OTD: Space shuttle Columbia deploys first Canadarm for testing

On today’s date in 1981, the Canadarm made its space debut on the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-2).

Canada’s most famous robotic and technological achievement, the arm – also known as the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) – marked the beginning of Canada’s close collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in human space flight.

It was, according to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), “a sterling example of successful international cooperation in space.”

“The Shuttle’s Canadarm wrapped up 30 years of successful operations when it was retired along with the Space Shuttle program after mission STS-135, which marked the robotic arm’s 90th flight. The arm’s legacy lives on, though, since it established Canada’s international reputation for robotics innovation and know-how and generated the family of Canadian robotics on board the International Space Station, as well as future generations to come. Its excellent performance record has inspired several generations of scientists and engineers as they develop new technologies for industry, medicine, and other applications.”

The SRMS manoeuvred astronauts, satellites and cargo for more than 30 years before it retired in 2011, when the Space Shuttle program ended.


Built by Spar Aerospace in Toronto, the original SRMS measured 15.2 metres in length and was capable of accurately maneuvering payloads of 30,000 kilograms in the weightlessness of space. Its weight on Earth was 410 kilograms.

Altogether, five Canadarms were built and delivered to NASA from 1981-93. One arm was lost in the Challenger accident in 1986.

In 2006, the Mint also struck a 14-karat gold Canadarm coin with a face value of $300.


In 2006, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a $30 silver coin to mark the achievements of the Canadarm.

Struck in .925 per cent silver, this coin has a weight of 31.5 grams, a diameter of 40 millimetres and a mintage of 9,357 pieces.

That year, the Mint also struck a $300 gold coin featuring Hadfield on his historic spacewalk alongside a laser-enhanced Canadarm. This coin has a weight of 45 grams, a 40-millimetre diameter and a mintage of 1,000 pieces.


A $15 pure silver space exploration coin was issued in 2015 as part of the Mint’s 10-coin ‘Exploring Canada’ series.

In 2015, the Mint issued a 99.99 per cent silver coin highlighting Canadian space exploration as part of the 10-coin “Exploring Canada” series, which was issued monthly between June 2014 and April 2015.

Designed by Canadian artist John Mantha, the reverse of the space exploration coin celebrates Canada’s role in space with a quintessential image of modern space exploration—two astronauts on a spacewalk outside the space shuttle.

Orbiting high above the Earth, they are making repairs to the Hubble Telescope with the assistance of the Canadarm.

This coin has a weight of 23.17 grams, a 36.07-millimetre diameter and a mintage of 15,000 pieces.

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