At 5:02am on April 28 at the International Space Station, Astronaut Tim Peake successfully activated STRATA – thus beginning a year-long experiment for 13 NASA scientists. With the flip of a switch, the efforts of Texas Space Technology Applications and Research (T STAR), a small startup company in the Brazos Valley and two undergraduate students in the Electronic Systems Engineering Technology Program at Texas A&M University came to fruition.
STRATA investigated the behavior of regolith, the powdery substance found on the moon and other terrestrial objects such as asteroids. In June of last year, the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at Johnson Space Center contacted Mr. Matt Leonard, president of T STAR and asked him to design and develop the embedded intelligence subsystem that would monitor, control, and record the experiment being fabricated by the scientific team. Leonard then partnered with the Mobile Integrated Solutions Laboratory within the ESET Program to work with his company on the necessary hardware and software requirements. Leveraging the Microchip-based NESI+ technology, Dakotah Karrer and Vince Rodriguez developed the overall design and implemented three units (Flight, Ground, and Test) for the STRATA experiment in partnership with T STAR.
“We are up and running!” said Dr. Kristen Johns, NASA post-doctoral fellow and STRATA deputy project manager. In email correspondence immediately following successful activation of STRATA, overall project manager Mr. Lee Graham said “Tell Vince and Dakotah they did a great job!”
“T STAR is ecstatic about activation of our first on orbit flight article,” said Leonard. “This is just another example of the power of the partnership with Texas A&M. Working with Aggie engineers is one of the reasons T STAR chose Bryan/College Station for its world headquarters.”