1975: UTIAS Professor Peter Hughes invents crucial elastic links for Canadarm

By Joan DaCosta


Exterior of the shuttle and Canadarm in outer space
Canadarm2 with Dextrous Manipulator


In 1975, UTIAS Professor Peter Hughes was asked by SPAR Aerospace Ltd. to analyze Canadarm.  Hughes, known for consulting on attitude control and structural flexibility for several spacecraft, including the famed Alouette 1 & 2 and ISIS 1 & 2 satellites,  performed complex technical analyses for Canadarm and ultimately developed a completely new approach to the dynamics of robotic arms with elastic links.  This approach was used by SPAR to great success in its Canadarm1 design.  In fact, SPAR’s senior management stated that building the arm would not have been possible without the work done by Professor Hughes.

For Canadarm2, Professor Hughes added another UTIAS Professor, Gabriele D’Eleuterio, to the team along with UTIAS alumnus, Dr. Glen Sincarsin.  They helped to extend Hughes’s earlier analysis to encompass the additional difficulties posed by the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, which paved the way for a successful design of Canadarm2.

Prof. Peter Hughes received the prestigious Alouette Award in 2006 and the Chapman Award in 2007 for his overall important contributions to space science, which includes his work on the Canadarms.

Canadarm is considered by many to be one of the most significant Canadian inventions.  The fact that its photo graces the back of our five dollar bill is testimony to Canadarm’s importance in the annals of Canadian aerospace history.