NASA Puts XBees in Orbit

On Monday, March 6 at 10:20 p.m. Pacific time. NASA released TechEdSat 5 (Technical and Educational Satellite 5) satellite equipped with Digi XBee 802.15.4 modules as part of a test program for wireless communications between satellites and payloads from the International Space Station (ISS). TechEdSat 5 has been collecting data every 10 seconds and transmitting it from these radios via Wi-Fi ground link to monitor aerodynamics, gravity vector and magnetic field (for orbital positioning). As of August 2017, TechEdSat 5 continues to generate data from orbit, greatly exceeding its planned 6-week mission length. The data will be used to design passive de-orbit system for future space station payloads, so that experimental samples can be quickly returned from the ISS without waiting for a cargo mission.

The TechEdSat 5 mission has two goals:

  1. Assisted GPS positioning for orbital determination (including aiming of antennas).
  2. Checking the orbit and orbital decay before modulated Exo-Brake deployment, during full deployment and throughout the remainder of the de-orbital braking process.

The TechEdSat program is used to bring engineering interns up to speed with real spacecraft and space operations. Interns do most of the development and testing work, with everything reviewed by professional staff to guarantee mission reliability and safety.

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