Ontario commits $25 million as Canadarm3 manufacturer MDA creates $100 million space robotics centre

MDA combines space robotics with automation and artificial intelligence.

Ontario’s aerospace program just got a big shot in the arm – in the Canadarm, that is. The province announced that with support from the Ontario government Canadarm manufacturer MDA is investing $100 million over five years for its new Space Robotics Centre of Excellence.

The centre will house the design, development, and manufacturing of the Canadarm3. In addition, MDA – a space tech firm – will create more than 700 long-term jobs at its Brampton headquarters.

The Ontario government is supporting the project with $25 million to help ensure MDA’s world-leading technologies and innovation strengthen the province’s position as the home of Canada’s space industry.

Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job creation, and trade, told BetaKit that during the announcement at MDA’s current Brampton headquarters MDA’s technology was on display, including the original Canadarm, Canadarm2, and a lunar rover.

“When you’ve got a company like MDA manufacturing Canadarm3, there will be other companies building components,” Fedeli said. “This really secures the expertise here in Ontario. It supports a whole robotics cluster. It [the robotic cluster] can develop other applications such as robotics used in advanced manufacturing, mining, medical technologies.”

Added the minister: “Robotics are robotics. They can be used anywhere, in the sky, on the land, and in the sea. And that is a very exciting opportunity.”

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MDA’s new 200,000 square-foot building will feature state-of-the-art labs, manufacturing, R&D, assembly, integration, and test facilities. The development and construction of the Canadarm3 will take place within the building.

Earlier today, MDA announced it had received $269 million from the Canadian Space Agency for use in completing the preliminary design of the Canadarm3 robotics system.

To date, MDA has already established the technical requirements needed for the design and manufacturing of the Canadarm3 Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based robotic system. Operating approximately 400,000 kilometres from Earth, Canadarm3 will be a highly innovative autonomous system capable of maintaining itself and making decisions with minimal human intervention.

The next-generation space arm is considered a key part of the NASA-led Lunar Gateway program to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon. This project includes establishing a space robotics control centre in Ontario to operate space robotics missions for government and commercial customers.

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This investment will combine MDA’s space robotics capabilities with other advanced technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence. According to the province, the funding will help stimulate over $1 billion in direct economic activity and will support the province’s advanced robotics cluster. This investment will bolster the development of applications for robotic systems to support advanced manufacturing, mining, and medical technologies.

MDA is an international space mission partner and a robotics, satellite systems, and geo-intelligence pioneer with a 50-year story of firsts on and above the Earth, claims the company. The firm boasts over 2,000 employees across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. It completed its initial public offering in 2021, launching itself onto the Toronto Stock Exchange with gross proceeds of approximately $400 million.
Ontario’s space sector is the largest in Canada, accounting for 59 percent of the industry based on revenues. In 2019, Ontario’s space sector directly employed almost 4,500 people.

Ontario’s aerospace sector directly employs over 25,000 people and an additional 19,000 indirectly. Ontario is also home to over 40 aerospace-related post-secondary programs.

“This new facility will be home to our growing highly-qualified team and will further unlock the potential of our world-class engineering and space mission expertise while allowing us to bring to market a full suite of innovative commercial space robotics products,” said Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA. “This assistance and the full backing of the Ontario government will allow us to grow and scale right here in Brampton and ensure we remain at the forefront of the global space economy.”

Photo source MDA

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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