Ottawa-based Neptec lands $12M International Space Station contract

This computer-generated image shows Dextre (right) on the end of Canadarm2, holding an advanced vision system. The Canadian Space Agency's robotic helper will use it to inspect and protect the International Space Station's external surfaces. Photo: Canadian Space Agency/Neptec

The Canadian Space Agency has tapped Neptec, a local developer of intelligent space flight sensors and equipment, to deliver a new set of eyes to the International Space Station.

The Ottawa-based firm was awarded an $11.9-million contract to develop a new vision system for the ISS. A combination of three sensors will monitor the outside of the space laboratory and will give its robotic handyman – another Canadian technology dubbed “Dextre” – the ability to detect external damages.

Neptec’s vision system will help spacecraft to dock with the ISS as well as relay images of the space station back to earth. The firm said in a media release that the system will also be used to test technology for future deep space exploration missions.

“This project will bring together years of research and development in innovative sensor technology and will give Neptec an edge in the global market,” Neptec’s vice president of innovation Stéphane Ruel said in a statement.

“Such superhuman vision capability is critical in order to enable autonomous robotics from self-driving vehicles to future space exploration robots.”

When it is implemented in 2021, the new system will be operated out of NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston or out of CSA’s headquarters in St-Hubert, Que.