Proximity Sensor System for Space Robotics

Solicitation number EN578-20ISC3/61

Publication date

Closing date and time 2022/10/28 14:00 EDT

Last amendment date


    ******* Correction to Amendment 004 *******
    Closing date for this challenge is October 28, 2022 at 14:00 EDT

    Amendment 004 - An attachment has been added to extend the closing date for this challenge to October 28, 2022 at 14:00 EST

    Amendment 003 - An attachment has been added to extend the closing date for this challenge to October 21, 2022 at 14:00 EST

    Amendment 002 is raised to add details of the security requirement, update the link for the Contract Security Manual and to add the Security Requirement Checklist as attached document, Annex C

    *Please note this challenge has Reliability Security Clearance requirements.

    Before award of a contract, the following conditions must be met:

    (a) the Bidder must hold a valid organization security clearance as indicated

    (b) the Bidder's proposed individuals requiring access to classified or protected information, assets or sensitive work sites must meet the security requirements

    (c) the Bidder must provide the name of all individuals who will require access to classified or protected information, assets or sensitive work sites;

    See the Contract Security Manual for more information -  Contract Security Manual – Security requirements for contracting with the Government of Canada - Security screening - National security - National Security and Defence – (

    Amendment 001 -An attachment has been added. The document contains questions and answers related to the Challenge.

    *Please note the ISC Website will be available on August 19, 2022 at 14:00 EDT

    *Please note this challenge has Reliability Security Clearance requirements.

     See the attached documents to review the security clauses - Security requirements for contracting with the Government of Canada – (

    This Challenge Notice is issued under the Innovative Solutions Canada Program (ISC) Call for Proposals 003 (EN578-20ISC3). For general ISC information, Bidders can visit the ISC website.

    Please refer to the Solicitation Documents which contain the process for submitting a proposal.

    Steps to apply:

    Step 1: read this challenge

    Step 2: read the Call for Proposals

    Step 3: propose your solution here

    Challenge title: Proximity Sensor System for Space Robotics

    Challenge sponsor: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

    Funding Mechanism: Contract


    Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.

    Phase 1:

    • The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 contract resulting from this Challenge is : $150,000.00 CAD excluding applicable taxes, shipping, travel and living expenses, as required.
    • The maximum duration for any Phase 1 contract resulting from this Challenge is up to 6 months (excluding submission of the final report).
    • Estimated number of Phase 1 contracts: 2

    Phase 2:

    Note: Only eligible businesses that have successfully completed Phase 1 will be invited to submit a proposal for Phase 2.

    • The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 contract resulting from this Challenge is : $1,000,000.00 CAD excluding applicable taxes, shipping, travel and living expenses, as required.
    • The maximum duration for any Phase 2 contract resulting from this Challenge is up to 24 months (excluding submission of the final report).

    Estimated number of Phase 2 contracts: 1

    This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any contract for the total approximate funding. Final decisions on the number of Phase 1 and Phase 2 awards will be made by Canada on the basis of factors such as evaluation results, departmental priorities and availability of funds. Canada reserves the right to make partial awards and to negotiate project scope changes.

    Note: Selected companies are eligible to receive one contract per phase per challenge.


    For Phase 1, a successful bidder may need to travel to the Canadian Space Agency (Longueuil, QC) for the Final Review Meeting.

    Kick-off meeting


    Progress review meeting(s)


    Final review meeting

    Longueuil, Quebec or teleconference/videoconference

    All other communication can take place by telephone, or videoconference.

    Challenge Statement Summary

    The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is seeking a solution that will prevent collisions by proximity sensing in order to simplify the safety of autonomous operations of space manipulators.

    Challenge Statement

    Collision-free autonomous path execution in a dynamic and uncertain environment is an important issue that CSA seeks to resolve in order to increase robotic system autonomy for future space missions. Robotic systems operate on space infrastructure or in other environments where collisions can potentially be catastrophic. Future space systems will need to have greater autonomy in order to be less reliant on communications with ground stations and to alleviate crew workload.

    proximity sensor system is envisioned to provide a layer of safety control for a space manipulator. The system automatically determines in real-time that it is safe for motion to continue by sensing that the space in its vicinity is free of unexpected structure. This allows the space manipulator to operate autonomously in a semi-structured environment with a minimum risk of collision. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to improve the mass, power, volume, resolution, and field of coverage of proximity sensing technologies.

    Desired outcomes and considerations

    Essential (mandatory) Outcomes

    The solution must:

    1. Operate autonomously, in a space environment based on an onboard real-time process.
    2. Use a proximity sensing method based on one or more sensors built into an existing space manipulator or that can easily be added or integrated into the manipulator’s system without significantly impacting manipulator design or power budget.
    3. Be a contactless-based solution.
    4. Provide a proximity warning when objects are within 10 cm of the manipulator or payload.
    5. Have a sensing range of at least 25 cm.
    6. Have a resolution of at least 1 cm.
    7. Have an accuracy of at least 1 cm.
    8. Have a minimum sensing distance no greater than 2 cm.
    9. Have a field of view that encompasses the end effector and wrist assembly.
    10. Have an update rate of at least 2 Hz.
    11. Have a total mass of less than 9 kg.
    12. Not protrude more than 1 cm from the manipulator's surface.
    13. Have a false positive rate of 2% or lower and a false negative rate of 1% or lower.

    Additional Outcomes

    The solution should:

    1. Have a sensing range of 1 m.
    2. Have a minimum sensing distance of 1 cm.
    3. Consume less than 60 W in total (supplied by an external source) (per arm, for dual-arm robotic systems).
    4. Be able to gather additional information in near real-time about the obstacles (e.g. size, shape, relative velocity, etc.) in order to enhance the robotic system’s ability to predict collisions and possibly replan motion.

    Background and Context

    It is vitally important that a space servicing robotic manipulator does not come into unintended contact during the robotic servicing operations for several safety considerations such as the safety of the crew, the health of the client spacecraft, the integrity of surrounding equipment, or avoiding damage to the robotic tools and the robotic manipulator itself. As an example of this, the prevention of collisions with the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) on the International Space Station (ISS) begins at the planning stage. Robotic trajectories are designed using a kinematic simulator that uses high-fidelity graphical models of the external ISS structure, the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM). Robotics mission designers use this tool to define a series of poses and trajectories for the manipulator. A graphical planning tool can be used to verify that the trajectory meets the needs of the mission while avoiding singularities, self-collisions, and joint limits, and respecting clearances to structure and any defined keep-out zones (e.g., a volume around a radiating antenna). 

    While these planned paths are a good starting point, they cannot be executed blindly for the following reasons:

    • Disturbances in the station geometry due to pressure effects at docking ports and thermal expansion/contraction cannot be accounted for in the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) model.
    • Differences may exist between the as-designed model and the as-built modules.
    • Space vehicles have appendages such as solar arrays and antennas which can deploy or articulate to maintain their required pointing. If their articulation states are unknown, the robot must avoid their entire possible swept volume.
    • The exterior configuration of the vehicle may be physically altered by Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) crew members, left-behind debris, or installation of logistics and science payloads that were not represented in the model at the planning time. 
    • Faults in the attachment of external components may occur, such as cable harnesses coming
    • loose or floating vehicle tether, and these may interfere with the operational workspace of the robotic system. 
    • EVA crew members may not be aware of or misjudge upcoming manipulator motion, so may accidentally be in the planned path of the end-effector or booms.

    For sake of additional context, in the example of SSRMS, at execution time, when the manipulator’s end effector approaches proximity to the station, a human operator must observe all motions to ensure that clearance is maintained between the station structure, arm, and payload. The SSRMS elbow pan-tilt-zoom cameras, the station infrastructure cameras, or both can provide the necessary video views for this task. For SPDM operations, ideal camera views are often not available. It is important to note that the clearance monitoring hinges on the human’s perceptual system to filter out noise, infer depth, and accommodate the harsh and variable on-orbit lighting conditions. 

    For future space missions, such as the cislunar Gateway station, the majority of robotic operations are expected to be performed autonomously with no crew onboard and no communication link to the ground. As such, the hazard control function that was previously provided by the operator watching the downlinked video must be performed by some aspect of the onboard system. The proximity sensor system is one possible solution for providing this hazard control. 

    It may be possible for the robot to build or correct its world model based on some high density exteroceptive sensors (e.g., stereo camera or lidar). This approach would require accurate and reliable 3D reconstruction, registration, and segmentation, and these problems have not been solved to the point where they can be fully trusted with the safety of a crewed space vehicle without human supervision. As such, a reactive behavior that uses real-time sensing to gracefully override commands which would result in collisions seems to be a more appropriate solution.


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    Contact information

    Contracting organization

    Public Works and Government Services Canada
    11 Laurier St, Phase III, Place du Portage
    Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0S5
    Contracting authority
    Group, PSPC
    10 Wellington
    Gatineau, QC, K1A 0S5

    Buying organization(s)

    Public Works and Government Services Canada
    11 Laurier St, Phase III, Place du Portage
    Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0S5
    Bidding details

    Full details regarding this tender opportunity are available in the documents below. Click on the document name to download the file. Contact the contracting officer if you have any questions regarding these documents.

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