New Products May Enhance Processing Power in Space

By Eric Beidel

The massive amount of data being collected on modern space missions is creating a need for higher performance computing on board satellites.

To meet the growing demand, BAE Systems is readying its next generation of radiation-hardened computer products that will increase processing power on satellites by more than 10 times the current rate, company officials said.

Based on 45-nanometer technology enabled through a licensing agreement with Austin-based Freescale Semiconductor Inc., the new products will facilitate the creation of smaller, less expensive satellites and bring processing capabilities common in the commercial industry to space, said Brian Orlowsky, marketing and program manager at BAE Systems.

The goal is to enhance the processing available on orbit for next-generation communications, surveillance and tracking, planetary exploration, weather, and other government satellite missions. The technology also can help reduce power consumption, officials said. It is difficult to manage heat dissipation in satellite environments, and there is a need to limit solar and battery capacity to minimize mass, said Dave Rea, product manager at BAE Systems.

BAE also is keeping in mind expectations for greater autonomy in space.

“If you want a robot to land on the moon autonomously, it has to have greater situational awareness and be able to make real-time decisions,” Rea said. “These demands require more processing.”

The company is making improvements to the technology to bolster its radiation tolerance and reliability for long-term missions in the harsh space environment. The initial portfolio of products will be qualified and available to customers by the middle of 2014, Rea said.

Topics: Science and Engineering Technology, Space

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