WASHINGTON — MDA Space has received a contract from the Canadian Space Agency worth $1 billion Canadian ($730 million) for the next phase of development of a robotic arm system for the lunar Gateway.

MDA Space announced June 27 it received the contract to continue work on the Canadarm3 system. The contract covers Phase C, final design of the system, and Phase D, assembly and test of it. The work is scheduled to run through March 2030.

“We are entering an exciting period where Canadarm3 will take shape and come to life on our production floor,” Mike Greenley, chief executive of MDA Space, said in a statement. “This major milestone also reflects our strategy in action as we build our significant backlog and bring to market a new generation of commercial space products and services.”

The Canadian government announced in 2019 it would participate in the Gateway, becoming the first international partner to join NASA. At the time the government said it would invest $2 billion Canadian over 24 years on the program, offering the Canadarm3 robotic arm system that is an evolution of the original Canadarm used on the shuttle and Canadarm2 currently on the International Space Station.

MDA Space, then known as MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, received the initial contract to begin work on Canadarm3 in 2020. The company was expected to win the contract because of its work on the earlier robotic arm systems.

“Building on the legacy of strategic investments in space robotics, Canadarm3 showcases our commitment to innovation,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, whose portfolio includes the Canadian Space Agency, in a statement.

MDA Space has worked to leverage the investments made in Canadarm3 and earlier systems for commercial products. The company unveiled its MDA Skymaker line of space robotics systems in April. The Lunar Dawn rover, being developed by a team led by Lunar Outpost, will use that technology. It was one of three rovers selected by NASA in April for initial funding for its Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services program.

MDA Space also plans to provide a Skymaker robotic arm system for Starlab, the commercial space station being developed by the Starlab Space joint venture. MDA Space formally joined the joint venture in May, taking an undisclosed equity stake as part of the deal to provide the station’s robotic arm system.

In an interview after the Starlab Space announcement, Greenley said the work on space robotics fit into a broader company strategy that includes projects in Earth observation and communications satellites. “We’ve now productized our offering to make it more accessible to the commercial market in all three business areas,” he said.

For space robotics, that work includes moving into a new facility in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, that serves as what he called a space robotics “center of excellence” for building and testing robotic systems. That facility also features multiple mission control centers to operate the robotic arms on the ISS, Gateway and commercial facilities.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...