm when it moves.

This articulated arm is not the first that Canada has given to NASA. Five Canadarms have been produced since 1981. They are attached to shuttles that fly to the Space Station and then used to handle materials transported from Earth and build the Station.

In the great expanse of space that unfurls 400 kilometres over our heads, engineers play a very important role. They created the Mobile Service System (MSS), composed of three components, which makes it possible to assemble new modules, solar panels, etc. and service the International Space Station.

The Canadarm2 was the first component sent into space. The Mobile Base (MBS), a working platform used to move the arm and other equipment, reached the station in June 2002. Then, it was Dextre’s turn, a two-armed robot that carries out various maintenance tasks, to be transported there in March 2008.

Directed by space station crew members, the MSS’s operations are supervised from Earth by technicians at the Support Centre for space mission, located in none other than Longueuil!

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