OTD: Canadarm sees first operational use

On today’s date in 1983, the first operational use of the Canadarm took place four days into National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mission STS-7.

During the mission, the Canadarm was used to deploy the SPAS-01 (Shuttle Palette Satellite 01) from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger.

Built by Spar Aerospace in Toronto, the original Canadarm (or Shuttle Remote Manipulator System) 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.

The Canadarm launched Canada’s close partnership with NASA on human space flight and was instrumental in establishing Canada’s reputation for robotics innovation, leading to a new generation of Canadian robotics on the ISS. Its first mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Nov. 13, 1981. It manoeuvred astronauts, satellites and cargo for more than 30 years before it retired in 2011, when the Space Shuttle program ended.

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


On April 22, 2001, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made aerospace history when he became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk. Using Canadarm, Hadfield installed Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS), which is located about 400 kilometres above the Earth. This next-generation robotic arm was born on the successes of the original Canadarm—the first robotic arm ever built for use in space.

In 2006, the Mint also issued a 14-karat gold 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 coin issued in 2015 as part of the Mint’s 10-coin ‘Exploring Canada’ series depicts the Canadarm.

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 coin’s reverse 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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