Roughly this time last year, NASA officials were instructed essentially to put the quest to launch more men in space on the back burner, and focus efforts on developing “game-changing” technologies. NASA is and has been partnering with industry firms to do just that. In recent months, in fact, the aerospace industry has revealed radiation-hardened (rad-hard) innovations.
Throughout 2010, companies serving the mil/aero market have unveiled a wealth of rad-hard electronics, microelectronics, and electro-optics.
Radiation-hardened electronic components and systems are designed to be resistant to damage or malfunctions caused by ionizing radiation, particles or electromagnetic waves that are energetic enough to detach electrons from atoms or molecules—a major and ever-present hazard in high-altitude and outer space environments. Radiation effects mitigation is, therefore, of paramount importance to space missions and ensuring mission-critical electronics continue to function properly. After all, systems maintenance and repair in space are both costly and time consuming, as missions to make repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station have shown.
Among the mil/aero industry firms that have partnered with NASA to advance aerospace technologies, including rad-hard electronics, is Mentor Graphics.
In June 2010, Mentor announced Precision Rad-Tolerant, a radiation effects mitigation software tool that was developed under NASA’s guidance. Mentor’s staff spoke with NASA officials and engineers at length before delivering a solution tailored to meet the needs of professionals designing FPGAs for aerospace, safety-critical, and high-reliability applications. The end result: the industry’s first automated, synthesis-based radiation effects mitigation tool to reduce the risk of functionality problems, such as soft errors caused by single event upset (SEU) and single event transient (SET) disruptions.
NASA and its partners are actively seeking developers of innovative rad-hard systems and solutions, including ASICs, SOCs, and FPGAs. In fact, this geek came across NASA’s recent solicitation for information (the topic of my next blog).
If you’re designing and/or testing components for space—and perhaps using Mentor’s Precision Rad-Tolerant, ModelSim, and/or Precision RTL Plus—both NASA and this geek want to hear from you. Sound off!
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About J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog
J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping.
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