Press Release

Innovative Sensor System for the International Space Station Will Keep Astronauts Safe

By SpaceRef Editor
September 18, 2017
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Canadians working in the space sector will benefit from new jobs and business opportunities as a result of an $11.9-million contract awarded to Neptec Design Group, an Ottawa-based company specializing in the development of intelligent spaceflight sensors and equipment.

As part of the contract, awarded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Neptec Design Group will develop a state-of-the-art vision system for the International Space Station (ISS). This innovative vision system will use a combination of three sensors to monitor the outside of the 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 innovative 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 as never seen before. This 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.”

– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Quick Facts

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.

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SpaceRef staff editor.