Dextre 101: Robotics for Dextre's Human Operators

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) puts Dextre's human operators through a sophisticated and intense training program to ensure that all of Dextre's movements are both effective and safe.

Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters (Credit: CSA)

Robotics operators begin by learning all of the Canadian robotics systems on board the International Space Station (ISS), starting with Canadarm2. Those who will operate Dextre move on to a rigourous two-week program offered exclusively at the CSA's headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec (near Montreal). While Dextre uses the same basic principles as Canadarm2, the second course focuses on techniques that are specific to the two-armed robot. Operators learn what to do when Dextre comes into contact with another object and how to operate Dextre's hands and tools. That's when the robot uses its sensors to gauge the forces and torque required and then automatically applies the necessary counterbalancing forces.

Operator in training (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Just like the real thing

Dextre's operators are trained in a high-tech simulation facility that looks and feel like Dextre's environment on the ISS.

Instructors run a few typical problem scenarios to see how their students deal with the situations and test their skills. This helps prepare operators to react to any situation quickly and efficiently.