Canadian mission controllers

Canadian Space Agency's mission control centre, Saint-Hubert

Danielle Cormier, a Canadian flight controller closely monitors robotics operations on the International Space Station (ISS). (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

The work of Canadian mission controllers is crucial to the success of space missions. They provide continuous support to astronauts while monitoring all systems and activities aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

When preparing activities for Canadarm2 and Dextre, mission controllers are responsible for developing and inspecting:

  • Manoeuvres enabling Canadarm2 to capture, unload and release resupply capsules, serve as a platform for astronauts, and position its cameras to examine the exterior of the Space Station;
  • Manoeuvres enabling Dextre to replace defective components on the station;
  • Operational procedures used by astronauts when they are operating the Canadarm2, as well as corrective procedures to be used if there is a problem.

In addition, mission controllers are responsible for coordinating Canadarm2 and Dextre activities with other Space Station systems (communications, electrical, computer, attitude control, etc.).

Johnson Space Center Mission Control Center, Houston

NASA's International Space Station Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas

National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) International Space Station (ISS) Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas. (Credit: NASA)

When performing robotic operations, mission controllers ensure that Canadarm2 and Dextre operate properly by using telemetry transmitted to Earth by the Space Station. They are also responsible for the safe execution of manoevres through the use of ground-based simulators. They identify any problems that may affect the robotic operations and immediately determine necessary corrections. To reduce the workload of astronauts, mission controllers now perform most robotic operations from Earth. In fact, Dextre manipulations are now controlled exclusively from Earth, allowing astronauts to focus on scientific research aboard the station. Of course, astronauts will continue to play an important role in robotic operations during visits from resupply vehicles and space walks.

Ten Canadian mission controllers are currently part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Canadian Space Agency (CSA) team responsible for Canadarm2 and Dextre operations. They work at the mission control centre at the CSA in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, or at the mission control centre at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. During robotic operations, three mission controllers are on duty and share the work.

During Expedition 34/35, Canadian robotic systems will be used to capture, unload and release certain supply vehicles or replace various components of the station in the event that they fail.