Space Exploration Technologies has successfully demonstrated a proximity sensor, the DragonEye, on Nasa’s STS-127 shuttle mission.

The laser imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensor underwent flight system trials on the Endeavour spacecraft to guide the Dragon spacecraft on its mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The DragonEye LIDAR system provides three-dimensional images based on the amount of time it takes for a single laser pulse from the sensor to reach a target and bounce back, thereby providing range and bearing information from the Dragon spacecraft to the ISS.

Using flight data gathered onboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, DragonEye has been able to detect the ISS and track it through various approach and departure manoeuvres using flight data gathered on the Space Shuttle.

DragonEye will perform its first operation on the Dragon spacecraft under Nasa’s commercial orbital transportation services programme, where the spacecraft will demonstrate the ability to berth with the ISS.

Space X’s Dragon spacecraft will provide cargo resupply to the ISS when the Space Shuttle retires under a contract with Nasa, which covers 12 flights between 2010 and 2015.