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This article was published 19/4/2011 (3562 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MONTREAL -- The head of the Canadian Space Agency says discussions are taking place about how the Canadarm can be used on commercial spacecraft.
But Steve MacLean says he doesn't know whether the robotic arm or its technology will be purchased by private companies.
"What I can say is there are discussions going on at all levels about what's possible and it will depend on how those discussions go," he said Tuesday.
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., (MDA), which built the Canadarm and owns the technology, is already working with the space agency on the next generation Canadarm and is involved in discussions with potential commercial customers.
"The developing commercial space flight programs represent a great opportunity for Canada and MDA to be involved in the continuation of the successful and iconic Canadarm program," MDA said in an email statement.
A handful of space vehicles are currently being developed by a number of American companies.
SpaceX, one U.S. firm, launched its Dragon space capsule on board a Falcon 9 rocket in December 2010.
Its goal is to ship astronauts to the International Space Station when the U.S. shuttles retire this year.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield visited SpaceX in early March to get a first-hand look at the Dragon spacecraft.
Blue Origin, a commercial space company started by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing a booster rocket and orbital spacecraft.
Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., is also building its "Cygnus" supply ship for the space station.
"These different vehicles have different needs," MacLean said. "So what we need to make sure of at the CSA is that we are part of the discussions about determining whether it's suitable for the robotics to be part of this vehicle or be part of that vehicle."
MacLean made the comment during an online news conference to mark the 10th anniversary of Canadarm2 -- the robotic arm on the International Space Station.
It was on April 19, 2001, that Canadarm2 was launched to the space station on board Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Canadarm2 was built for the space agency by MDA in Brampton, Ont., along with all other Canadarms on American space shuttles.
It was Hadfield who connected Canadarm2 to the orbiting space lab during the first space walk by a Canadian three days after his launch from Florida on board Endeavour.
"The purpose of going outside 10 years ago for me was to unbolt the Canadarm from its launch crate platform and bring it to life," he recalled Tuesday. "To plug it in to allow it to take its first baby steps."
The CSA says when the shuttles retire this year, reusable commercial spacecraft like the Dragon and the Cygnus will be used to take supplies and equipment to the space station. It notes that Canadarm2 will be used to capture any of the visiting space vehicles.
-- The Canadian Press