The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced today the awarding of a $1.7 million contract to design a new vision system, which will be mounted on the International Space Station (ISS)’s Dextre, the agency’s robotic handyman aboard the space station.
The contract was awarded to Neptec Design Group Ltd., of Ottawa. The system is slated to be launched in 2020.
According to the Government of Canada, the new vision system will be comprised of three sensors: a 3-D laser, a high-definition camera, and an infrared camera. It will be used to inspect and maintain the ISS’s infrastructure, and can potentially assist with visiting spacecraft docking.
Today, such inspections are carried out by cameras on Canadarm2 and Dextre, or by sending astronauts out on spacewalks, to name a couple methods.
The ISS is not impervious to cosmic hazards. Regularly, the spacecraft, which orbits the Earth every 90 min, is hit by small meteorites and debris.
The new vision system, roughly the size of a microwave, will be operated by ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas, or the CSA’s headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec.
“Neptec is pleased to have this opportunity to adapt our world-class 3-D LIDAR and infrared camera technologies to enhance the safe operation of the (ISS) and support future space exploration,” said Neptec’s CEO Paul Nephin. “Spin-offs from the technology will give us an edge in world markets for Earth applications such as increased mining productivity, safer operation of subsea oil and gas infrastructure, and guiding self-driving vehicles.”
Once launched, the images captured by the system will be available for public consumption.