Ottawa based Neptec scored its first post-Shuttle contract last week when it reached an agreement with Orbital Sciences Corporation to provide its TriDAR rendezvous and docking sensor for Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft.
Neptec’s TriDAR combines a short-range autosynchronous triangulation sensor with a long-range Time-of-flight Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) sensor. The TriDAR operates from 0.5 meters to over 2000 meters. Orbital will use Neptec’s TriDAR for automated real-time visual guidance for navigation, rendezvous and docking procedures.
Neptec received support from the Canadian Space Agency and NASA during its 10 year development of the TriDAR. The TriDAR system was used on three shuttle mission. The first in 2009 on STS-128 which was then followed up with usage on STS-131 and finally on the shuttle programs last mission which came to end last week on STS-135.
“The TriDAR program is a textbook example of what can be done when government and the private sector work together,” said Neptec president and CEO Iain Christie. “This week is bittersweet for all of us involved with the space program as we wrap up the Shuttle era, which has been a central part of our lives. But this announcement shows we are taking our knowledge and experience from that program and continuing to make important contributions to the Space Station and beyond.”
Orbital has developed the Cygnus automated robotic cargo resupply spacecraft to serve the International Space Station (ISS). Under contract to NASA, Orbital will initially provide eight resupply flights to the ISS. Orbital has initially purchased 13 TriDAR’s from Neptec.
Artist concept of Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft approaching the ISS. Credit: Orbital.
Neptec’s TriDAR technology is versatile in that it can be used for more than just rendezvous and docking. It has applications for planetary landing, rover navigation, site and vehicle inspection.
The TriDAR is also the basis for Neptec’s Obscurant Penetrating Autosynchronous LiDAR (OPAL) solution for degraded visual environment mapping in brownout, whiteout and fogout conditions and is targeted at the defence sector including use by helicopter pilots.