Narrator: Space exploration has advanced significantly over the last four decades. Today, several hundred spacecraft are orbiting earth and beyond, changing the way we live and do business.
Communication satellites provide voice, data, and video service, allowing us to communicate around the globe; Earth observation satellites help to monitor the health of the Earth; large research laboratories on the International Space Station allow us to conduct experiments in human health; satellites and orbiting observatories allow us to explore our solar system, giving us a better understanding of our planet and the universe beyond.
We have made many strides, but to sustain exploration of space and to maximize these critical space assets, we need to be able to maintain, repair, and upgrade them. Canada is leading the way with next-generation robotic technologies that will extend the life of satellites and other spacecraft; help manage the growing concern of orbital debris; and serve as the building block for future missions that will allow spacecraft to venture to new destinations.
Building on our heritage as a leader in space robotics, Canada has initiated the next-generation Canadarm project to develop and advance key robotic technologies and prototypes needed for on-orbit servicing of spacecraft. This will prepare us for new challenges and the next steps in global space exploration.
The next-generation Canadarm project is a world-class facility that will demonstrate key capabilities for a complete robotic servicing mission from approach, to docking, servicing, and departure.
At the heart of the next-generation testbed facility is the Mission Operation Station, a next-generation control station designed to allow operators to plan, simulate, and execute servicing missions at various locations from low Earth orbit and beyond. This flexible control station will let an operator evaluate different aspects of a robotic servicing mission, from lighting conditions to telemetry delays, and other challenges of remote operations.
The Proximity Operations Testbed, or POST, simulates the final approach and alignment of a servicing spacecraft; critical steps required for on-orbit servicing. POST will be used to investigate and understand the demands on the operator, and control techniques and strategies needed during the final alignment and approach to the spacecraft for servicing.
The next-generation large arm, a successor to Canadarm2 has been designed to fit on the smaller spacecraft of the future. This state-of-the-art arm can be used to capture and berth a degraded or ailing satellite. The large arm testbed demonstrates lightweight, deployable telescoping boom technology to meet the challenge of reach and volume.
To ensure successful on-orbit docking or berthing of next-generation spacecraft or satellites, some of which may not have been designed with robotic servicing in mind, a docking testbed will help carry out docking experiments.
Building on the capabilities of Canadian expertise, the next-generation small-arm testbed is a more advanced, small, lightweight, dextrous robot with advanced electronics, software, and control systems. The testbed will demonstrate the ability to service a range of spacecraft. Outfitted with specialized tools, the next-generation small arm will perform a variety of intricate servicing tasks, including removal of fittings and thermal blankets; cutting wires on fuel caps; accessing propellant fill and drain valve; and orbital replacement unit change out.
Once the precision robotic servicing tasks to refuel and replace parts on the spacecraft are complete, the spacecraft can undock and move to the next satellite that requires servicing.
The Mission Operation Station links all four testbeds, allowing the evaluation and demonstration of human-robot interactions for different exploration and servicing missions. In the future, these mission simulations will be conducted by operators at the Canadian Space Agency driving the testbeds remotely.
The next-generation Canadarm facility will serve as the hub for government, industry, and academia to advance Canada’s robotic knowledge, and turn knowledge into product and further strengthen Canada’s leadership in advanced robotics.