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Canada plans to use Axiom Space for further astronaut missions

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In Science and Space: Canadian astronauts may have a new way to explore space.

The memorandum of understanding means that for the first time CSA astronauts can fly into space on something that isn’t a government spacecraft – and they can fly into orbit more often than we’ve ever seen before.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) could fly instruments and astronauts aboard a SpaceX spacecraft in the not-too-distant future, according to a memorandum of understanding negotiated with Houston-based Axiom Space, which was published. on Wednesday, September 21.

Axiom representatives said the MOU includes possible flights to the International Space Station (ISS) and the company’s own planned free-flying outpost, known as the Axiom Station. In addition, they write, there is “potential for Canadian astronauts to fly on future Axiom-funded missions.”

CSA astronauts flew more often, especially during the 1990s and 2000s, when they flew the now-retired space shuttle every year. These opportunities dwindle as all astronauts have fewer flights, with NASA prioritizing long-duration flights on the ISS during the main outpost construction phase in the 2000s.

The last CSA astronaut to reach orbit was David Saint-Jacques in 2018-19 and before that was Chris Hadfield in 2012-13. Each astronaut stays on the ISS for six months, compared with a typical space shuttle flight of 10 days. CSA’s next spaceflight could take place in 2024: Canada will have a seat for the Artemis 2 mission around the Moon, as it already supplies Canadaarm 3 for the future Gateway space station, the station will orbit the Moon to support NASA’s Artemis program. However, the 2024 timeline depends on the success of Artemis 1, which has yet to launch in its unmounted test flight into lunar orbit as NASA resolves technical issues.

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Axiom did send a Canadian into orbit on its first mission in 2022, called Ax-1, but it wasn’t for the CSA. Instead, Canadian businessman Mark Pathy paid for a seat on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, along with two other commercial astronauts and a former NASA astronaut for more than two weeks in orbit. (SpaceX is so far the only astronaut taxi service that has transported people to the ISS, though that could change as NASA’s commercial crew program matures.) Axiom has also developed its robotics experience thanks to two existing agreements with MDA, supplying Canadaarm2 to the International Space Station, as well as the Dextre mobile robot. (MDA has also been commissioned to build Canadaarm3.) Axiom and MDA announced two sales of robotic interfaces based on Canadianarm3 technology, the latest of which was also announced this week at IAC.

Axiom’s Memorandum of Understanding with CSA aims to enhance Canada’s work in space as a whole, as it seeks to “leverage Canada’s existing and robust space ecosystem to jointly develop opportunities for Canadian company.” trajectory “. Canada has a small manufacturing sector and the medical sciences are also looking for research opportunities, which could increase as the Artemis program matures and the general expansion of commercial research on the ISS. Next steps outlined in the MOU include the creation of a working group to “develop priority business cases to advance Canadian technology research and testing in the space in various sectors, such as advanced robotics, AI [artificial intelligence] and health and life sciences,” representative from Axiom. stated in the press release.

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Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberté paid for a trip to the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft in 2009. And “Star Trek” star William Shatner, also Canadian, flew into suborbital space with Blue Origin last year.

Allegedly, the Canadian flew into space via alternative routes to the CSA before Pathy paid for his trip with Axiom. For example, astronaut Andrew Feustel, who helped maintain the Hubble Space Telescope, is one of the few NASA astronauts with Canadian citizenship. These areas of study align with industry priorities established by the Canadian government as part of the Space Strategy, released in 2019 to guide Canada’s large-scale space opportunities.

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