Press Release

NASA Tests Neptec Vision System on STS-128 for Unmanned Docking Operations

By SpaceRef Editor
August 25, 2009
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NASA Tests Neptec Vision System on STS-128 for Unmanned Docking Operations

TriDAR to fill critical need in future space exploration missions

Neptec Design Group, a leader in space, defence and industrial systems and applications, today announced that NASA will be conducting a Detailed Test Objective (DTO) with the company’s TriDAR vision system. The TriDAR vision system provides real-time visual guidance for navigation, rendezvous and docking procedures and is expected to play a critical role in future space exploration missions.

“As the Space Shuttle completes its historic mission supporting construction of the Space Station, the future of our international partnered efforts in space exploration will rely heavily on our ability to execute unmanned missions,” said Steve Maclean, President, Canadian Space Agency. “Neptec is leveraging its unique expertise to design a system that will play a critical role in helping the space community assure the success of sending exploratory vehicles to the moon, Mars and beyond.”

On STS-128, NASA will test the TriDAR vision system during the mission’s rendezvous, docking, undocking and fly-around operations. Using a 3D sensor and thermal imager, TriDAR will track the International Space Station (ISS) from the Shuttle Discovery acquiring the data needed to successfully mate the two vehicles. The first of its kind, TriDAR does not use reflector targets and instead guides two vehicles together by using information about the geometrical shape of the spacecraft. This novel technology makes it possible in the future to service spacecraft, including many satellites already in orbit, which were not fitted with docking targets.

“To answer the questions we have about our solar system and beyond, we need to continue pushing the boundaries of science and engineering,” said Mike Kearns, Vice President of Space Exploration Systems, Neptec. “Whether it is exploring the surface of the planet Mars, collecting lunar samples or servicing satellites, we need a way to conduct missions efficiently and without risk to human life. Executing unmanned missions is critical to our success, and the TriDAR system is a critical component of that process.”

Developed by Neptec with the support of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, TriDAR has applications beyond rendezvous and docking. With short and long-range sensing capabilities, the system is being developed as a navigation system for lunar rovers, vehicle inspection, and will enable helicopter pilots to land in inhospitable and obscured environments. TriDAR combines Neptec’s LIDAR technology with the functionality of Neptec’s Laser Camera System (LCS) which is used by NASA on each mission, to inspect the Shuttle for damage that may occur during launch.

About Neptec

Specializing in advanced space, defense and industrial systems and applications, Neptec maintains a reputation of quality and reliability in the design, manufacturing, installation and support of its sensor systems with the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and other major space programs. With new solutions for aerospace, defense and industry, Neptec, a NASA prime contractor, continues to be a pioneer in the innovative use of mission critical systems and applications.

For further information

Media contact: Cerys Goodall, High Road Communications, (416) 644-2254,

SpaceRef staff editor.