Canadarm, RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 honoured
What do the CN Tower, the Confederation Bridge, Canadarm, RADARSAT-1 and 2 and TRIUMF,
the world-renowned particle physics research laboratory have in common? All of these
projects were recently named as the top five outstanding Canadian engineering achievements.
As part of its 125th anniversary celebrations in February of this year, the Engineering
Institute of Canada recently highlighted great Canadian engineering feats – the
world’s tallest free-standing structure when it was built; a 12.9 km bridge that
is the longest in the world to cross icy waters; a robotic arm that was the most
technologically advanced space tool of its kind; a trail-blazing nuclear research
laboratory; and the first and second generation of radar satellites used to monitor
Canada’s far-reaching land-mass.
MDA is honoured to be associated with two of these projects – technology areas where
our company still maintains a global lead.
The Canadarm project was initiated by the National Research Council in the 1970s
under contract with SPAR Aerospace Ltd. of Toronto who designed, developed, tested
and built the arm for a cost of roughly $110 million (in 1999, SPAR’s robotic operations
were sold to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates). The first Canadarm was Canada’s
contribution to NASA’s Space Shuttle program and flew for the first time on Space
Shuttle Columbia in 1981. NASA subsequently ordered four more arms, together with
engineering and ongoing operations support through the lifetime of the Shuttle Program.
The Canadarm performed flawlessly in over 90 missions, and its contribution paved
the way for the flight of eight Canadian astronauts aboard 14 shuttle missions,
and cemented Canada’s position as a world leader in space robotics. With their mission
complete, the surviving Canadarms will soon be showcased in North American museum
RADARSAT-1 and 2 are significant contributions towards Canada’s commitment to Earth
observation by space-based radar systems that began in the late 1970s. From the
outset, it was recognized that adequate coverage of Canada’s vast landmass could
only be obtained through satellite-based systems and that an imaging radar satellite
system was the only technology that could provide reliable and timely information
in the Arctic and regions that experience persistent cloud cover.
The RADARSAT-1 satellite, designed and built by MDA for the Canadian Space Agency
(CSA), was launched in November 1995, and is Canada’s first commercial Earth observation
satellite developed to monitor the planet’s natural resources and environmental
changes. Launched in December 2007, RADARSAT-2 is Canada’s next generation Earth
observation satellite, the product of a unique partnership between the CSA and MDA.
Designed, built and operated by MDA, RADARSAT-2 assures continuity of RADARSAT-1
data, providing clients with long-term access to operationally responsive radar
RADARSAT-1 and 2 have provided both Canada and the world with an operational space-based
SAR system that can acquire detailed images of the Earth's surface during the day
or night, in all weather and through cloud cover, smoke and haze – and have made
Canada a world leader in this technology.