Press Release

Canadarm Turns 30: Canadian Space Agency Salutes Three Decades of Industry Innovation

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2011
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Canadarm Turns 30: Canadian Space Agency Salutes Three Decades of Industry Innovation

Canadarm, Canada’s national icon of technological innovation, made its space debut on the U.S. Space Shuttle on November 13, 1981. Designed to deploy and retrieve space payloads, the robotic arm quickly became a critical element in the Space Shuttle Program. It worked flawlessly for 90 Shuttle missions, spending a total of 944 days in space and travelling the equivalent of over 624 million km.

“It took incredible vision-and courage-to suggest an element that would be both visible and critical to the Shuttle program,” said Steve MacLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). “The foresight of those early pioneers ended up spawning decades of experience in on-orbit servicing for our industry. The Canadarm became an enduring symbol of Canadian ingenuity, and branded our country as a world leader in space-age technology.”

The CSA is working to ensure that the Canadarm, even on Earth, continues to inspire future generations of Canadians. “We are bringing Canadarm back to Canada,” stated Steve MacLean. “Since it was designed to work in the weightlessness of space and not on Earth, the arm has to be modified for public display before it can be installed at the CSA Headquarters. We will later evaluate whether this national icon can be shared with Canadians in other locations,” explains MacLean.

Some of the Canadarm’s most famous achievements include retrieving the Hubble Space Telescope for repair, connecting the two first modules of the International Space Station (ISS) and inspecting the Shuttle’s heat shield to ensure its safe return to Earth. The design and construction of the Canadarm marked the beginning of Canada’s close collaboration with NASA in human space flight, leading to the creation of Canada’s corps of astronauts.

While the Canadarm was retired after the Space Shuttle’s final flight in July 2011, the arm’s legacy lives on through the suite of Canadian robots on board the ISS, as well as the innovations in robotic prototyping being done under the Next-Generation Canadarm Program. The Canadarm has also inspired several generations of scientists and engineers to develop new technologies for industry, medicine, and other applications, such as neuroArm (an ultra-precise robot for neurosurgery) and KidsArm for pediatric surgery.

For more information on Canadarm:

A video compilation of Canadarm’s milestones is available at:

SpaceRef staff editor.