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Slideshow: Evolution of the Robotic Canadarm
10/16/2012

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The NGC Large Canadarm is a 15m robotic arm that fits inside a minivan when its segments are telescoped together. Although its reach is as long as Canadarm2's, it is lighter and folds up more compactly to fit on future, smaller spacecraft. It will be used on Earth as a testbed to simulate arm deployment during tasks such as capturing and docking spacecraft for refueling.   (Source: NASA)
The NGC Large Canadarm is a 15m robotic arm that fits inside a minivan when its segments are telescoped together. Although its reach is as long as Canadarm2's, it is lighter and folds up more compactly to fit on future, smaller spacecraft. It will be used on Earth as a testbed to simulate arm deployment during tasks such as capturing and docking spacecraft for refueling.
(Source: NASA)

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Beth Stackpole
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Size and scale pretty incredible
Beth Stackpole   10/16/2012 7:12:02 AM
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With the photos stacked up like that, it's pretty incredible to see how far the space arm has come in terms of form, functionality, and in particular, size. Specifically, it strikes me as to how large the robotic manipulators are when viewed in the first slide in some sort of facility on earth vs. when they are viewed within the context of the vastness of outer space. Cool slide show.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Size and scale pretty incredible
Ann R. Thryft   10/16/2012 11:54:05 AM
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Beth, while checking out the latest, NG Canadarm, I was looking at all the cool historical space photos. Then I started reading the caption data and realized that Canadarm, in one form or another, had been part of so many key historical events in space. That's how the idea for this slideshow was born.

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Size and scale pretty incredible
Scott Orlosky   10/20/2012 8:27:09 PM
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Ann.  Thanks for a great series of photos.  Even with all the great engineering that went into this project, nothing beats the visual impact of seeing it in action in space. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Size and scale pretty incredible
Ann R. Thryft   10/23/2012 12:11:44 PM
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Scott, you're welcome, and glad you enjoyed the slideshow.

Jennifer Campbell
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The Weight Factor
Jennifer Campbell   10/16/2012 7:27:00 AM
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I see the term "lightweight" used in one of the slides - how much do these weigh?

naperlou
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Re: The Weight Factor
naperlou   10/16/2012 11:31:25 AM
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Jennifer, the mass is specified as 1,800 Kg.  As mentioned, the arm on the ground cannot lift itself.  It is designed to operated in space only. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The Weight Factor
Ann R. Thryft   10/16/2012 11:54:59 AM
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Jenn, Lou is right--the arms are designed to work in zero-G environments, and are too heavy to do any lifting in Earth's 1G.  "Lightweight" refers to the new NG Small Canadarm, the one that will do repairing and refueling of satellites in space.

TJ McDermott
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Testing on Earth for work in space
TJ McDermott   10/16/2012 10:20:26 AM
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The first image of the slide show looks like the arm being tested / demonstrated.  I believe the motors that move the arms are actually quite small.  If I remember correctly, the arm can't really support itself in a 1-G gravity field.

Are those blue units part of the supporting rig, air-cushion supports that permit the arm to move freely in a horizontal plane?

 

 

TJ McDermott
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End Effector
TJ McDermott   10/16/2012 10:24:00 AM
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Ann, The end effector used to grab hardware and spacecraft is not what normally comes to mind when one thinks of "robotic" arms (a typical mechanical gripper).  Do you kno how the 3-wire snare used on all of the Canadarms came to be the standard for US space operations?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: End Effector
Ann R. Thryft   10/17/2012 12:02:59 PM
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TJ, the blue supports in the first photo weren't identified. I would think that the answer to your question about the end effector's history is available on the web. The Canadian Space Agency's website is pretty extensive, and there's also this source:
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com

naperlou
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Memories
naperlou   10/16/2012 11:39:19 AM
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Ann, this slide show brings back lots of memories.  One of my last aerospace projects was working on the Canadarm2.  I was with a company involved with supporting the software used to control the arm.  I was at their plant and got to touch one of the shuttle arms while it was being refurbished on the ground.  That was back in 1992, by the way. 

On thing that was interesting is the genesis of the companies involved.  I was doing a project for Spar Aerospace.  MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. was a subcontractor we also worked with.  Now Spar is part of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.  It is funny how the consolidation in the industry happens.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/16/2012 11:57:29 AM
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Lou, thanks for telling us that you worked on one of these projects. I know what you mean about consolidation in aerospace companies. BTW, was the "MacDonald" in MDA from the old MacD-D?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Memories
Rob Spiegel   10/16/2012 10:41:32 PM
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Nice slide show, Ann. Since you have covered tons of stories regarding robotics, I'm curious as to how Canada stacks up against the robotics that are getting developed here in the U.S., particularly by the military. Is Canada a contender?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/17/2012 12:05:15 PM
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Rob, I haven't seen any robotics research coming from Canada except for the Canadarm. OTOH, the Canadarm has been a massive, 30-year project commanding a lot of resources and many, many different technologies. It's also been vital to the functioning of both the shuttle and the space station.

notarboca
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Re: Memories
notarboca   10/17/2012 11:25:41 PM
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Ann, thanks for a great slideshow.  It is both amazing and a tribute to all the engineers and technicians that brought this project to fruition.  A 30 year run of the basic arm and improvements made during the long deployment make this an exceptional feat.  I'm sure the new NGC will be equally impressive.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/18/2012 12:25:06 PM
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Thanks, notarboca. I, too, am impressed at the longevity of this project and its continuously innovative technologies.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Memories
Rob Spiegel   10/22/2012 8:21:47 PM
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A 30-year project. That's impressive. Has the technology centered in particular industries in addition to aerospace?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/23/2012 12:12:33 PM
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Rob, good question. I haven't seen anything about the technology being used in crossover applications, but that does look like an obvious possibility.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Memories
Rob Spiegel   10/24/2012 12:43:14 AM
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Seems logical, Ann. This is a stunning display of robots in space. The photos are just beautiful.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/24/2012 12:02:15 PM
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Rob, the Canadarm was designed to work in a weightless, zero-G environment, as we discussed below regarding Lou's comment. So the only "crossover" apps would be others in space, since the arms are too heavy to operate in Earth's 1G.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Memories
Rob Spiegel   10/24/2012 12:33:50 PM
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That's very interesting, Ann. The physics of space would require completely different materials engineering. I would imagine that requires some very sophisticated simulation and modeling.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/24/2012 12:46:42 PM
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Absolutely it's different, although not entirely so. That's why so many of the new NG version's components comprise a testbed.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Memories
Rob Spiegel   10/24/2012 6:07:46 PM
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I wonder if they share system info, data, and technology with NASA -- and vice versa. NASA has tons of data that they keep using over and over again.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/24/2012 6:59:20 PM
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Rob, CSA worked very closely with NASA throughout these designs, so I'm sure they did share at least some technology.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/24/2012 7:00:28 PM
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Rob, to answer your earlier question, looks like the Canadian Space Agency is also working on lunar and planetary rovers, which I'll be reporting on soon.

naperlou
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Re: Memories
naperlou   10/17/2012 11:42:53 AM
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Ann, if you mean Mcdonnel Douglas, then the answer is no.  One thing that was nice at the MacDonald Dettwiler facility in Vancouver was that Friday's were beer days.  At the end of the day everyone would get together in the cafeteria and the beer cooler would be unlocked.  There was a great selection of good Canadian beers and we would all have two or three and socialize.  It was a lot of fun.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Memories
Ann R. Thryft   10/17/2012 5:02:23 PM
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Thanks, Lou, just wondered. McD-D had its fingers in a lot of pies in many places back when.

Charles Murray
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Bigger than I imagined
Charles Murray   10/17/2012 5:00:13 PM
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Although I saw the description of the 15m arm, the real size of it didn't hit me until I arrived at slide 5. The size of this thing is stunning.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Bigger than I imagined
Ann R. Thryft   10/17/2012 5:08:25 PM
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Chuck, I know what you mean. 15 meters is just short of 50 feet. This thing has to grapple with satellites and its predecessor, Canadarm 2 (weighing 2 tons), docked the space shuttle.

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