Canada’s artificial intelligence leadership extending to space
Quebec-based company pushes the limits of Canadian robotics technology
Sherbrooke, Quebec, November 22, 2018 – New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming all sectors of Canada’s economy, including space.
Canada is leveraging its leadership in AI and space to unleash innovation in space exploration. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is now exploring ways to equip future space robots with AI. Giving robots some autonomy will be critical for new missions into deep space. Set to be located in increasingly distant destinations, space robots of the future will have to work without human help, relying on AI to make decisions.
The CSA is collaborating with MDA, a Maxar Technologies company, and AI experts from Menya Solutions, a small company from Sherbrooke, Quebec, on the next generation of autonomous space robotics. MDA built the original Canadarm, Canadarm2 and Dextre, and are now taking steps towards the AI-based robots of the future by giving Canadarm2 and Dextre the ability to conduct certain tasks autonomously. This pioneering work will ensure Canada’s continued competitiveness in space robotics when future opportunities arise.
Countries from around the world are preparing plans to build the successor to the International Space Station (ISS): an outpost in the vicinity of the Moon called the Gateway that will serve as a stepping stone for deep-space exploration. Unlike the ISS, which has been continuously inhabited for almost 20 years, this future orbiting lunar station will rely upon AI-based autonomous robotics for its upkeep. Robots will assemble and service the Gateway, and will capture visiting spacecraft and help conduct science on behalf of researchers on Earth.
“Artificial intelligence is transforming all industries and sectors, providing new opportunities for Canadians. It’s exciting to see how the collaboration between Canada’s space sector and our world-leading AI research is already helping small companies grow, innovate and export their expertise. By working together, we are supporting the creation of high-skilled jobs that play a significant role in boosting Canada’s digital economy.”
– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
“AI-enabled space robotics will extend the reach of human space exploration and will cement Canada’s leading position in this critical technology area. Canada’s robotics built the International Space Station and perform robotic operations while orbiting 400 km above the Earth. At 400,000 km from the Earth, the Lunar Gateway robotics will require artificial intelligence to operate more autonomously for significantly longer periods. MDA is proud to be working with Menya Solutions to develop and apply these essential technologies.”
– Mike Greenley, Group president at MDA
“Menya Solutions is excited and proud to work with the CSA and MDA on the next generation of AI-based autonomous robotics. Working with these world leaders in space and robotics technologies will create opportunities for us in other sectors and contribute to the growth of our business. This collaboration aligns well with our other ongoing efforts in helping different organisations to deploy AI solutions that support humans and machines in making decisions, improving living and working conditions, and allowing us to save money, time and lives.”
– Froduald Kabanza, CEO at Menya Solutions
By 2020, Canadarm2 will be able to carry out certain tasks in space without human intervention, like moving around the ISS scanning it for problems.
Canadarm2 and Dextre would eventually be able to handle payloads and carrying out repairs independently. The CSA and MDA would also develop the know-how to be able to autonomously capture the Station’s visiting cargo ships.
Based on projections by PricewaterhouseCoopers, AI is expected to contribute as much as US$15.7 trillion to the world economy by 2030.
Space contributes $5.5 billion and 10,000 direct jobs to our economy annually.
Innovative small and medium-sized enterprises make up 92 percent of Canada’s space sector.
Over 500 Canadian organizations were involved in the supply chain that built and sustained Canada’s robots on the International Space Station—from machine shops to software developers.