Science

Robotic rover arm to be built by Toronto firm

A Toronto company will build a robotic arm for a prototype of a Mars or lunar rover in a $3-million contract from the Canadian Space Agency.

A Toronto company will build a robotic arm for a prototype of a Mars or lunar rover under a $3-million contract from the Canadian Space Agency.

The robotic arm to be built and tested by Engineering Services Inc. will have a long reach and include tools such as a scoop, grippers and a powered socket wrench, said a CSA news release Monday. Its design will allow the arm to be operated remotely or without human intervention.

"The prototypes that will be built by ESI under this contract will build upon that legacy to ensure that Canada will remain a sought-after partner for future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars," said Steve MacLean, president of the space agency, in a statement.

The arm is scheduled to be delivered in early 2012 for use with a rover prototype similar to the kind that would be used to explore Mars or the moon. The contract includes an option for a second robotic arm worth $500,000.

The space agency announced in September that such a rover prototype will be built by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, headquartered in Richmond, B.C., to test Canadian space technology on Earth under conditions that simulate a space mission.

However, CSA spokeswoman Julie Simard said the new arm will be designed to attach to any rover, not just the MDA rover.

ESI, founded in 1982, specializes in advanced robotics and automation products and custom robotics systems. It was contracted in 2009 to develop two smaller robotic arms for the Canadian Space Agency.

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