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  • Space-Based Robotics Solutions

    ?The Company is a world leader in the development, delivery, and operations of advanced space robotics and automated systems, enabling human spaceflight, space exploration and on-orbit servicing missions.

    From design, development, and deployment to ongoing operations, logistics, and sustaining engineering, ?the Company has an unrivalled heritage in mission-critical space missions.

    ?The Company's space-based robotic and automation solutions continue to advance the boundaries of space exploration, from sensors and vision systems for orbital rendezvous and proximity operations, to robotic arms and mechanisms aboard the International Space Station and unmanned robotics and planetary science instruments carried on international missions to Mars.

    ?The Company's extensive suite of expertise and skills include mission operations planning, analysis, training, real-time engineering support and execution, for assets in orbital or planetary environments. ?The Company's accomplishments position us to meet ever more demanding requirements to advance the use of robotics and automation to support both human spaceflight and robotic applications.

    Robotics and On-Orbit Servicing

    The Company's world-renowned space robotics and on-orbit servicing capabilities span more than 30 years, including 91 on-orbit servicing missions with the Space Shuttle program plus continuing robotic operations to build and maintain the International Space Station (ISS).

    Robotics and On-Orbit Servicing

    The Company is a mission prime contractor, with a proven heritage and suite of end-to-end system capabilities that are the foundation for new human spaceflight and unmanned missions to Low Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit, and beyond. In each mission area, the Company's solutions can support logistics delivery, satellite servicing, debris removal, relocation of assets, and infrastructure maintenance.

    The Company extends the reach and capabilities of the human explorer with solutions such as the ISS Dextre that can now perform on-orbit infrastructure servicing operations previously only undertaken by Extravehicular Activity (EVA) astronauts. In the future, these technologies will support space infrastructure assembly, maintenance, and servicing, plus the robotic construction of human habitats. On-orbit servicing robotics lower the cost of critical space infrastructure maintenance by performing mundane and routine infrastructure servicing tasks, while freeing up the human explorer to perform the more challenging and cognitive activities.

    The U.S Government has selected the Company's advanced robotic arm solution as the baseline for the NASA Restore and DARPA Geo robotic servicing programs that seek to use robotics to interact with geostationary satellites. Robotic satellite servicing can create a new paradigm for re-deploying or extending the operating life of on-orbit assets, as opposed to the prevailing “launch and leave” approach.

    Together, these capabilities point to new opportunities in future space endeavours, in the form of EML-2, the Earth-Moon Libration Point 2, a spot in space near the far side of the moon that may play a key role as a stationary gateway for exploration missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. Current Company technology is a proven choice to build, maintain, and supply such a station with robotics, and support human crews en route to lunar or planetary missions.

    The Company works extensively with international industrial and academic partners to serve a wide range of government agencies, while supporting a number of strategic partners for the new generation of commercial space missions plus emerging opportunities in human and robotic space exploration.

     

    MECHANISMS / ACTUATORS: on-orbit mechanical and electromechanical solutions

     

    MANIPULATORS / TOOLS / INTERFACES: to augment reach, dexterity, and sensing functions

    As a world leader in space manipulators, ?the Company is best known as provider of the Canadarm, Canadarm2, and "Dextre" robotic systems to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs. In these applications, the Company maintains common and accessible interfaces in both hardware and software to enable follow-on tool development to augment reach, dexterity, and sensing functions. Critical to the Space Shuttle’s Return to Flight initiative, the Company developed the Inspection Boom Assembly to provide the Canadarm with increased reach for on-orbit inspection and repair of the Shuttle’s thermal protection system prior to vehicle re-entry. To support the servicing needs of the ISS, the Company developed the "Dextre" robot that can be picked up by Canadarm2 to perform dexterous tasks with high precision such as battery replacement and manipulating scientific payloads. The Company's system level approach to robotic solutions provides customers with adaptable platforms whose functions can be expanded as the need arises.
     

    GRAPPLE FIXTURES / DOCKING FIXTURES: transfer interfaces for spacecraft visiting the ISS

    ?The Company offers a comprehensive product line of grapple fixture interfaces to accommodate mechanical, electrical, data, and video transfer needs of customer spacecraft that are handled by our in-space robotic manipulators. Flight proven for over 30 years with more than 150 grapple fixtures and related hardware accessories, our line of payload handling interfaces have been launched on numerous ISS elements and commercial resupply vehicles, and they can also be tailored for other customer-specific needs. Going forward, ?the Company is pursuing the next generation of robotic and grapple fixture interface with goals of minimizing integration complexity, reducing mass and volume, and offering a simplified solution to robotic compatibility. ?The Company envisions a future commercial and government Space Infrastructure that is modular, robotically maintainable and upgradable.
     

    TELE-OPERATION / TELE-PILOT WORKSTATIONS: tele-operation of robotic systems

    ?The Company's technical proficiency in robotics and control system design is complemented by decades of mission operations support to the Space Shuttle and ISS programs. Our direct support to mission control operators and astronaut crew has provided a unique insight into the usability perspective of tele-operated robotics, garnering end-to-end expertise in understanding system needs from the end-user’s perspective. This experience was leveraged when ?the Company developed the Robotic Workstation for NASA, enabling crew tele-operation of the robotic systems deployed on the International Space Station. The Workstation utilizes a variety of control interfaces, joysticks, and LCD displays to allow astronauts to command and control the Canadarm2 manipulator from the Cupola module on ISS. Such human-machine interfaces were further developed into a supervisory ground segment for the autonomous Orbital Express robotic flight demonstration mission, as well as ground control of the ISS “Dextre” robot. To address the future needs of on-orbit tele-operation, ?the Company developed a tele-pilot ground testbed with enhanced situational awareness as part of the Next Generation Canadarm (NGC) program. The tele-pilot station was designed to support future in-space robotic applications such as satellite refueling and servicing, and was commissioned to operate the NGC robotic test-bed (1-G) in performing related satellite servicing operations.
     

    SOFTWARE AND AVIONICS: all-in-one sensor packages and data processing devices

    From the inaugural flight of the Canadarm to the on-orbit operations performed by the Space Station robotics today, ?the Company has provided the software and avionics required to safely and effectively operate those systems by both local crew tele-operations and via remote ground control. Leveraging our safety critical control software that is uniquely flight qualified over 30 years, ?the Company has also developed electronic packages to offer robust and efficient control of articulated platforms on spacecraft and satellites. Our extensive background in mission assurance and safety requirements positions ?the Company as an ideal provider of electronic and software solutions for motion and/or sensor packages, with expertise in both radiation tolerant and low temperature electronics solutions as well as COTS development. Designing optimal solutions to customer-specific needs, ?the Company has developed all-in-one sensor packages and data processing devices for use in applications ranging from rendezvous and proximity operations to planetary surface characterization. Next-generation space systems will require resource-efficient solutions to support the needs of both government and commercial organizations, and ?the Company's software and avionics capabilities are well suited to offer reliable products to meet these demands.
     

    SIMULATIONS: dynamic modelling and simulation of robotic systems

    From initial deployment, ?the Company has also provided continuous engineering and mission support services to NASA and CSA for the Space Shuttle and ISS robotics systems, ensuring successful continuing operations of all mission-critical tasks as assembly and maintenance of the ISS, plus servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. Throughout this time, ?the Company has established strong technical expertise in the field of dynamic modelling and simulation of robotic systems, supplementing our leading-edge capabilities in control system design and developing analytic solutions to novel robotic topologies. To fully analyze all planned and contingency robotic procedures before each mission, in-house simulation programs have been developed and validated against 30+ years of flight data to assess dynamic loads, motion, and clearances associated with on-orbit robotic tasks, ensuring all mission activities are performed safely and within flight limits. ?The Company has extensive experience in supporting safety critical robotic operations in human-rated applications, and our comprehensive simulation and analysis approach has ensured the success and safety of all operations to date.
     

    VISION SYSTEMS: a wide range of 2D and 3D vision systems for space and terrestrial applications

    Orbital Express with MDA logoThe Company has developed a wide range of 2D and 3D vision systems for both in-space and terrestrial applications to provide customers with reliable and robust perception in dynamic and/or high latency situations. Our state-of-the-art vision systems have provided significant benefits to robotic operations, enabling autonomous, real-time guidance and navigation in changing environments such as free-flyer capture of on-orbit assets. Our 6th generation light weight, low power “golf-ball size” space cameras have both high resolution and high dynamic range. During the on-orbit demonstration of robotic servicing capabilities on the DARPA Orbital Express Mission, ?the Company's visual servo algorithms successfully enabled the robotic system to perform the world’s first autonomous free-flyer capture, as well as supporting satellite reconfiguration tasks such as battery and computer change-outs. In additional to visual servo algorithms, ?the Company has also developed and ground tested model-based pose estimation techniques with scanning LIDAR to provide relative navigation data for autonomous rendezvous. Going forward, our vision system solutions seek to extend the capabilities of on-orbit robotic servicing, leveraging our flight-proven algorithms and experience in safety-critical applications.

    Hadfield behind the controls of Canadarm2
    2:58
    Credit: CSA

    Dextre Completes Replacement of Failed Remote Power Control Module.
    3:32
    Credit: NASA

    DARPA PODS
    0:31
    Credit: DARPA

    Exploration

    The Company's space exploration technologies have more than 30 years of flight heritage, comprising solutions that span the range of exploration phases from orbital reconnaissance, to landing, and rover-based surface exploration.

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    As a mission prime contractor, the Company’s flight heritage and end-to-end system capabilities provide a solid foundation for new missions to explore the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and other bodies in the solar system. ?The Company works extensively with international industrial and academic partners to serve a wide range of government agencies, and supports a number of strategic partners for the generation of new commercial space missions ?and emerging opportunities in deep space exploration.

    ?The Company's solutions extend the reach and capabilities of space exploration by enabling access and manipulation of people, payloads, and sensors in challenging locations and hostile environments that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to carry out operations.

    ?The Company’s experience in autonomous robotic systems enables operation in distant locations where communication bandwidth is reduced or intermittent, while enhancing the time efficiency of operations.

     

    ROVERS AND SUBSYSTEMS: mobility solutions for in-space applications

    MESR LELR MSLself

    The Company’s expertise in designing mobility solutions for in-space applications expands beyond Low Earth Orbit to planetary exploration endeavours. The Company has led the design, manufacturing, and testing of prototype vehicles such as the Lunar Exploration Light Rover (LELR) and Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR), deployed for analogue mission evaluation for lunar and Mars applications. The expertise gained through these projects led the Company to develop a unique suspension and locomotion solution for the 2020 European Space Agency ExoMars Mission. The ExoMars Rover, scheduled to be launched in 2020, will be equipped with the Company’s Bogie Electro Mechanical Actuator (BEMA) and Actuator Drive Electronics (ADE) systems, offering an efficient solution to meet the challenging requirements associated with surface mobility on the Martian terrain.  

    The Company has also led the design, manufacturing, and testing of robotic arms for NASA-JPL Mars rovers and landers since 1997.
     

    SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS: fully-integrated scientific instruments and sub-assemblies for a wide range of space exploration missions

    MSL APXS?The Company’s system-level approach to product solutions has resulted in the development of fully-integrated scientific instruments for a wide range of space exploration missions. Most recently as part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, the ?Company-provided Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is a rugged, compact instrument that has continued to deliver valuable chemical composition data from the surface of Mars since landing in 2012. ?The Company’s experience with laser-based sensors led to the development of the LiDAR instrument flown on the Phoenix Mars Lander to measure dust and ice particles in the Martian atmosphere, as well as a Laser Altimeter instrument on the upcoming OSIRIS-Rex mission for extracting surface topology data from the surface of an asteroid. The development and integration of mission-specific instruments is supported by ?the Company’s end-to-end experience in space system design and operations, bridging the scientific needs with engineering and mission requirements.

    MLS APXS
    5:28
    Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

     

    MANIPULATORS: space and terrestrial systems for assembly and maintenance

    MSL Robotic ArmAs a world leader in space manipulators, ?the Company is best known as the provider of the Canadarm, Canadarm2, and "Dextre" robotic systems to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs. Since the 1980s, ?the Company has provided continuous engineering and mission support services to NASA and CSA, ensuring successful operation of mission critical tasks, ?including ISS robotic assembly and maintenance, and servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. Leveraging our experience in providing safe and reliable human-rated robotic systems, ?the Company developed another space robotic system for the DARPA Orbital Express mission that successfully demonstrated on-orbit servicing capabilities as autonomous capture and satellite reconfiguration. The Company has also developed robotic arms for NASA-JPL Mars rovers and landers since 1997, including MSL Curiosity. Going forward, ?the Company is advancing robotics and autonomous systems to support future exploration missions beyond the low-latency environment of near-earth operations.
     

    SOFTWARE AND AVIONICS: system operations by both local tele-operations and via remote ground control

    From the inaugural flight of the Canadarm to the on-orbit operations performed by the Space Station robotics today, ?the Company has provided the software and avionics required to safely and effectively operate those systems by both local crew tele-operations and via remote ground control. Leveraging our safety-critical control software that is uniquely flight qualified over 30 years, ?the Company has also developed a product line of electronics to offer robust and efficient control of articulated platforms on spacecraft and satellites. Our extensive background in mission assurance and safety requirements positions ?the Company as an ideal provider of electronic and software solutions for motion and/or sensor packages, with expertise in both radiation tolerant and low temperature electronics solutions as well as COTS development. Designing optimal solutions to customer-specific needs, ?the Company has developed all-in-one sensor packages and data processing devices for use in applications ranging from rendezvous and proximity operations to planetary surface characterization. Next-generation space systems will require resource-efficient solutions to support the needs of both government and commercial organizations, and ?the Company’s software and avionics capabilities are well suited to offer reliable products to meet these demands.
     

    GUIDANCE, NAVIGATION AND CONTROL: precision motion control solutions for safety critical applications

    The Company has a strong heritage of providing robust Guidance, Navigation and Control solutions to a variety of spaceflight systems. We offer precision motion control solutions, state machine development and sequencing logic design for a variety of safety-critical applications. The foundation of our technical expertise in these areas is based on the comprehensive dynamic modelling capabilities established while providing mission support services to the Canadarm and Space Station robotic programs. ?The Company brings leading-edge control system design capabilities, with widespread experience in developing analytic solutions to novel robotic topologies. Our enhanced vision systems and image processing capabilities have provided notable advances in robotic operation, enabling autonomous navigation in adaptable environments such as free flyer capture of on-orbit assets. Our unique test facilities can validate and fine tune such sophisticated solutions. Anticipating the future needs of in-space operations, ?the Company is currently developing next-generation autonomy capabilities to enable system operation in high latency, dynamic environments.

    GNC

    Pheonix MET
    2:30
    Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

    OSIRIS-REx Investigates Asteroid Bennu
    2:39
    Credit: NASA Goddard

    Curiosity Rover
    11:20
    Credit: NASA

    Sensors and Autonomous Systems

    The Company provides a range of advanced space-based sensors and autonomous systems for mission-critical support to human space flight and robotic missions.

    XSS11-MicroSatellite

    The Company is a leading developer of ruggedized smart sensors for real-time environmental sensing in space. These optical and LiDAR solutions incorporate real-time image processing and standardized communication interfaces to support manned and unmanned applications. ?The Company's autonomous control systems, smart cameras, and scientific instruments for planetary exploration and Earth observation instruments support mission-critical, long-life space exploration applications, as well as short-duration space missions

    Space and defence markets are driving demand for low power, low mass, smart sensor systems with on-board intelligence to reduce transmitted data, pointing to a robust decentralized computational engine for real-time 2D and 3D imagery. Included in these solutions are vision processing, pose estimation and low-power/low-mass cameras. ?The Company has multiple products for these markets, including its 6th generation MicroCam, a “GoPro?” size camera system with built-in real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR) and on-board data compression intended for space applications.

     

    SPACE CAMERAS: flight certified camera and light systems

    OE
    EBCS
    HBCS
    SM4
    OTVC
    RCAM
    DARPA

    Since 1999, the Company has actively designed, developed, refurbished, and flight certified multiple camera and light systems for use in ?low ?Earth ?orbit, including cameras and illumination systems specifically designed for long life (>10 years) in operation with the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS)

    RCAM

    Mobile Servicing System Replacement Camera (RCAM) is a space qualified colour camera presently in development for use on the ISS. The camera has a high-resolution, high dynamic range image sensor and a 9:1 digital zoom capability. It supports a variety of outputs including Camera Link and analogue National Television System Committee (NTSC). The telemetry of all camera settings, including a unique camera identifier and timestamp, are embedded in the header of each image. The RCAM also includes a LED illuminator. The RCAM will be used during spacecraft berthing operations, ISS infrastructure inspection, and for support during Canadarm2 and "Dextre" robotic operations as well as astronaut EVA support.

    MicroCam

    The ?Company MicroCam is designed as a flexible camera platform with a minimal size, weight, and power envelope that is qualified for Geostationary Orbit (GEO). MicroCam is a compact 6 Megapixel monochromatic camera with high dynamic range imaging, auto-exposure, on sensor sub-sampling and windowing, as well as adjustable gain, gamma and black levels. The telemetry of all camera settings, including a unique camera identifier and timestamp, are embedded in the header of each image. The camera has a variety of pre-defined interfaces, a large focal plane array, and a ruggedized C-mount. Optional LED lights are also available. A selection of different lenses is available to provide the needed flexibility to address different applications such as: robotic tool tasks, vehicle inspections, satellite deployment verification, rendezvous and proximity operations, and long-range vehicle detection.

     

    RENDEZVOUS / MAPPING LIDAR: systems for rendezvous and proximity operations

    OSIRISSince 2000, ?the Company has been actively doing work in “time of flight” LIDARs. Teaming with our terrestrial partner Optech, ?the Company has produced the XSS-11 LIDAR for rendezvous and proximity operations, and the Phoenix meteorological LIDAR for detecting snow in the Martian atmosphere. More recently, the Company has developed a rendezvous LIDAR for NASA's OSIRIS-REx Mission for rendezvous with a dark asteroid named Bennu.

    ?The Company/Optech LIDARs are uniquely designed for long life in the harsh environment of space.  They are excellent products for high-resolution mapping of objects from significant distances (2-8 km). At the lower range the sensor can be used for relative navigation and proximity operations. 


    XSS
    OLA
     

    DATA FUSION AND PROCESSING: increasing the reliability of navigation and mapping data products

    Data Processing
    OLA
    ?The Company has been actively working in the area of data fusion over the last 15 years. The primary objective for data fusion is to increase the reliability of navigation and mapping data products. In the area of relative navigation, data from visible cameras are combined with IR cameras and 3D points from a LiDAR to provide a multidimensional map of an object, for example, 3D data products with superimposed colour and thermal images showing “hot spots”. For relative navigation, sensor fusion increases the accuracy and the robustness of relative pose computations. Visible camera images and 3D points from the LiDAR are used via an EKF algorithm to generate a real-time pose of a target satellite relative to the sensor frame. 
     

    AUTONOMOUS NAVIGATION: enabling long-range, fully autonomous navigation

    DARPA
    XSS
    For the last decade, ?the Company has been developing Guidance, Navigation and Control (GN&C) capabilities to enable long-range, fully autonomous navigation. The maturity of these technologies has been greatly accelerated through field testing in planetary analogue environments, using different classes of rovers, ranging from off-the-shelf laboratory rovers to underground mining load-haul-dump vehicles, to prototype planetary exploration rovers for the Canadian Space Agency. ?The Company's extensive field trials continue to prove the robustness, accuracy, and reliability of ?Company-developed GN&C systems for terrestrial and space applications, and extend ??its heritage in providing robust control systems for flight programs. Results from recent field trials in the Mojave Desert have further demonstrated the capability for autonomous precision driving beyond line of sight.
     

    SOFTWARE AND AVIONICS: design, development, and support of electrical/electro-optic systems

    • Digital Electronics for Signal Processing
    • Custom Algorithms and Signal Processing
    • Computer Architecture
    • Analogue Electronics
    • Electro-mechanical Drive and Control
    • Signal, Command and Control Interfaces
    • Power Interfacing and Conditioning
    • Optical Designs
    • Design for Environment
    • Commercial EEE parts used in space

    ?The Company has a rich heritage in the design, development, and support of electrical/electro-optic systems for space, and terrestrial applications. The Company system designs range from full-custom design, to off-the-shelf assemblies. The main discriminators are:

    • Technical strengths of our Electrical/Electro-Optics group
    • Leveraging of COTS/MOTS components
    • Company investment and hardware in-hand, to demonstrate cost-effective solutions to the prospective customers

    Data Processing
     

    INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS: supervisory control layer that sits on top of a regular robotic control architecture

    ?The Company has been conducting R&D in intelligent systems since 2005. The idea of an intelligent system is to have a supervisory control layer that sits on top of a regular robotic control architecture. This layer works in two stages: training and operation. During the training stage, its function is to learn (via Artificial Neural Networks, or another self-adapting algorithm) the system behaviour when the robotic system is being controlled by human operators. During the operational stage, it monitors the system behaviour for off-nominal conditions, and generates high-level commands to recover. Intelligent supervisory control has been shown to be less mathematically complex. Introduction of heuristics in many cases allows for simpler control strategies, especially when traditional control methods produce extremely complex mathematical solutions.

    OSIRIS-REx Investigates Asteroid Bennu
    2:39
    Credit: NASA Goddard

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