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First RISC-V processor starts operation in orbit

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The first RISC-V processor is space has started operation in a European nanosat.

The Trisat-R nanosat developed by the University of Maribor in Slovenia uses a fault tolerant NOEL-V RISC-V processor developed by Cobham Advanced Engineering Solutions (CAES) and implemented in an FPGA. The nanosat was developed in cooperation with CERN and Slovenian company SkyLabs which developed the NANOhpm computer board, and is in medium earth orbit (MEO) to measure ionizing radiation.

Additional experiments on-board the TRISAT-R developed by ESA and SkyLabs are demonstrating Radiation Hardened by Design mitigation techniques for protection of high-performance and high-density electronic components targeting the development of AI chips in space applications.

This is the first CAES RISC-V processor that has been commissioned in space, says the company, which owns the Gaisler space design team in Sweden.

The NOEL-V is intended as the next generation space processor after LEON, hence the name. CAES also works with Lattice Semiconductor to use the Certus-NX-RT and CertusPro-NX-RT FPGAs for space applications, making use of the fully depleted Silicon on insulator (FDSOI) process for radiation tolerance,

CAES’ fault-tolerant GR library (GRLIB) works with Lattice’s Propel library and Radiant debug and design tools for a design environment for space engineers.

A quad core LEON4FT processor developed by CAES has also been selected for a project to help extend the life of aging satellites in space. 

SpaceLogistics’ Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) Spacecraft is the second-generation servicing vehicle following the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) which was deployed in 2020. The MRV will use robotic arms to add on-orbit augmentation, inspection and repair services .

The quad GR740 LEON FT fault tolerant processor has just been qualified for use in space and will be used in the bus avionics and robotics interface of the MRV to provide precise telemetry and control.

“For decades, a wide range of CAES radiation hardened components have been at the forefront of space exploration and research,” said Mike Elias, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Space Systems Division, CAES. “We are excited to see our GR740 processor deployed in keeping satellites in service for much longer than their original mission timelines.”

www.caes.com

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