Rad-Hard Integrated Circuits

 

The space sector is experiencing an increasingly broad use of components COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) and emerging technologies. This development responds to a set of factors that pose significant technological challenges to the aerospace community.

First we could target more demanding space mission requirement´s , with smaller and lighter vehicles, capacity and speed´s of information processing much higher. These challenges combined to the urgent need to reduce design costs and time, are not easing the achievement of the sector´s objective.

One of the COTS devices of interest to the space sector is the FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array), the densest and most advanced programmable logic devices. In general, it sums  the advantages of high integration capacity, high speed performance, reduced development time and low cost of implementation. These advantages combined with the possibility of reconfiguration would allow its modification during the course of the mission to fix errors or update the design. These are ideal characteristics for space applications, but there is a critical factor against which the reconfigurable FPGAs do not provide the required performance: the radiation in the space environment.

NASP's work focuses on the research and development of "Radiation-hardening" techniques on FPGA devices in order to extend their usage for the space sector and to decrease costs. At the same time, the main activities within the project are divided in two parts:

1.     Investigate new techniques of "hardening by design".

2.     Improve processes for fault injection testing to ensure that devices, are designed tolerant to radiation. This activity aims to achieve an improvement twofold: reduce development time and ensure product quality.

It´s called "hardening by design" those techniques not related to the device fabrication process which, without avoiding the effects of radiation, allow the system to automatically correct the disturbances while it is running ("on its way").