In about 15 months, an astronaut will become the first Canadian to ever fly above low Earth orbit and reach the Moon. The Artemis 2 mission is slated for May of next year. The 21-day mission will carry its first-ever crew of four in a very high Earth orbit, where they will test various aspects of the craft. Once everything checks out, they’ll leave Earth orbit and slingshot around the moon before returning home.
CNC machining aerospace parts is, of course, central to these amazing vehicles. Canada has been involved with space exploration since the Apollo program. Canadian-made parts have been sitting on the lunar surface since 1969. Our involvement doesn’t go back quite that far, but Ben Machine has been CNC machining aerospace parts since the early days of the space shuttle.
Since We’re In The Neighborhood
The Artemis missions use the Orion spacecraft on top of NASA’s Space Launch System. The SLS will carry astronauts to the moon, but that’s not all. In conjunction with the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, it will be used to carry up components to the Lunar Gateway. This will be the world’s first space station above low earth orbit.
Aerospace CNC machining is playing heavily in the development of this new project. There’s a lot being asked of the Lunar Gateway. It will serve as a way station for astronauts moving between the Earth and the Moon. It will serve as a research platform for scientific experiments. It will serve as a refueling depot for craft moving between here and there, and it will serve as a deployment platform for satellites destined for lunar orbit or craft heading deeper into space. It may even act as the launch platform for Earth’s first manned Mars missions.
New Space Station, New Canadarm
Assisting in all of those responsibilities will be at least one new Canadarm. Since the first iteration of the Canadarm on the space shuttle, Ben Machine has been involved with CNC machining aerospace parts for it. Our involvement carried over to the updated Canadarm on the International Space Station. Now Canadarm 3 is in the works.
This is quite a change from previous versions of the robotic arm. For one thing, this isn’t one arm, but two. The main arm will be able to capture visiting craft to assist with docking. It will be able to carry out inspections and maintenance on the Gateway itself and assist with scientific experiments. But now the Canadarm will be joined by a smaller arm. This will be able to interact with the main arm, effectively providing a second hand to manipulate items outside the Gateway. They will also incorporate artificial intelligence and networking, allowing them to be run by controllers on the Moon or on Earth as well as visitors in the Gateway.
The aerospace CNC machining involved in bringing these units to light is daunting. It’s incredibly high-precision work, and very challenging. Ben Machine could not be prouder of our involvement. These projects not only bring high-tech dollars and jobs to Canada, but Canadian involvement at this level also ensures that we are represented on the Moon The Canadian who launches for next year’s Moon mission won’t be the last Canadian to make the trip. Ben Machine hopes to be involved well into the future, too.
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