304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
NASA has selected the US-based Microchip Technology to develop a high-performance spaceflight computing processor (HPSC) that will provide at least 100 times more computing capacity than current spaceflight computers.
The next-generation processor would advance all types of future space missions, from planetary exploration to lunar and surface missions to Mars.
“This cutting-edge spaceflight processor will have a tremendous impact on our future space missions and even technology here on Earth,” said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“This effort will expand existing spacecraft capabilities and enable new ones, and ultimately could be used by virtually every future space mission, all benefiting from more capable flight computing,” Werkheiser added.
Microchip will design, engineer and supply the HPSC processor over a three-year period with the goal of using the processor for future lunar and planetary exploration missions.
Microchip’s processor architecture will greatly improve the overall computational efficiency for these missions by enabling scalability of computing power based on mission needs. The design will also be more reliable and have higher fault tolerance.
As part of NASA’s ongoing commercial partnership efforts, the work will be done under a $50 million fixed-price contract, with Microchip contributing significant research and development costs to complete the project.
“We are pleased that NASA has selected Microchip as its partner to develop a next-generation computing processor platform for space applications,” said Babak Samimi, corporate vice president of the Microchip Communications business unit.
The platform “will provide end-to-end Ethernet networking, advanced AI/machine learning processing and connectivity support, while offering unprecedented performance gains, fault tolerance and a low-power security architecture,” Samimi added.
Microchip’s HPSC processor may also be useful to other government agencies and applicable to other types of future space missions to explore our solar system and beyond, from Earth science operations to Mars exploration and human lunar missions.
The processor could potentially be used for commercial systems on Earth that require similar critical computing needs to space missions and are able to continue operating safely if one component of the system fails.
These potential applications include industrial automation, edge computing, time-sensitive Ethernet data transmission, artificial intelligence, and even IoT gateways that bridge different communication technologies.