This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Canadarm flown in space for the first time on Space Shuttle mission STS-2, November 1981.

Giving a helping hand in outer Space

The Canadarm first launched into Space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981. The Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (its official name) measures 15 metres in length and has six rotating joints that give it a range of movement mimicking the human arm.

Five Canadarms were used in the Space Shuttle program over its thirty-year span: they captured satellites, unpacked payloads and cargo, and cradled astronauts as they conducted inspections or maintenance. The Canadarm also played a key role in assembling the International Space Station. Known as RMS 201, this Canadarm was the first in Space and was aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour during its final mission.

Spar Aerospace, the Canadarm’s primary contractor, designed and built the Canadarm in Toronto to exacting criteria for precision movement, manual and automatic operations, safety, reliability, and weight. Although it had never been tested in the harsh environment of Space, the Canadarm worked flawlessly straight out of the box.

It has travelled 624 million kilometers, and landed at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Dave is joined by assistant curator , Erin Gregory to discuss the adventures of our nation’s favourite limb- the Canadarm.

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