Next Generation Canadarm to Focus on Satellite Servicing

As soon as Canada figures out how to launch rockets with maple syrup, Canadarms will be taking over in orbit

1 min read
Next Generation Canadarm to Focus on Satellite Servicing

As much as we love Canada, our northern neighbors don't exactly have a huge space program going on up there, probably because you can't launch rockets on maple syrup.

I kid, of course. You can totally do that.

Anyway, the Canadian Space Agency is probably best known for two things: Chris Hadfield, and the Canadarm and Canadarm2. These giant robotic space-arms have been flying on the space shuttle since 1981, and the latest currently serves as Dextre's lower body on the ISS. As always, we're wondering what the next generation of Canadarm is going to be like, so we were excited to see this video from the CSA showcasing their next generation Canadarm project: the "Next-Generation Canadarm Project." Mind = blown. 

There are two different arms that are part of the project: the little guy in the picture at the top of this article who has a 3 meter reach, and his big brother, with a 15-meter reach:

Despite the size, the folding and telescoping arms can stuff themselves into just five cubic meters, which is approximately the volume of a space minivan. And since more robots = better, you can stick the little arm on the big arm to make what I guess would have to be a Canadarmarm.

As the CSA quite rightly points out, there's a huge amount of space junk flying around up there, and launching satellites is expensive and (eventually) wasteful. With some friendly Canadian robots in orbit to repair and refuel and upgrade existing systems, we can keep that space junk flying just as long as we need it to.

[ Next-Generation Canadarm ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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