Success Stories: MSTAR

ATA's Magnetohydrodynamic Stable Reference (MSTAR) Inertial Reference Unit (MIRU) Proves a Success for the NASA SBIR Program

Under the NASA MSTAR SBIR program, ATA developed an MSTAR Inertial Reference Unit (MIRU) prototype that not only serves as a high-quality optical inertial reference unit but also provides a stable platform capable of sub-micron performance. The MIRU utilizes ATA’s proprietary Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) angular rate sensors (ARS's) along with ATA’s high efficiency actuators, Kalman filters, and real-time controls to achieve exceptional precision. The innovations achieved by ATA in the NASA MSTAR SBIR program have led to multiple accomplishments in commercial and government/scientific applications.

In addition to several patents, a key accomplishment derived from the NASA MSTAR SBIR program was the design, integration and test of MIRU III. ATA originally designed MIRU III for Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT LL) to use in the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC’s) Mars Laser Communications Demonstration Program as a means of pointing a laser from a Mars orbiter to Earth receiving stations. MIT LL modified that design and transferred it to the NASA GSFC Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) Program. LLCD flew on the NASA Ames Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) satellite, winner of Popular Mechanic’s 2014 Breakthrough Award.  LLCD was powered-on, and its signal was acquired on September 27th, 2013.  LLCD began to demonstrate the capabilities of long distance laser communications, from the Moon to the Earth, with the first successful pass occurring on October 18th, 2013. The success of LLCD serves as a foundation for the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). NASA GSFC is incorporating ATA's space-qualified inertially stable platform product into the LCRD optical module. According to NASA’s LCRD Overview webpage, LCRD is NASA’s first, long-duration optical communications mission and will help mature concepts and deliver technologies applicable to both near-Earth and deep-space communication network missions. A commercial geosynchronous communications satellite will host LCRD for a launch in 2017.  

To read more about ATA’s success with the MSTAR NASA SBIR, please click here.

Inertial Reference Unit