Biosentinel 6U CubeSat format.jpg
BioSentinel CubeSat satellite
Mission typeAstrobiology, space medicine
COSPAR ID Edit this at Wikidata
Mission duration18 months (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeCubeSat
Bus6U CubeSat
ManufacturerNASA / Ames Research Center
Launch mass14 kg (31 lb) [1]
Dimensions10 cm × 20 cm × 30 cm
Power30 watts (solar panels)
Start of mission
Launch date3 September 2022 (planned)
RocketSLS Block 1
Launch siteKSC, LC-39B
Orbital parameters
Reference systemHeliocentric orbit

BioSentinel is a planned low-cost CubeSat spacecraft on a astrobiology mission that will use budding yeast to detect, measure, and compare the impact of deep space radiation on DNA repair over long time beyond low Earth orbit.[1][2]

Selected in 2013 for a 2022 launch, the spacecraft will operate in the deep space radiation environment throughout its 18-month mission.[3] This will help scientists understand the health threat from cosmic rays and deep space environment on living organisms and reduce the risk associated with long-term human exploration, as NASA plans to send humans farther into space than ever before.[2][3]

The mission is being developed by NASA Ames Research Center.


BioSentinel is one of ten low-cost CubeSat missions that will fly as secondary payloads aboard Artemis 1 (formerly known as Exploration Mission 1), the first test flight of NASA's Space Launch System.[4] The spacecraft will be deployed in cis-lunar space as NASA's first mission to send living organisms beyond low Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.[5]


The primary objective of BioSentinel is to develop a biosensor using a simple model organism (yeast) to detect, measure, and correlate the impact of space radiation to living organisms over long durations beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) and into heliocentric orbit. While progress has been made with simulations, no terrestrial laboratory can duplicate the unique space radiation environment.[2][3]

Biological science

The BioSentinel biosensor uses the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to detect and measure DNA damage response after exposure to the deep space radiation environment.[6] Two yeast strains were selected for this mission: a wild type strain proficient in DNA repair, and a strain defective in the repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs), deleterious lesions generated by ionizing radiation. Budding yeast was selected not only because of its flight heritage, but also because of its similarities with human cells, especially its DSB repair mechanisms.[1] The biosensor consists of specifically engineered yeast strains and growth medium containing a metabolic indicator dye. Therefore, culture growth and metabolic activity of yeast cells directly indicate successful repair of DNA damage.[1][3]

After completing the Moon flyby and spacecraft checkout, the science mission phase will begin with the wetting of the first set of yeast-containing wells with specialized media.[3] Multiple sets of wells will be activated at different time points over the 18-month mission. One reserve set of wells will be activated in the occurrence of a solar particle event (SPE). Approximately, a 4 to 5 krad total ionizing dose is anticipated.[1][7] Payload science data and spacecraft telemetry will be stored on board and then downloaded to the ground.[3]

Biological measurements will be compared to data provided by onboard radiation sensors and dosimeters. Additionally, three identical BioSentinel payloads will be developed for comparison reference, one of them will be exposed at low Earth orbit outside the International Space Station (ISS), where there is a comparatively low-radiation environment due to Earth's magnetic field protecting the space station.[1][3]


Representative heliocentric orbit of the BioSentinel spacecraft
Representative heliocentric orbit of the BioSentinel spacecraft

The Biosentinel spacecraft will consist on a 6U CubeSat bus format, with external dimensions of 10 cm × 20 cm × 30 cm and a mass of about 14 kg (31 lb).[1][2][3][8][9] At launch, BioSentinel resides within the second stage on the launch vehicle from which it is deployed to a lunar flyby trajectory and into an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit.

Of the total 6 Units volume, 4 Units will hold the science payload, including a radiation dosimeter and a dedicated 3-color spectrometer for each well; 0.5U will house the ADCS (Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem), 0.5U will house the EPS (Electrical Power System) and C&DH (Command and Data Handling) avionics, and 1U will house the attitude control thruster assembly, which will be 3D printed all in one piece: cold gas (DuPont R236fa) propellant tanks, lines and seven nozzles. The use of 3D printing also allows the optimization of space for increased propellant storage (165 grams [6]).[10] The thrust of each nozzle is 50 mN, and a specific impulse of 31 seconds.[10] The attitude control system is being developed and fabricated by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Electric power will be generated by deployable solar panels rated at 30 watts, and telecommunications will rely on the Iris transponder at X-band.[1]

The spacecraft is being developed by NASA Ames Research Center (AMR), in collaboration with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and NASA Headquarters.[1][2]

See also

The 10 CubeSats flying in the Artemis 1 mission
The 3 CubeSat missions removed from Artemis 1
Astrobiology missions


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ricco, Tony (2014). "BioSentinel: DNA Damage-and-Repair Experiment Beyond Low Earth Orbit" (PDF). NASA Ames Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c d e "NASA TechPort -- BioSentinel Project". NASA. Retrieved 19 November 2015. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Caldwell, Sonja (15 April 2019). "BioSentinel". NASA. Retrieved 9 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Clark, Stephen (12 October 2021). "Adapter structure with 10 CubeSats installed on top of Artemis moon rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  5. ^ Clark, Stephen (8 April 2015). "NASA adding to list of CubeSats flying on first SLS mission". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b Hugo Sanchez (20 April 2016). "BioSentinel: Mission Development of a Radiation Biosensor to Gauge DNA Damage and Repair Beyond Low Earth Orbit on a 6U Nanosatellite" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 12 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "BioSentinel: Enabling CubeSat Scale Biological Research Beyond Low Earth Orbit" (PDF). NASA. 26 May 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ Krebs, Gunter (18 May 2020). "BioSentinel". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  9. ^ Krebs, Gunter (18 May 2020). "NEA-Scout". Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b Terry Stevenson, Glenn Lightsey (2017). "Design and characterization of a 3D-printed attitude control thruster for an interplanetary 6U CubeSat". Georgia Institute of Technology. Retrieved 12 March 2021.