Integrating Low-Power Sensors With Passive RFID Tags for International Space Station Carbon Dioxide Monitoring


Member profile details

Membership level
2012-2013 Team
Team Name
Project Title
Integrating Low-Power Sensors With Passive RFID Tags for International Space Station Carbon Dioxide Monitoring
Design Challenge
The microgravity environment on the International Space Station (ISS) causes gases to diffuse irregularly, leading to the formation of hazardous carbon dioxide pockets. The purpose of this project is to design a low-power sensor system which integrates with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to monitor carbon dioxide levels. Eventually, sensors to monitor other environmental conditions can be incorporated into the system.

There are several reasons to use RFID for this project. First, RFID is already used for inventory purposes onboard the ISS. A passive RFID device can be powered by energy harvested from its interrogator, allowing the overall system to be low-power. Finally, using RFID tags allows for a modular solution which can be easily implemented with the existing infrastructure of the ISS.
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Design Summary
Hermes designed a low-power CO2 sensor system that uses passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) communication for data transmission. This system allows NASA scientists to study how CO2 aggregates in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station (ISS), positioning them to address CO2-related health risks which may arise during long-duration space travel.

Our design builds off of the UMass Moo, an existing computational RFID platform. The Moo tag contains flash memory and can passively transmit sensor data to commercial readers. Our design adds an active sensing component consisting of an application microcontroller and a CO2 sensor. The sensor will continually take measurements and write data to flash memory via SPI communication. When the reader interrogates the RFID tag, the tag will transmit data from the flash memory to the reader.

Hermes has created a system that meets our design goals, demonstrating end to end data transfer from sensor to RFID reader. The team designed and fabricated the system hardware (printed circuit board (PCB)) as well as the supporting software (embedded software and a desktop user interface). After adding a daughter card to correct an error to our PCB design, the system behaved as expected and demonstrated end to end data transfer. The team has presented the final system at several design competitions to the satisfaction of our NASA clients.

Updated 4/27/13
NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas Space Grant Consortium, Sally L. Wood, Ph.D and John Robert Treichler, Ph.D
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  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Dr. Joseph Cavallaro
Award(s) and Recognition
2013 Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase: Best Engineering Design for Research
2013 Electrical and Computer Engineering Affiliates Day: 2nd Place Best Undergraduate Poster Demo

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