Monday, April 21, 2014

More Canadian Tech for the Space Technology Hall of Fame

          by Brian Orlotti

Two more life-saving space technologies with a Canadian genesis will soon be inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame.

The Cospas-Sarsat global satellite system, which grew out of a 1979 agreements between the US, France, Canada and the USSR to jointly develop a global search and rescue satellite system, and the NeuroArm, an image-guided, MR-compatible surgical robot derived from technology originally developed for the CanadArm, will be honoured during the annual Space Technology Hall of Fame gala dinner, which will be held as part of the 30th annual Space Symposium of the Space Foundation on May 22nd in Colorado Springs, CO.

The two technologies join Ottawa based Mediphan, inducted in 2013 and discussed in the April 13th, 2013 post "Canadian based Mediphan Inducted into Space Technology Hall of Fame" along with 68 other space derived technologies, which have been inducted over the last 26 years.

The event is organized by the Colorado Springs based Space Foundation, a US based space advocacy group founded in 1983 to support and raise awareness of the global space industry through various education and outreach programs. The organization also publishes a well respected, annual Space Report on global space activity, which is normally released during the Space Symposium.

The Cospas-Sarsat Global Satellite System
In 1979, the US, France, Canada and the USSR signed an agreement to jointly develop a global search-and-rescue satellite system which became fully operational in 1985. Since its inception, the system has helped rescue over 32,000 people.
The first generation system used five low-Earth orbit satellites to detect signals from emergency beacons and repeat them to ground stations where doppler processing provides the signal location.  These satellites used an instrument called a Search and Rescue Repeater (SARR), developed by the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) to relay the beacon signal to a local ground station for Doppler processing to obtain a location. The location data is then relayed to search and rescue organizations. 
In 1997, a Canadian government study determined that a better Sarsat system would be one based on medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites. A MEO system would provide full global coverage, accurately determine an emergency beacon's location, and require fewer ground stations. GPS was identified as the ideal MEO system. 
NASA led a development effort to create what will eventually become the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS). The next generation DASS will incorporate search and rescue transponders directly on-board various global satellite navigation systems including the US' Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and the European Union's upcoming Galileo satellite navigation system. DASS will enable satellites to instantly pinpoint an emergency beacon's exact location, thus eliminating the need for ground-based doppler calculations and provide more accurate data more quickly to search and rescue organizations. 
Today, forty one countries participate in the operation and management of Cospas-Sarsat with over 1 million beacons in use worldwide. Cospas-Sarsat is headquartered in Montreal, PQ. 
The NeuroArm
In 1969, NASA invited Canada to participate in the space shuttle program. A request for proposals for a Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) resulted in a proposal from a group of firms including  Spar Aerospace (now MacDonald, Dettwiler), CAE Electronics, RCA Canada and Dilworth, Secord, Meagher and Associates. 
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) began studies on a manipulator system and in 1975, Canada and NASA launched a $110Mln CDN development program. 
The first SRMS (which became known as the Canadarm), was donated to NASA and was followed by four additional systems accomplishing over 90 missions. An improved version, called Canadarm2, specifically built to assemble to components of the International Space Station (ISS), was first deployed in 2001. This was followed in 2008 by the advanced two-armed Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (DEXTRE) which currently performs ISS maintenance and repairs and also serves as a robotics test bed.
Following the success of Dextre, Macdonald Dettwiler was approached by Dr. Garnette Sutherland of the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services in search of partners to help develop NeuroArm, an MRI-guided robot used for performing microsurgery. On May 12th, 2008, a surgical team at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, AB performed the first image-guided neuro-surgical procedure with a robot, with the neurosurgeon controlling NeuroArm from an adjacent room. NeuroArm enables microsurgeries to be both more precise and less invasive

In 2010, NeuroArm's patents and technology were purchased by Minneapolis-based medical equipment firm IMRIS Inc. IMRIS, formerly based in Winnipeg, is now developing a next-generation version of NeuroArm called Symbis.
Brian Orlotti.
The Canadian genesis of these life-saving technologies is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of its space sector. Canadian space technology's rich heritage of enhancing life on Earth as well as in space should be honoured, so that the achievements of our past can inspire us to create a better future.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and the treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page