SiFive RISC-V cores and Microchip processors for use in future NASA house missions


Why is it vital: The X280 is a brand new RISC-V CPU being developed to outlive the pains of outer house and allow NASA scientists to tackle their subsequent missions. Expectations are excessive: at the least a 100x enhance in processing energy whereas sustaining the identical energy consumption.

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NASA will quickly be making main upgrades to the methods utilized in its space-based computer systems, adopting the RISC-V structure, developed and made obtainable underneath open supply licenses. NASA selected SiFive to offer the CPU cores, which is an acceptable alternative because the San Mateo, California-headquartered firm was based 7 years in the past to develop {hardware} primarily based on RISC-V (the place the “V” stands for instruction set). fifth era RISC) and put appropriate processors in the marketplace.

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SiFive is a factory-less chip firm, so the precise manufacturing of the chips might be within the arms of Microchip Technology, an organization primarily based in Chandler, Arizona that focuses on manufacturing microcontrollers, EEPROM chips, and different IC merchandise.

NASA awarded the 2 corporations a $50 million contract, with the expectation that last supply of the brand new X280 processor would happen inside 3 years. X280 will turn into the computing spine High Performance Space Computing (HPSC), a NASA initiative to design and develop new spaceflight know-how able to delivering “at least” 100 instances the processing energy of at present used methods utilizing the identical quantity of power.

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The X280 will exchange the RAD750 processor, a legacy PowerPC-based processor manufactured by BAE Systems and used on a number of NASA missions since 2005. Perseverance rover and lately launched James Webb telescope are two of essentially the most well-known house initiatives made doable by the RAD750 processor.

The X280 CPU at present underneath growth for the HPSC system will use 8 SiFive Intelligence RISC-V vector cores with 4 further cores, delivering the computing energy surge that NASA predicts earlier than the retirement of right now’s house computer systems. The important enhance in efficiency will assist open up new alternatives for autonomous rovers, imaging, spaceflight, steerage methods, communications and different components of an area exploration mission, SiFive says.

Another vital function of the X280 might be its resistance to radiation: the HPSC might be specifically designed to outlive in harsh and hostile house environments, handle many house operations with out doable help from Earth, and guarantee its skill to function and supply dependable outcomes for essentially the most crucial operations.


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