Canadian space technology company MDA will work with GM and Lockheed Martin to integrate its commercial robotic arm technology into their next generation of lunar vehicles.
MDA announced the new partnership with GM and Lockheed Martin in a recent press release. Through this agreement, MDA will work with the two companies to integrate its robotic arm technology into the upcoming human-rated lunar vehicles that will be used in NASA’s Artemis moon landing project. MDA’s robotic arm can be used to manipulate and inspect objects and will therefore be an important tool for astronauts or NASA researchers as they seek to learn more about the moon.
GM and Lockheed martin first announced they would collaborate to engineer the next generation of human-rated lunar vehicles last year. Unlike the rovers used during the Apollo mission, which only travelled 4.7 miles from the moon landing site, the next-gen “Lunar Terrain Vehicle,” or LTV, will be able to traverse significantly farther distances and allow astronauts to explore the moon’s south pole, which is colder, darker and has much more rugged terrain. These next-gen lunar vehicles will live on the moon permanently, where both private space exploration companies and government space agencies will be able to access them.
The latest iteration of MDA’s commercial robotic arm traces its roots to the Canadarm – a purpose-built robotic arm that was used on the space shuttle to manipulate the vehicle’s payload. An updated version of the Canadarm called the Canadarm2 is used on the International Space Station, while a next-generation Canadarm3 is currently under development for use on the Gateway moon orbiter.
Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin Space, said MDA’s commercial robotic arm technology will make it easier for NASA and other public and privately-funded space agencies to explore the moon.
“Bringing on MDA’s world-renowned robotics to this vehicle is a major enabler in its capability,” he said. “Our industry-led commercial development, now with MDA, brings down the cost of access to the Moon for not just NASA, but for international and commercial customers and adds to a truly global Artemis program.”
The NASA Artemis program hopes to land human astronauts on the moon’s south pole by the mid-2020s. NASA plans to conduct field geology and sample collecting during the mission, which it hopes can increase its understanding of how the Moon formed and evolved over time, how it interacts with the Sun, and how water and other resources arrived at the Moon previously.