Radiation Tolerant FPGA-Based Computer System Price €36,000

Terran Orbital is excited to offer a computer system that delivers tolerance to ionizing radiation in static random-access memory (SRAM)-based field-programmable gate array (FPGA) through a novel fault mitigation strategy. This novel computer system achieves radiation tolerance through a new architecture that can detect, avoid, and repair faults caused by high energy ionizing radiation by exploiting the re-programmability of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) FPGA combined with an external spatial radiation sensor for environmental awareness.

This fault mitigation approach has been shown to deliver higher reliability, increased computation and power efficiency, and an order of magnitude cost reduction compared to existing radiation-hardened computer systems. This technology represents a significant advance in state-of-the-art space computing capabilities. The technology has been matured through variety of projects funded from NASA including cyclotron bombardment and high altitude balloon flights. Upcoming tests include a sounding rocket flight, demonstration on the international space station, and stand-alone orbital mission in a small-satellite form factor. The computer system is available with all of the fault mitigations built in, ready for the user to start designing the code and programmable logic.

Computer System

A many-core computer architecture has been combined with fault detection and recovery using partial reconfiguration of an FPGA for localized repair. The FPGA fabric is partitioned into tiles which contain homogenous soft processors. At any given time, three processors are configured in triple modulo redundancy (TMR) to detect faults. Spare processors are brought online to replace faulted tiles in real time. A recovery procedure involving partial reconfiguration is used to repair faulted tiles. This type of approach has the advantage of recovering from faults in both the circuit fabric and the configuration RAM of an FPGA in addition to spatially avoiding permanently damaged regions of the chip.

Sensor System

An external radiation sensor for environmental awareness was fabricated at the Montana Micro-fabrication Facility at Montana State University. This sensor is coupled with the FPGA to reduce the latency between a fault occurrence and repair by the scrubber. The overall size of the sensor is 20 × 20 mm, making it large enough to cover any commercially available FPGA die. The sensor was designed with 16 channels on each side to give a total of 256 discrete detection pixels. A 300-μm-thick intrinsic silicon wafer was used as the base material for fabrication. The sensor system was designed for modularity for ease of testing. The sensor was packaged on its own PCB, while the 32 channels of amplifier electronics were implemented on a separate 100 × 100 mm PCB into which the sensor was plugged.

Computer System Stack