The Mobile Servicing System Operations and Training Simulator, located in the Canadian Space Agency's headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, is a training facility that provides astronauts and cosmonauts with the skills and abilities to operate the Mobile Servicing System (MSS).
The Mobile Servicing System, Canada's contribution to the International Space Station, consists of three main components: the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (also called Canadarm2), the Mobile Base System (MBS) and a mobile platform and a two-armed robot called the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), which will perform more delicate tasks.
All astronauts and cosmonauts who will be required to operate the Mobile Servicing System from the Space Station, must go through two weeks of intensive training at the CSA's facility. Currently the courses offered focus on the operation of Canadarm2 and the Mobile Base System. Canadarm2 was installed on the Space Station in April 2001, and the Mobile Base System will be installed in June 2002.
In order to recreate a familiar environment, astronauts train on a Robotic Workstation (RWS) located in a ¾-scale mock-up of the U.S. Destiny Lab. The Robotic Workstation contains a Display and Control Panel, a Portable Computer System for displaying the Graphical User Interface, two hand controllers, which control the translations and rotations of the end of the arm, and three monitors for displaying views from cameras located on Canadarm2 and other locations outside the Space Station. A special feature of the Robotic Workstation is the Canadian Space Vision System, which allows astronauts to pinpoint the exact location and movement of payloads, giving them an accurate measure of distance and orientation, which is critical in the building and maintenance of the ISS.
Like in any training, astronauts must go through theoretical learning followed by practical training. In Saint-Hubert the astronauts learn in the Multimedia Learning Centre, the Mobile Servicing Systems Operations Training Simulator and through Virtual Reality training. The training program provides the astronauts with simulations that are as close as they can get to the environment of space without actually being in space. After learning the theoretical concepts in the classroom, astronauts practice in the simulator. The practice sessions are designed to confirm how well the astronaut understands the classroom material.
Training on Canadarm2 has been provided to astronauts and cosmonauts since 1998, and has been expanded since December 2001 to include operation of the Mobile Base System. A course on the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator will be developed separately.
After completing the two-week training course at the Canadian Space Agency, astronauts and cosmonauts are certified as Mobile Servicing System Robotics Operators and are awarded a certificate and crest with two embroidered wings.
In addition to courses that enable the crew to operate the Mobile Servicing System on orbit, the Canadian Space Agency also provides specialized courses for Mission Controllers, CapComs (Capsule Communicators), Flight Directors, crew-support astronauts and instructors. The purpose of these basic courses, tailored to each group, is to make the supporting team on the ground more knowledgeable about the systems of the Mobile Servicing System, thus directly supporting and facilitating interactions with astronauts performing operations on orbit. Several Canadian and international astronauts, cosmonauts and Mission Controllers have graduated from this training program.
After completion of their course, Mission Controllers are certified as Mobile Servicing System Mission Controllers and awarded a badge with a single embroidered wing.