NASA has announced that the BioSentinel CubeSat is nearing flight-ready status after the satellite has completed assembly and battery testing. BioSentinel operates at the NASA Ames Research Center in California and is in the last stretch of preparations before the spacecraft will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch. BioSentinel will be sent on a deep spaceflight that will go past the moon and entering orbit around the sun.
BioSentinel is one of 13 CubeSats that will launch aboard Artemis I, the first flight for the NASA Artemis program Space Launch System. The image above shows BioSentinel inside an anechoic chamber at Ames as a quality assurance engineer is inspecting it. The engineer is inspecting the satellite’s solar array after completing a test to determine the effects of electromagnetic space emissions on satellite systems.
BioSentinel will perform the first long-duration biology experiment conducted in deep space. It will conduct a six-month science investigation designed to study the effects of deep space radiation on a living organism. In this instance, the living organism used is yeast. Inside the satellite are microfluidic cards used to determine the impact of radiation on the yeast cells housed inside the card’s tiny compartments.
The microfluidic cards have a dye that provides a readout of yeast cell activity with a color change from blue to pink. The experiment is designed to help researchers better understand the radiation risks of long-duration deep space human exploration. BioSentinel is also intended to test new technology using the BioSensor payload as a living radiation detector. The heart of that system is the microfluidic cards containing yeast cells. When the cells are activated in space, they sense and respond to damage caused by space radiation.