PRESS RELEASE September 18, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario
NEPTEC TO PROVIDE A NEW SET OF EYES ON THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
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.
Neptec technology is currently an important part of three European Space Agency (ESA) programs; ExoMars, Proba 3 and Lunar Resurs. These three programs are being featured in the ESA Exhibition Chalet at the Paris Air Show which is both exciting and an honour for Neptec.
The ESA Exhibition includes:
A mockup of the two Proba 3 satellites hanging from the ceiling along with a detailed description of the mission. Neptec is providing HAMS, the metrology instrument as a key technology on the mission.
A model of the 2018 ExoMars Rover. Neptec is providing the navigation sensors to safely guide the rover over the Mars surface.
The Lunar Lander is featured in a poster image of the LUNA 27 mission. Neptec is providing the landing sensor for the mission, which will help ensure a safe landing on a level surface.
A UK space company based at Harwell Campus will be designing and creating a prototype of a landing sensor for a historic unmanned lunar mission as part of a series of launches that could see the first human habitat on the moon.
Neptec UK won the contract to build the landing sensor ahead of a trip to the south polar region of the moon.
The sensor is being developed by a team of engineers at its offices and laboratory at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.
The contract, assigned by Airbus Defence and Space, is for the design of a “radar laser,” or LIDAR, which forms part of the autonomous landing navigation system called PILOT.
Scheduled to launch in 2021, the ‘Luna Resource-1 Lander’ mission is being undertaken by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA).
Sue Horne, head of space exploration, UK Space Agency, said: “It is great to see such exciting projects coming out of the UK’s investment in exploration.”
Mike Kearns, managing director of Neptec UK, added: “We are extremely proud to be part of this exciting mission that will help establish the Moon as a launch site for human exploration into deeper space.
“The LIDAR technology that is being developed for this mission also has significant potential for terrestrial use.
“Vehicle autonomy is an exciting growth industry around the world and LIDAR technology plays a key role in its development.”
Kerry Sanz, programme manager of Neptec UK, said: “Ninety per cent of the LIDAR design and prototyping work on this phase of the project will be done by UK-based companies and everyone involved is very enthusiastic to be part of this historic mission.”
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