Ottawa firm Neptec gets $1.7M contract to design International Space Station sensors

Neptec Design Group Ltd. will develop sensors to help monitor damage to the International Space Station caused by meteorites as well as general wear and tear, the Canada Space Agency announced Thursday.

Sensors expected to be installed by 2020

By 2020, the International Space Station will be home to a sensor system developed by Ottawa firm Neptec that will monitor damage caused by orbital objects and general wear and tear, the Canadian Space Agency announced Thursday. (NASA)

An Ottawa space flight engineering firm will be responsible for developing sensors to help monitor the condition of the aging International Space Station.

Neptec Design Group Ltd. has been awarded a $1.7-million contract to design an "advanced space vision system" that will both keep an eye on the ISS's aging infrastructure and help spacecraft successfully dock there, the Canadian Space Agency announced Thursday.

The space station has been orbiting earth since 1998.

Roughly the size of a microwave oven, the system will use a combination of three different sensors — a high-definition camera, an infrared camera, and a 3D laser — and will be mounted on Dextre, the space agency's robotic helper on board the ISS.

Dextre will use Neptec's forthcoming system to inspect the toll that the harsh environment of space takes upon the station, which is regularly hit by small meteorites and other debris, the agency said in a news release.

The new sensors are expected to be in place by 2020, and the images they capture will be viewable by the public, said the agency.

It's not the first time Neptec has been asked to develop technology to benefit the International Space Station.

In 2014, an unmanned spaceship traveling to the ISS tested the Ottawa firm's TriDAR sensor system, an automated guidance system designed to help ships dock properly.