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NASA, Microchip to develop next-gen spaceflight computing processor

In order to create a high-performance space flight computing (HPSC) processor with at least 100 times the computational power of the current spaceflight computers, NASA has chosen the US-based Microchip Technology.

Future planetary exploration, lunar, and Mars surface missions would all benefit from the next-generation processor.

Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation within the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement that “this cutting-edge spaceflight processor will have a tremendous impact on our future space missions and even technologies here on Earth.”

Workheiser continued, “This effort will enhance current spacecraft capabilities, enable new ones, and ultimately be used by virtually every upcoming space mission, all of which will benefit from more capable flight computing.

Over the course of three years, the microchip will architect, design, and deliver the HPSC processor with the intention of using it on upcoming lunar and planetary exploration missions.

The scalable computing power provided by Microchip’s processor architecture will significantly increase the overall computing efficiency for these missions. Additionally, the design will be more dependable and more fault tolerant.

The work will be carried out under a USD 50 million firm-fixed-price contract as part of NASA’s ongoing commercial partnership initiatives, with Microchip providing significant research and development costs to complete the project.

Babak Samimi, corporate vice president for Microchip’s Communications business unit, said, “We are pleased that NASA selected Microchip as its partner to develop the next-generation space-qualified compute processor platform.”

Samimi continued, “The platform will offer unprecedented performance gain, fault-tolerance, and security architecture at low power consumption while delivering comprehensive Ethernet networking, advanced artificial intelligence/machine learning processing, and connectivity support.”

The HPSC processor from Microchip may also be beneficial to other governmental organisations and applicable to various future space missions to explore our solar system and beyond, including human lunar missions and Mars exploration.

The processor may be applied to commercial systems on Earth that need mission-critical edge computing capabilities comparable to those of space missions and are capable of operating safely even if a system component fails.

Industrial automation, edge computing, time-sensitive Ethernet data transmission, artificial intelligence, and even Internet of Things gateways, which connect various communication technologies, are some of these potential applications.

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