New Set of Eyes for the International Space Station - CSA
New Vision System for the International Space Station
Neptec Design Group has been awarded a contract by the Canadian Space Agency to design a state-of-the-art vision sensor suite for the International Space Station (ISS). Scheduled to launch in 2021, the new vision system will be operated from the Canadian Dextre Robotic arm and provide critical services to the ISS. Capable of detecting even the smallest damage; the new Canadian eyes will be used to inspect the exterior surfaces of the ISS in order to keep the aging laboratory safe and operational for many years to come. Similar to 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. This will be based on Neptec’s TriDAR technology currently used on the Cygnus ISS cargo resupply spacecraft.
Neptec in a Box
This new sensor suite incorporates many of Neptec’s core technologies and combines them into the most sophisticated vision system to fly in space. Packed with exciting Canadian sensing technologies that will be necessary for future space exploration, this exceptional vision system is comprised of three different types of sensors working together to generate unique imagery:
- High Resolution 3D LiDAR – Capable of tracking incoming vehicles beyond 1 km and able to detect sub-millimeter damage.
- Thermal Night Vision Camera – Able to operate in total darkness and full sunlight.
- High Resolution Video Camera – Equipped with high power illumminators, this video camera can find even the smallest of damage and will provide stunning images from space.
Building on 2 Decades of Neptec Technology
The new sensor suite builds on Neptec’s 20 years of experience in human spaceflight and key technologies including:
- Triangulation Based Laser Scanning – Based on Neptec’s Laser Camera System, this technology will provide submillimeter 3D image resolution capable of detecting even the smallest damage.
- TriDAR Non-Cooperative Rendezvous and Docking – The first non-cooperative rendezvous and docking LiDAR sensor to have flown in space. TriDAR will provide guidance for all current and future vehicles to visit the ISS.
- Next Generation Thermal Imager – A high resolution night vision video camera specifically designed to operate in the harsh space environment.
- High Resolution High Definition Camera – This camera will be able to provide HD video, very high resolution pictures and be able to operate in full darkness using high power LED illuminators.
Impact on our Daily Lives
From space robotics, to self driving cars, to improving our safety and way of life – we are living in the era of robotics. Robots will soon be everywhere and these technologies are vastly applicable beyond their intended use in space. Autonomous robots require artificial vision in order to “see” and thus advanced sensing and data processing technologies are necessary to enable autonomous robotics both in space and here on Earth. Exploration of the solar system will require increased autonomy which will come from robotics systems augmenting human capability. This new vision system for the ISS will allow the development and testing of advanced computer vision techniques that are necessary for future deep space exploration missions.