Neptec Awarded Contract for Compact Active Sensor Technology (CAST)

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded Neptec Design Group Ltd. of Kanata,Ontario a contract valued at $344,852.57 for a concept study of a Compact Active Sensor Technology (CAST).

The CAST concept study is part of the CSA’s Exploration Core (ExCore) program to determine if this is a technology Canada could produce and would be able to contribute to future international space exploration missions. It is part of Canada’s overall space strategy of developing niche technologies.

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MSL Rover Р©NASA

Background

The following is the background information provided by the Canadian Space Agency in their tender for the contract:

Current Laser Imaging, Detection and Ranging (LIDaR) technology is producing high quality three dimensional (3D) data at the expense of a higher mass, power and volume. This constraint makes this kind of sensor unappealing for many space missions where mass, power and volume is very limited. Thus, stereo cameras are, most of the time, the fall back option when it comes to 3D sensor. Stereo cameras produce satisfactory 3D data suitable for science and rover navigation purposes. The only major issue with 3D cameras is their sensitivity to environmental lighting conditions.

The purpose of this contract is to develop an advanced compact LIDaR sensor concept that would be in direct competition with the stereo camera technology. The ultimate target is to meet the same performance as the stereo camera technology, namely, similar range, resolution, accuracy, mass, power, volume, frame rate while being immune to environmental lighting conditions.

The targeted applications are rover navigation, obstacle avoidance, on orbit servicing sensor and scientific investigations.

A review of the state of the art and a minimum of one complete concept including a technological roadmap indicating the path forward for reaching flight readiness of the proposed technology must be developed.

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