SAN JOSE--Xilinx Inc. today announced a development program with Los Alamos National Laboratory to apply field-programmable gate arrays to high-performance reconfigurable data processors for applications in outer space.
"The performance advantage of FPGAs makes them efficient for space application in terms of volume and power requirements," said Michael Caffrey, project engineer at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico. "Reprogrammable FPGAs also alleviate obsolescence encountered with ASICs or other custom fixed-logic products."
Reconfigurable computing, based on FPGAs as processors, offers up to one hundred times the performance of a typical microprocessor for applications with highly regular, dataflow-oriented algorithms, Xilinx said. Reconfigurable FPGAs can also reduce design time for space systems prior to scheduled lanuches, and they can even be fine tuned after satellites are in orbit, noted project managers.
Under the program, Xilinx will provide the lab with specially processed Virtex FPGAs. The national laboratory will perform radiation testing on the Xilinx programmable devices.
The lab and Xilinx are cooperating on applications development in high speed digital image and signal processing. Engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are building a reconfigurable data processing module for remote-sensing applications in space.
Xilinx said its SRAM-based Virtex FPGAs are well suited for space-based computing because of their architectural features--such as block RAM and digital delay lock loops--and radiation tolerance. Heavy ion testing at Texas A&M University in College Station, Tex., indicated that specially processed Virtex chips were immune to latch up. Xilinx said evaluations also showed the frequency of single-event upset is 4E-6 upsets/bit-day in a typical geosynchronous orbit.