NASA's IRIS to Launch with Antennas from CMU-SV Startup X5 Systems-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NASA's IRIS to Launch with Antennas from CMU-SV Startup X5 Systems

X5 Systems antenna deployed on the IRIS spacecraft
X5 Systems antenna deployed on the IRIS spacecraft

NASA’s latest small explorer mission, launching June 27, will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with communication equipment from X5 Systems, a spinoff startup of Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley (CMU-SV) co-founded by CMU-SV Associate Research Professor Jason Lohn.

The IRIS mission (for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) will observe activity in the sun’s lower atmosphere, using an ultraviolet telescope to examine the movement of solar material and energy between the surface and the corona. The information carried by the advanced antennas will advance understanding of this complex region.

Lohn, the director of the Carnegie Mellon Innovations Lab (CMIL), has worked on several projects with NASA, including leading a team that successfully deployed X-band antennas in space aboard the Space Technology 5 mission in 2006. CMU-SV is located on the NASA Ames Research Park and has ongoing collaborative research partnerships with NASA.

“NASA's IRIS mission has demanding antenna requirements that were hard to meet with conventional antenna designs,” Lohn explained. The advanced evolved antenna optimization technology from X5 Systems was able to meet these needs.

X5 Systems develops communication antennas that include artificial intelligence optimization algorithms, and also licenses antenna synthesis software to optimize design, allowing faster, more efficient development for complex projects like the IRIS mission. In 2012, they received a $1 million grant from the Office of Naval Research under the Rapid Innovation Fund program. (Read more about X5 Systems.)

“We were pleased that our technology was selected and ultimately deployed as three antennas on the IRIS spacecraft,” Lohn said. In addition to his research, Lohn also advises students from CMU’s bicoastal Ph.D. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering as an Associate Research Professor.

The IRIS launch is scheduled for 7:27 p.m. PDT Thursday, June 27. Syvertson Auditorium in Building N201 will be open at 5 p.m. to pass holders for a viewing of the launch. The AMES Exploration Center will be open to the public to view the launch and live NASA TV launch coverage will be begin at 6 pm. PDT. For NASA TV streaming video, visit: nasa.gov/ntv.