NASA engineers unveil modular avionics systems for smaller missions

The team of designers — led by project manager and chief engineer Noosha Haghani — unveiled what it calls “MUSTANG,” an acronym for Modular Unified Space Technology for Next Generation missions. The technology  acts as the mission’s brain and central nervous system, controlling every function needed to gather scientific data from a Small Explorer-type mission, which could include everything from spacecraft command and data handling to attitude control, power, and propulsion. The team also developed a variation of the system — iMUSTANG — to handle instrument electronics; like its namesake sibling, iMUSTANG allows users to choose different capabilities depending on instrument needs.

The Goddard team leveraged years of knowledge gained during the development of ‘s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, or MMS, as they sought to design a significantly smaller craft-electronics system. Starting from the regular MMS system, the MUSTANG team first reduced the size of the housing box by half; following design and testing, the team created 22 lightweight, high-capability cards, including one that controls higher-speed communications of up to 1.2 gigabits per second. The two MUSTANG variations use mix-and-match electronics cards to present mission and instrument developers with

Goddard technologist Noosha Haghani with one of the boards she and her team designed for the new MUSTANG avionics system. Photo credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk.

a smaller, highly modular, off-the-shelf avionics system that can be customized to meet virtually any smaller mission requirement. Haghani notes that while MUSTANG may be inappropriate for some large, flagship-style spacecraft, it is just right for deployment on smaller missions.

The two MUSTANG variations have already attracted users: NASA’s Pre-Aerosols Clouds and Ocean Ecosystems mission (PACE) and the Global Ecosystems Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) have chosen MUSTANG to run their operations and are funding development of…

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