By Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen | July 11, 2014

New technology from an Ottawa aerospace company guided an unmanned supply ship to a flawless docking with the International Space Station Wednesday.

Neptec Design Group’s TriDAR sensor is flying for the first time on Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo spacecraft, a commercial vehicle that launched Sunday.

NASA photo showing the Canadarm2 reaching out to grab an unmanned cargo ship that was guided through its approach with sensors from an Ottawa company, Neptec Design Group.

In a few weeks, the cargo ship and Neptec’s sensors will burn up in the atmosphere after a single use. The ship, named SS Janice Voss after a NASA astronaut who died of cancer, carried a tonne and a half of supplies.

It flew from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, on the coast of Virginia.

While this is the first flight for TriDAR, Neptec has a long history of building cameras, sensors and guidance systems for the aerospace sector.

Neptec’s president of space exploration, Mike Kearns, describes TriDAR as “an autonomous rendezvous and docking sensor that is used to guide space vehicles … to their targets. It is an important technology to allow for future space exploration.”

In short, it guided the supply ship toward a parking spot (or “berthing box”) on the space station.

That’s when the Canadarm2 on the station grappled the Cygnus and pulled it in to dock, as the space station flew over northern Libya at al altitude of 418 kilometres.

Kearns also notes that the Canadian Space Agency helped to fund development of this technology and says the return from export sales and associated jobs is approximately 10 times greater than the public investment.

Link to original story – Accessed 11 Jul 2014