Digi International takes IoT into space

March 06, 2017 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Digi International® has announced that its Digi XBee® 802.15.4 modules will be used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of a test program for wireless communications within satellites and payloads from the International Space Station (ISS).

Slightly after noontime on Monday, 6th March, Central Time, at an altitude of approximately 250 miles, the ISS will release a TechEdSat 5 (Technical and Educational Satellite 5), a cuboid-shaped device, approximately the size of a fire extinguisher. After a 30-minute time-period, Digi XBee modules, taking the place of wired connections, will begin to operate as the wireless "data-crossroads" between key components of the satellite. At ten second intervals, the Digi XBees will transmit important orbital data within the satellite including the satellite's translational acceleration and angular rate, magnetic field, atmospheric pressure, temperature, and strain. This data will then be used in the design of future satellites.

Typically, data communications are transmitted through wired connections, but as part of a "wireless-in-space" effort, NASA is working to augment traditional wiring with wireless networking to lessen weight, increase payload capacity and create new communication models. For example, through wireless communications, future satellites could communicate directly with each other in a mesh network.

"This is another example of the limitless possibilities of wireless communications," said Rob Faludi, chief innovation officer, Digi International. "NASA is continually expanding the boundaries of creating and applying innovative technologies and we're thrilled to be part of these efforts."

In addition to testing wireless communications within the satellite while in orbit, the mission will include the testing of a passive de-orbit system for the ISS to bring samples back to earth in an "on-demand" model.