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Local firm excited about potential spinoffs of government commitment to ‘Lunar Gateway’

March 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

© Canadian Space Agency

By Mark Pavilons

Canada’s support for NASA’s Lunar Gateway program comes as good news to a King-based firm.
Canada’s commitment to participating in the Lunar Gateway forms the cornerstone of “Exploration, Imagination, Innovation: A New Space Strategy for Canada,” which aims to leverage Canadian strengths like robotics, while advancing science and innovation in exciting areas like AI and biomedical technologies.
The strategy describes how the federal government will position Canada’s space industry to take full advantage of the growing global space economy, while ensuring that Canada keeps pace. It will also support innovative space firms through a dedicated investment so that they can scale up and thrive both in Canada and abroad.
According to Sherry Draisey, of Good Vibrations, our previous Canadarm capabilities have made us a very desired space robotics partner, especially in the human space flight arena.
She pointed out the original Canadarm technology was developed not far from King and it has, over the years, provided lots of jobs around here. With this recent government announcement, such jobs will likely continue to grow.
Draisey pointed out some of the credit goes to an almost year-long campaign, the #donletgoCanada campaign, coordinated by MDA headquarters in Brampton.
“There are several little companies very nearby that expect to be part of the development, at least one in Bolton and one in Barrie, as well Good Vibrations Engineering, currently in Laskay,” she said.
NASA’s Lunar Gateway is to provide a destination to operate as a stepping stone to Mars, but also to enable continuing human habitation after the International Space Station, and to provide opportunities for lunar science. The Lunar Orbit is referred to as Near-Rectinlinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) and is hoped to be completed by 2026. Component launches will start in 2022.
Good Vibrations is optimistic about providing one of the robotic elements for the new generation of Canadarms – force moment sensors. This, Draisey explained, is a sensor that lets the human or computer operator know how hard the arm is pushing, pulling or twisting its payload. Good Vibrations Engineering Ltd. has been working on developing an improved force sensor capability for over 20 years. Measuring force in space is more challenging than on earth – largely the result of extreme temperature environment. But a space robotic arm is also expected to perform operations that do not occur terrestrially – like capturing “free flyers.”
Draisey added space operations also stretch over long durations – many hours. Conventional sensor readings drift over that time period. The Good Vibrations Engineering sensor gets around that problem by operating in the frequency domain.
The potential Canadarm3 will be more dependent on force sensing than Canadarm2, because the Lunar Gateway Station will be untended for the major part of each year, so autonomous operations will be key.
“The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) you are hearing a lot lately will be a significant part of autonomous operations, operated so far away. Artificial Intelligence needs lots of data, and by implication, sensors,” she said.
Good Vibrations Engineering Ltd. is currently operating out of Laskay, but has hopes of relocating into King City, near the GO station, so engineers can get to work easily from either Toronto or Barrie.
“By aiming for the moon, we allow our children to reach for the stars. Space represents limitless possibilities and endless discoveries. For every astronaut we send to space, there are thousands of Canadians who are part of the journey. Canada’s space strategy will foster our next generation of astronauts, engineers and scientists and will ensure Canadians and Canadian businesses benefit from the growing opportunities in the space economy,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
The government strategy also places priority on harnessing space science and technology to solve important challenges on Earth, including:
• Investing in satellite communications technologies for broadband, including connectivity in rural and remote regions.
• Exploring how the delivery of healthcare services in isolated communities can be improved through lessons learned in space.
• Funding the development and demonstration of lunar science and technologies in fields that include AI, robotics and health.
• Leveraging the unique data collected from Canada’s space-based assets to grow businesses and conduct cutting-edge science, including about the impact of climate change on Earth’s atmosphere.
“With the Lunar Gateway, Canada will play a major role in one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. Together, with our partners from around the world, we’ll continue to push the boundaries of human ambition, and inspire generations of kids – and adults – to always aim higher and aspire to something greater,” added Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.



         

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