Tech Briefs

Compact, Reliable EEPROM Controller

This controller prevents inadvertent writes in an EEPROM.

A compact, reliable controller for an electrically erasable, programmable readonly memory (EEPROM) has been developed specifically for a space-flight application. The design may be adaptable to other applications in which there are requirements for reliability in general and, in particular, for prevention of inadvertent writing of data in EEPROM cells.

Inadvertent writes pose risks of loss of reliability in the original space-flight application and could pose such risks in other applications. Prior EEPROM controllers are large and complex and do not provide all reasonable protections (in many cases, few or no protections) against inadvertent writes. In contrast, the present controller provides several layers of protection against inadvertent writes. The controller also incorporates a write-time monitor, enabling determination of trends in the performance of an EEPROM through all phases of testing.

The controller has been designed as an integral subsystem of a system that includes not only the controller and the controlled EEPROM aboard a spacecraft but also computers in a ground control station, relatively simple onboard support circuitry, and an onboard communication subsystem that utilizes the MIL-STD-1553B protocol. (MIL-STD-1553B is a military standard that encompasses a method of communication and electrical-interface requirements for digital electronic subsystems connected to a data bus. MILSTD-1553B is commonly used in defense and space applications.) The intent was to both maximize reliability while minimizing the size and complexity of onboard circuitry.

In operation, control of the EEPROM is effected via the ground computers, the MIL-STD-1553B communication subsystem, and the onboard support circuitry, all of which, in combination, provide the multiple layers of protection against inadvertent writes. There is no controller software, unlike in many prior EEPROM controllers; software can be a major contributor to unreliability, particularly in fault situations such as the loss of power or brownouts. Protection is also provided by a power-monitoring circuit.

This work was done by Richard Katz and Igor Kleyner of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, contact the Goddard Innovative Partnerships Office at (301) 286-5810. GSC-15492-1