Advanced sensor system to boost astronaut safety, provide rare view of International Space Station

LONGUEUIL, Quebec. Canadian Space Agency (CSA) officials needed a state-of-the-art vision system to help boost astronaut safety on the International Space Station (ISS). They found their solution at Neptec Design Group, an Ottawa-based company specializing in the development of intelligent spaceflight sensors and equipment.

Oct 10th, 2017
Advanced sensor system to boost astronaut safety, provide rare view of International Space Station
Advanced sensor system to boost astronaut safety, provide rare view of International Space Station

LONGUEUIL, Quebec.Canadian Space Agency (CSA) officials needed a state-of-the-art vision system to help boost astronaut safety on the International Space Station (ISS). They found their solution at Neptec Design Group, an Ottawa-based company specializing in the development of intelligent spaceflight sensors and equipment.

Neptec Design Group won an $11.9-million Canadian Space Agency contract, which is expected to benefit Canadians working in the space sector with new jobs and business opportunities.

This computer-generated image shows Dextre (right) on the end of Canadarm2, holding an advanced vision system. The Canadian Space Agency's robotic helper will use it to inspect and protect the International Space Station's external surfaces. Dextre's new vision system will be launched to the International Space Station in 2021. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NEPTEC)

As part of the contract, Neptec Design Group will develop an innovative vision system using a combination of three sensors to monitor the outside of the International Space Station (ISS), keeping the space laboratory inside safe and operational.

The technology will give the Space Station's Canadian robotic handyman, Dextre, the ability to quickly detect signs of damage on the exterior of the Space Station, which will keep astronauts safe on board.

This technology, set to launch in 2021, will help spacecraft dock when visiting the ISS. It will also relay images of the ISS back to Earth, giving Canadians a view of the Space Station never seen before.

The new vision system could eventually be used as part of future deep-space exploration missions. This initiative is part of the Government of Canada's Innovation and Skills Plan, a multi-year effort to create jobs for the middle class.

"Our government believes that an investment in space is an investment in science and innovation. These investments create new opportunities for the space sector and well-paying, middle-class jobs for Canadians. That's why we are investing in the companies and technologies that will drive Canada's next steps in space exploration. The technologies that are designed for space today can one day be applied to the everyday lives of Canadians. That's how innovation leads to a better Canada," says the Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Regular inspections are crucial for keeping the Space Station healthy and operational. Today, this is done by cameras on Canadarm2 and Dextre, crew photos taken from inside the Station, or by sending astronauts out on spacewalks to take close-up photos, which can pose a risk.

The new vision system will use a combination of three sensors—a 3D laser, a high-definition camera and an infrared camera—to support the inspection and maintenance of the Space Station.

Dextre's new vision system will be operated by mission controllers on the ground at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, or at the CSA's headquarters in St-Hubert, Quebec.

Search the Aerospace & Defense Buyer's Guide


The go-to resource for Intelligent Aerospace technology news & information:

Covering key topics
  • Avionics & Electronics in the Cockpit
  • Inflight Entertainment & Connectivity (IFEC) & Other Electronics in the Cabin
  • Satellite and Space, including satellite communications
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
  • Air Traffic Control (ATC) & Airport Infrastructure
  • Engineering Design, Development, and Test
  • Maintenance, repair, and overhaul
  • Rotorcraft, including Helicopters, Tiltrotors & Innovative Vertical Lift Aircraft
  • Software, including Coding, Test, Verification, and More
  • Training & Simulation

  • Across all market segments
  • Commercial aviation
  • Military aviation
  • General aviation
  • Space

  • Subscribe to the free Intelligent Inbox e-newsletter

    Subscribe to receive all the latest aerospace technology news & information, delivered directly to your e-mail inbox twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Sign upfor your free subscription to the Intelligent Inbox e-newsletter at http://www.intelligent-aerospace.com/subscribe.html.

    Connect on social media

    Keep pace with aerospace innovation and opportunities via your favorite social media channels. Connect with Intelligent Aerospace on Twitter (@IntelligentAero), LinkedIn,Google+, and Instagram.

    Intelligent Aerospace, the global aerospace technology network, reports on the latest tools, technologies, and trends of vital importance to aerospace professionals throughout the industry and around the globe, including engineers, engineering managers, and other key decision-makers involved in the research & development, design, test, manufacture, maintenance, upgrade and retrofit, management, and acquisition of electronics hardware and software components, tools, and systems for commercial and military fixed-wing, rotor-wing, and unmanned aircraft, air traffic control, airport operations, satellites, and space.

    More in SATCOM