Radiation-tolerant SoC FPGAs for space applications

14-05-2024 | Microchip Technology | Semiconductors

Microchip Technology has launched the RT PolarFire SoC FPGA, which ensures high performance, reliability, power efficiency, and best-in-class security for emerging space domain threats. Developed on the company's RT PolarFire FPGA, it is the first real-time Linux-capable, RISC-V-based microprocessor subsystem on a flight-proven RT PolarFire FPGA fabric.

With the announcement, developers can begin designing using the commercially available PolarFire SoC (MPFS460) device and Libero SoC development tools. Along with the company's extensive Mi-V ecosystem, PolarFire SoC solution stacks, the PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit, or the PolarFire SoC Smart Embedded Vision Kit, developing lower-power solutions for the challenging thermal environments seen in space that can happen.

Safety-critical systems, control systems, and space and security applications require the flexibility of the Linux OS and the determinism of real-time systems to control hardware. RT PolarFire SoC FPGAs feature a multi-core Linux-capable processor coherent with the memory subsystem. The RT PolarFire SoC facilitates central satellite processing capabilities similar to those in SBCs, which are common in the space industry for command and data handling, platform avionics, and payload control. The SoC provides for flexible implementation of highly integrated designs, customisation, and function evolution while improving size, weight, and power considerations.

Systems deployed in space are subjected to harsh radiation, prompting design methodologies that can provide protection for the most critical radiation-induced upset types. Unlike SRAM FPGAs, the RT PolarFire SoC is designed for zero-configuration memory upsets in radiation, removing the necessity for an external scrubber and lowering the total system cost. Satellites are designed to deliver peak and average power and to dissipate heat through conductive paths, namely metal. Starting with a SoC FPGA that can reduce your power consumption by up to 50% simplifies the complete satellite design, letting designers focus on the mission at hand.

"By delivering the design ecosystem for the industry's first RISC-V-based radiation-tolerant SoC FPGA, Microchip is driving innovation and giving designers the ability to develop a whole new class of power-efficient applications for space," said Bruce Weyer, corporate vice president for Microchip's FPGA business unit. "This will also allow our clients to add enhanced edge compute capabilities to aerospace and defence systems."

The company's comprehensive Mi-V ecosystem helps designers slash time to market by providing support for symmetric multiprocessing-rich operating systems like Linux, VxWorks, PIKE OS, and more real-time operating systems like RTEMS and Zephyr. Mi-V is a comprehensive suite of tools and design resources developed with many third parties to support RISC-V designs. The Mi-V ecosystem aims to increase the adoption of the RISC-V ISA and support the company's SoC FPGA portfolio.

The RT PolarFire FPGA has already received the QML Class Q designation based on specific performance and quality requirements governed by the Defense Logistics Agency. This device has a clear path to achieve QML Class V qualification, the highest qualification standard for space microelectronics.


By Seb Springall

Seb Springall is a seasoned editor at Electropages, specialising in the product news sections. With a keen eye for the latest advancements in the tech industry, Seb curates and oversees content that highlights cutting-edge technologies and market trends.