NASA Scientists Use RAIN RFID to Monitor Spacecraft Temperatures

Impinj Monza X-8K Dura tag chip allows NASA to wirelessly monitor hull temperatures on upcoming mission spacecraft.

NASA needed a new way to gather critical sensor data on spacecraft while meeting their precise specifications. NASA considered many technologies, and ultimately, selected the Impinj Monza® X-8K Dura RAIN RFID tag chip for their sensor tag. The tag chip enables a durable, low-mass solution that can last for years without any regular maintenance. The solution provides:

  • Low-mass that does not unnecessarily take up space
  • Passive tags able to operate independently for years
  • Ability to withstand harsh environments in space
  • Tag chip that meets strict NASA requirements and quality assurance
Stefan Berthmann
Stefan Berthmann
Regional Sales Manager
Munich, Germany

Innovating environmental tracking in a high-stakes environment

NASA set out to eliminate wiring on sensors to increase the amount of information the system can collect while reducing its overall mass. Wire harness accounted for approximately 60% of the original Developmental Flight Instrumentation (DFI) system’s mass. DFI systems are used to collect data intended to validate the spacecraft’s environments, operations, and other factors. Additionally, each spacecraft mission lasts years, sometimes decades, and NASA needed a reliable, low-maintenance solution.

After considering various wireless communication technologies, engineers at NASA selected the Impinj Monza X-8K Dura tag chip for their DFI. By implementing Monza, NASA was able to reduce the DFI’s overall mass while providing a reliable data communications link.

How it works:

  • Tag chips are built into the spacecraft’s sensors. Monza X-8K Dura chips have re-writable capabilities and can hold current information outputted by the sensor. Sensors may monitor different conditions such as temperature, CO2, and battery levels which need to be accurately relayed to scientists on the ground.
  • A single DFI is installed in the spacecraft. The DFI hibernates until called upon by scientists to interrogate each tag. Each DFI unit contains an Impinj Indy R2000 reader chip which is used to read the tag.
  • The DFI asks each chip for data. When scientists on the ground want to access information in the spacecraft, they “wake up” the DFI which then interrogates each tag chip for its current sensor information.

When resources are scarce, RAIN RFID performs with the highest accuracy

  • Passive tags only need minuscule maintenance
    Because RAIN RFID chips are only powered when they are in use, system battery life can extend to several years. Unlike Bluetooth or cellular systems, which are active communication systems, RAIN RFID has a low power burden. The low power burden means smaller or fewer batteries can be used which helps cut down on overall mass.
  • Small size, perfect for space
    When every gram of mass counts, getting the smallest item you can, without sacrificing performance, is essential. NASA engineers recognize that the Monza X-8K Dura tag chip not only meets their mass requirements for space travel but their performance requirements as well.
  • Industry leading accuracy for a high-stakes enviroment
    There is no room for mistakes in space travel. With the Monza X-8K Dura tag chip, NASA scientists can depend on each chip to respond to their requests reliably and accurately.

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