Reading time ( words)
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) finalized an agreement between the United States and Canada to collaborate on the Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will provide vital support for a sustainable, long-term return of astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program. This Gateway agreement further solidifies the broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program and to demonstrate technologies needed for human missions to Mars.
Under this agreement, CSA will provide the Gateway’s external robotics system, including a next-generation robotic arm, known as Canadarm3. CSA also will provide robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, which will enable payload installation including that of the first two scientific instruments aboard the Gateway. The agreement also marks NASA’s commitment to provide two crew opportunities for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions, one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II.
“Canada was the first international partner to commit to advancing the Gateway in early 2019, they signed the Artemis Accords in October, and now we’re excited to formalize this partnership for lunar exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This agreement represents an evolution of our cooperation with CSA providing the next generation of robotics that have supported decades of missions in space on the space shuttle and International Space Station, and now, for Artemis.”
CSA will be responsible for end-to-end external robotics, including engineering and operations. Canadarm3 will move end-over-end to reach many parts of the Gateway’s exterior, where its anchoring "hand" will plug into specially designed interfaces. Delivery to the lunar outpost is targeted in 2026 via a U.S. commercial logistics supply flight.
“Gateway will enable a robust, sustainable, and eventually permanent human presence on the lunar surface where we can prove out many of the skills, operations, and technologies that will be key for future human Mars missions,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.
Approximately one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, the Gateway will function as a way station located tens of thousands of miles at its farthest distance from the lunar surface, in a near-rectilinear halo orbit. From this lunar vantage, NASA and its international and commercial partners will conduct unprecedented deep space science and technology investigations. It will serve as a rendezvous point for astronauts traveling to lunar orbit aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket prior to transit to low-lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon.
“CSA’s advanced robotics contribution with Canadarm3 builds upon our long spaceflight history together, enabling us to perform critical long-term sustainability and maintainability functions, overall inspections of the external Gateway and its attached vehicles, and servicing of external payloads in support of our worldwide research initiatives,” said Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Our efforts are well underway on Gateway to integrate CSA’s robotics system with arm attachment points and smaller dexterous adaptors already being incorporated into the individual Gateway modules including the PPE (power and propulsion element), HALO (habitation and logistics outpost), Gateway logistics, and international habitation element designs.”
NASA astronauts will board a commercially developed lander for the final leg of the journey to the lunar surface, and the agency has contracted with U.S. industry to develop the first two Gateway components, PPE and HALO, as well as logistics resupply for Gateway.
In October, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) signed an agreement solidifying ESA’s contributions to the Gateway to provide habitation and refueling modules, along with enhanced lunar communications and service modules for Orion. In March, NASA selected the first two scientific investigations to fly aboard the Gateway, one from NASA and the other from ESA. ESA developed the European Radiation Sensors Array, or ERSA, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is building the Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment Suite, or HERMES. The two mini space weather stations will split the work, with ERSA monitoring space radiation at higher energies with a focus on astronaut protection, while HERMES monitors lower energies critical to scientific investigations of the Sun. All of the Gateway’s international partners will collaborate to share the scientific data that will be transmitted to Earth. Additional scientific cooperative payloads will be selected to fly aboard the outpost.
In addition to supporting lunar surface missions, the Gateway will support activities that will test technologies needed for human missions to Mars. Using the Gateway, NASA will demonstrate remote management and long-term reliability of autonomous spacecraft systems and other technologies.