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CSA Awards Neptec Contract for New ISS Vision System

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 20, 2017
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OTTAWA, Ont., September 18, 2017 (Neptec PR) – Neptec Design Group has been awarded an $11.9 million contract by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop a state-of-the-art vision system for the International Space Station (ISS). This new Canadian eye on the space station will be used to support ISS operations and advance technology for future space exploration missions.

The vision system will be developed, manufactured and qualified by a team of optical and robotic experts at Neptec’s Ottawa facilities. Neptec will also develop and certify ground control software for use at NASA’s and/or CSA’s mission control centres.

Scheduled to launch in 2021, the vision system will be operated from the Canadian Dextre Robotic arm and provide critical services to the ISS.  It will be used to inspect the exterior surfaces of the ISS and equipped to detect the smallest damage. Like an airport’s control tower, the sensor suite will also be used to monitor and provide trajectory information about vehicles as they approach the ISS for docking. Operations of the system on the ISS will also provide a unique opportunity to test technologies necessary for future deep space exploration missions.  Autonomous robots require artificial vision in order to “see” and such vision systems are a key enabling technology.

This new Canadian contribution to the ISS will be packed with exciting Canadian sensing technologies. Neptec has a 27 year history of contributing critical systems to some of the most demanding space exploration missions and the new sensor suite builds on a strong technology base including:

  • TriDAR, a rendezvous and docking LiDAR that can provide guidance without requiring the use of cooperative targets.
  • Laser Camera System (LCS) providing high resolution 3D inspection capability.
  • Night vision thermal camera capable of operating in total darkness and full sunlight.
  • High resolution video camera and lights capable of finding the smallest of damage and providing stunning images from Space.
  • Artificial vision 2D and 3D real-time data processing in support of autonomous robotics.

“We are very excited to have been selected to provide this new Canadian contribution to the International Space Station,” says Stéphane Ruel, Neptec’s Vice President of Innovation. “This project will bring together years of research and development in innovative sensor technology and will give Neptec an edge in the global market. Such superhuman vision capability is critical in order to enable autonomous robotics from self driving vehicles to future space exploration robots. 

About Neptec Design Group Ltd.
Neptec Design Group produces electro-optical and electro-mechanical systems for mission critical space applications. Founded in 1990, the company specializes in the development of space qualified LiDAR systems, metrology instruments, cameras, and other intelligent sensor/space systems. Neptec Design Group is ISO 9001 certified and has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom and the United States.