Satellite anatomy 101

-January 15, 2015

2015 will be a very exciting year for our industry and will see the release of the world's first 28 nm COTS FPGA for space applications. This will be offered in both plastic and ceramic packages, combining the very highest levels of performance and the most extensive range of logic resources, with low power and an affordable price. For the first time in the space industry, an FPGA will exceed by several generations the speed, bandwidth, and power advantages of space-grade, ASIC technology. To coincide with the formal announcement, I have been asked to write a Space-Systems Handbook, which the manufacturer will publish and share with customers in 2015.

This year will also see the release of a new, 65 nm, flash FPGA, combining high performance with low power and high reliability. Flash-based FPGAs are non-volatile, live at power-up, and can be re-programmed in-orbit. A floating-gate transistor is used within each cell, which is immune to firm errors as exposure to radiation cannot generate sufficient charge to change its configuration state. Flash memory cells typically require two transistors resulting in increased logic density, shorter routing, smaller interconnect delays, and lower power consumption compared to SRAM-based devices.

Both new FPGAs will move the space industry forward enabling many new missions and opportunities for operators. 2015 will also see major advances in space-grade, mixed-signal processing, and power microelectronics.

Throughout 2015, I will be discussing and demonstrating all of these new technologies extensively, and how they can help you develop better products.

I wish all readers of Out-of-this-World Design a very Happy New Year, and thank you for your continued support and feedback throughout 2014.

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