This version of the SpaceCube will be a full-fledged, onboard space processing system capable of 2500+ MIPS, and featuring a number of plug-andplay gigabit and standard interfaces, all in a condensed 3×3×3 form factor [<10 watts and < 3 lb (≈1.4 kg)]. The main processing engine is the Xilinx SIRF radiation-hardened-by-design Virtex-5 FX-130T field-programmable gate array (FPGA).

Even as the SpaceCube 2.0 version (currently under test) is being targeted as the platform of choice for a number of the upcoming Earth Science Decadal Survey missions, GSFC has been contacted by customers who wish to see a system that incorporates key features of the version 2.0 architecture in an even smaller form factor. In order to fulfill that need, the SpaceCube Mini is being designed, and will be a very compact and low-power system. A similar flight system with this combination of small size, low power, low cost, adaptability, and extremely high processing power does not otherwise exist, and the SpaceCube Mini will be of tremendous benefit to GSFC and its partners.

The SpaceCube Mini will utilize space-grade components. The primary processing engine of the Mini is the Xilinx Virtex-5 SIRF FX-130T radiationhardened- by-design FPGA for critical flight applications in high-radiation environments. The Mini can also be equipped with a commercial Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA with integrated PowerPCs for a low-cost, high-power computing platform for use in the relatively radiation-benign LEOs (low- Earth orbits). In either case, this version of the SpaceCube will weigh less than 3 pounds (≈1.4 kg), conform to the CubeSat form-factor (10×10×10 cm), and will be low power (<10 watts for typical applications). The SpaceCube Mini will have a radiation-hardened Aeroflex FPGA for configuring and scrubbing the Xilinx FPGA by utilizing the onboard FLASH memory to store the configuration files. The FLASH memory will also be used for storing algorithm and application code for the PowerPCs and the Xilinx FPGA. In addition, it will feature high-speed DDR SDRAM (double data rate synchronous dynamic random- access memory) to store the instructions and data of active applications. This version will also feature SATA-II and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Furthermore, there will also be general-purpose, multi-gigabit interfaces. In addition, the system will have dozens of transceivers that can support LVDS (low-voltage differential signaling), RS-422, or SpaceWire. The SpaceCube Mini includes an I/O card that can be customized to meet the needs of each mission. This version of the SpaceCube will be designed so that multiple Minis can be networked together using SpaceWire, Ethernet, or even a custom protocol.

Scalability can be provided by networking multiple SpaceCube Minis together. Rigid-Flex technology is being targeted for the construction of the SpaceCube Mini, which will make the extremely compact and low-weight design feasible. The SpaceCube Mini is designed to fit in the compact CubeSat form factor, thus allowing deployment in a new class of missions that the previous SpaceCube versions were not suited for. At the time of this reporting, engineering units should be available in the summer 2012.

This work was done by Michael Lin, David Petrick, Alessandro Geist, and Thomas Flatley of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16223-1


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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