Electronics Design and Testing of the KREPE Atmospheric Entry Capsule Avionics

Matthew P. Ruffner, John D. Schmidt, Isaac S. Rowe, Ryan D. Nolin, William Smith, Alexandre Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Atmospheric entry flight tests are one of the best ways to evaluate the performance of new thermal protective materials, however, at full scale, they are infrequent and expensive. The Kentucky re-entry universal payload system (KRUPS) provides a low-cost solution for such evaluative missions. This work concerns electronics design, firmware implementation, and hardware integration performed for the most recent mission: Kentucky re-entry probe experiment (KREPE). KREPE avionics and electrical hardware were designed to meet operational, environmental, and safety requirements imposed by the ISS and Northrop Grumman (NG), as well as physical constraints due to capsule size. KREPE system firmware was designed to meet the communication uncertainties and operational constraints of a re-entry mission while maximizing the amount of scientific data produced by each capsule. Functional verification and environmental certification prior to the mission indicated that all three capsules would function as expected and all three were delivered to the ISS aboard the NG resupply vehicle NG-16. The mission was a success and three KREPE capsules de-orbited into the South Pacific Ocean on December 2021, transmitting back heating data from two capsules. The success of the two capsules verified the electrical hardware design, software implementation, and build workmanship. Receiving in-flight heating data is of importance for materials modeling to further validate their computational models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-388
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Journal on Miniaturization for Air and Space Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 IEEE.


  • Avionics
  • embedded systems
  • flight test
  • microprocessors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Transportation


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