Ontario was at the forefront of the space and satellite industry during the era of the “Space Race”—the Cold War-era competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in terms of space technologies and advancement. The Alouette I, launched in 1962, was Canada’s first satellite in orbit. Although it was made through collaboration between all of Canada and the United States, Ontario played a special role in this project. Brampton’s Spar Aerospace (Spar) manufactured many parts for the satellite along with National Research Council Canada. The launching of a Canadian satellite pushed Canada into the space world, making it one of a very small handful of nations that had a space presence at the time. Appropriately, Spar had developed from a special division of de Havilland, which had helped put Canada on the map in terms of airplane production.
Spar, along with many other companies and scientists across Ontario and Canada, continued to further Canada’s place in space technology when it began manufacturing the famed Canadarm, a remote-controlled mechanical arm that allowed NASA to capture and repair satellites and move cargo and astronauts. The Canadarm was built in Spar’s Greater Toronto Area (GTA) factory, and it represented a huge leap forward for both space and robotic technologies when it was finished in 1981.
In 2001, the next generation of the Canadarm, appropriately named Canadarm2, was launched. Like the first model, Canadarm2 was largely built in the GTA, but the project was undertaken by the British Columbia-based multinational firm MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., which had bought the science division of Spar in the 1990s. The second version of Canada’s “pride in space” pushed the technology even further, with greater abilities to move and position objects. Canadarm2 played a major role in building the International Space Station. Canada and Ontario have always been at the forefront of space technologies and manufacturing, earning both the country and the province a well-deserved reputation in this growing field.