Aitech Provides Space-Rated Systems to Intuitive Machines for Successful IM-1 Mission to the Moon

Aitech provided Intuitive Machines with a complete avionics computer system for the IM-1 Mission, which landed on the Moon on February 22, 2024. The space-rated system developed by Aitech includes its SP0-S space-rated single board computer, S740 radiation-tolerant communications PMC board, and S730, a rugged space-rated SpaceWire card. 

Intuitive Machines is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, a crucial part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts. IM-1 is one of the missions NASA has chosen to take its scientific instruments to the moon over the next few years to help lay the foundation for human missions and a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.

CLPS mission objectives include demonstrating precision landing, observing how rocket plumes and space weather interact with the lunar surface, and testing certain communication and navigation node capabilities for future autonomous navigation technologies.

Aitech provided the complete conduction-cooled hardware for the Nova-C avionics system, which can be used as both a payload controller and image data processor. Intuitive Machines utilized this dual SP0-S setup to run VxWorks RTOS and Linux to execute its time-critical software while processing video data streams down to a NAND flash storage module. This unique dual SBC system leverages RS-422, SpaceWire cameras, and NAND flash storage in an all-in-one space-rated avionics system.

Ralph Grundler, Aitech’s Space Director, said, “We aim to support the most demanding space applications with computing and connectivity electronics systems while continuously anticipating and exceeding the needs and expectations of the space industry for not only Lunar but also LEO, GEO, and Deep Space applications. The Nova-C class lunar lander’s system exemplifies how Aitech is developing rugged space system solutions capable of providing reliable performance for the most unforgiving environments. 

Aitech’s space-rated SP0-S is a radiation-tolerant 3U CompactPCI SBC developed to handle high-performance processing and enhanced memory storage in orbit. Aitech’s SP0-S architecture supports up to seven additional cards on the CompactPCI backplane, providing clock, arbitration, and interrupt servicing, including additional SP0-S SBCs as peripheral processors, as seen in the Nova-C lunar lander.

The S740 radiation-tolerant communications PMC is designed with 16 input and 16 output differential channels of RS-422 and utilizes the onboard FPGA logic to interface to external spacecraft sensors and devices. It is also designed to reduce bottlenecks with a protected onboard PCI Bus DMA controller for input and output data packet buffering.

The radiation-tolerant S730 SpaceWire PMC Card offers three SpaceWire ports with initiator and target capability and has provisions to add on RS422 serial interfaces and 32 GPIOs for complete system communication.

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