FPGA paves the way for power-saving and high-speed processing in space

24-08-2022 | Microchip Technology | Semiconductors

Microchip Technology Inc has achieved the first qualification milestone with its RT PolarFire FPGA, allowing designers to assemble spaceflight systems that take advantage of this FPGA's outstanding computing and connectivity throughput and exceptionally lower power consumption and immunity to configuration SEUs compared to SRAM-based FPGAs.

"Microchip is a QML-certified manufacturer of high-reliability FPGAs for space applications and has attained the highest available Class V qualification multiple times on FPGAs and other integrated circuits," said Shakeel Peera, vice president of marketing for Microchip's FPGA business unit. "This MIL-STD-883 class B qualification is yet another big step toward solving some of spaceflight's most difficult system challenges, including reducing satellite signal processing congestion with much lower power consumption and greater reliability than is possible using alternative FPGA solutions. We have started the final step of qualifying our RT PolarFire FPGAs to both QML Class Q and Class V requirements."

To accomplish MIL-STD-883 Class B qualification, these FPGAs passed a succession of environmental tests to define resistance to the harmful effects of natural elements, the conditions of defence and space operations and mechanical and electrical tests. Passing these tests drives the way for QML Class Q and V qualification while displaying the reliability advantages of the FPGAs in space. Their embedded configuration switches are robust to more than 100krad of total ionising dose radiation exposure, which makes them excellent for most earth-orbiting satellites and many deep space missions. Unlike other solutions, these devices do not display any configuration upsets in radiation and thus need no mitigation, lessening engineering expenses and BoM.

These FPGAs consume up to 50% less power than SRAM-based alternatives while allowing on-orbit data processing systems to satisfy demanding performance needs and dependable operation without excessive heat generation in the extreme radiation environment of space. Their unique combination of Logic Elements (LEs), embedded SRAM, DSP blocks and 12.7Gbps transceiver lanes allow higher resolution for passive and active imaging, more channels and finer channel resolution for multi-spectral and hyper-spectral imaging and more precise scientific measurements utilising noisy data from remote sources.

The FPGAs can also be paired with one or more of the company's complementary solutions in today's spaceflight systems, including its Ethernet PHY VSC8541RT, CAN interface USB-to-UART PHYs, clocks and oscillators from its clock and timing solutions group and power solutions from its analog power and interface group.