Axient Delivers Human Exploration Expertise with Artemis Launch and BioSentinel CubeSat

(Image Credit: NASA)

Axient is proud to be a part of the Artemis I team at the propulsion systems certification center at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and at the launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Axient provides over 70 Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to the SLS Program, with nationally and internationally recognized expertise and experience rooted in the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle Programs, across many different discipline areas. Axient’s role on BioSentinel includes mission SE&I across science, payload, spacecraft, mission operations, and integration & test; safety & mission assurance (SLS, crewed flight); “flatsat” prototype development; integration & test; and program support, including configuration management and scheduling (IMS); payload multidisciplinary engineering, including mechanical, electrical, microfluidics engineering to design, prototyping, testing and verification of the microfluidics card, and mechanical and software engineering; spacecraft lifecycle development, including multidisciplinary engineering, mechanical, GNC, power, electrical, materials, software/firmware, machining and prototyping, purchasing of body panels, avionics Bus system development board layout manufacturing and fabrication, and solar panels.

In November, NASA and its contractors launched Artemis I, the inaugural voyage for the world’s most powerful rocket. Described as the first step in the next era of human exploration, Artemis, an uncrewed flight test, launched SLS and sent Orion around the Moon and back to Earth. This occurred before any crewed flights and signals NASA’s intent to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon. It also serves as a gateway for future missions to Mars.

The BioSentinel 6U CubeSat, developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley with contract support from Axient personnel, was successfully deployed from the rocket’s Orion stage adapter (OSA) following the separation of NASA’s Orion spacecraft during the Artemis I lunar mission. This CubeSat performed a Lunar gravity-assist flyby to inject the small spacecraft into heliocentric orbit, where it is fully out of the Earth’s protective magnetosphere and exposed to severe radiation directly from the sun, solar wind, and galactic cosmic rays. BioSentinel’s heliocentric orbit was designed to expose yeast cells to varying deep space radiation levels in an experiment to measure and understand the effects of long-term exposure to radiation on the cell activity and survival of these organisms. Measuring and understanding these effects is a way to better understand the impacts of long-term exposure to deep space radiation on humans (e.g., during a Mars mission). A side effect of the mission’s environment is radiation-induced corruption of digital memory, wherein automated error detection and correction are required to provide accurate experimental data for downlink via NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Axient’s own expert, Dave Varvell, developed the flash memory and file system driver, as well as the error detection and correction flight software component, for BioSentinel. He also worked the integration into BioSentinel’s embedded flight software and developed the flight software patch to BioSentinel’s VxWorks real-time operating system to correct task management problems, with instructions for loading and integration with BioSentinel’s flight software load. Dave developed the flight code that was patched via radio uplink after ejection from Artemis I and injection into its initial lunar flyby trajectory. Normally any patch to BioSentinel’s VxWorks operating system would have been too large to uplink, but Dave created a scheme to uplink binary differences with the compiled onboard VxWorks OS load module and apply those differences to the running VxWorks code at the binary level. The patch file was only 3% the size of the entire VxWorks code. This patch was successfully deployed and installed on BioSentinel several weeks ago and continues to ensure that BioSentinel science data recorded to flash memory for downlink remains uncorrupted.

Axient is very proud to be a contributor to NASA’s SLS program, to be a part of the rejuvenation of domestic capabilities to return to the Moon and beyond, and to extend US preeminence in human space exploration. To read more about NASA’s BioSentinel program click here: BioSentinel | NASA. To read more about Axient’s SLS experience and capabilities, click here: NASA Artemis I Launch Successful, Axient Proud to be on SLS Team | Axient (