NASA strikes agreement for next gen spaceflight processor
NASA has selected US firm Microchip Technology to take the reins developing a “high-performance” spaceflight computing processor that will support future space missions.
Arizona-based Microchip has been tasked to create a processor that will provide at least 100 times the computational capacity of current spaceflight computers. NASA said this “key capability” would all future space missions, from planetary exploration to lunar and Mars surface missions.
“This cutting-edge spaceflight processor will have a tremendous impact on our future space missions and even technologies here on Earth,” affirms Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation within the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“This effort will amplify existing spacecraft capabilities and enable new ones and could ultimately be used by virtually every future space mission, all benefiting from more capable flight computing.”
According to NASA, Microchip will architect, design, and deliver the HPSC processor over three years at the tune of a $50m fixed-price contract. It assures the design will have a higher fault tolerance and will also be more reliable.
Babak Samimi, corporate vice president for Microchip’s Communications business unit, said on the development of the processor: “It will deliver comprehensive Ethernet networking, advanced artificial intelligence/machine learning processing and connectivity support while offering unprecedented performance gain.
“We will foster an industry wide ecosystem of single board computer partners anchored on the HPSC processor and Microchip’s complementary space-qualified total system solutions to benefit a new generation of mission-critical edge compute designs optimised for size, weight, and power.”
The processor will “ebb and flow”, added Microchip, depending on current operational requirements, not only reducing energy usage but also improving overall computing efficiency for journeys into space.
It also boasts the potential of this technology, stating that the processor will be useful to other governments and, in time, potentially be used for commercial systems on Earth that require similar computing needs as space.
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