A document discusses how the HST SM4 SpaceCube flight spare was modified to create an experiment called the SpaceCube Demonstration Platform (SC DP) for use on the MISSE7 Space Station payload (in collaboration with NRL). It is designed to serve as an on-orbit platform for demonstrating advanced fault tolerance technologies. A simple C&DH (command and data handling) system was developed for the Virtex4 FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays). Both Virtex4s on each SpaceCube run the same program, and both receive incoming telemetry. The rad-hard service FPGA performs simple error checking to verify that the incoming telemetry is valid. The SpaceCube framework was modified to allow for new program files to be sent from the ground, to be stored on the SpaceCube, and to be executed through ground commands. Each SpaceCube Virtex4 FPGA has resources set aside for experiments that are functionally isolated from the C&DH system. The experiments communicate to the C&DH system through a set of dual port memories, and this area is where the fault-tolerance experiments are executed.

With the use of Xilinx commercial Virtex4 FX60 FPGAs, the fault tolerant framework allows the system to recover from radiation upsets that occur in the rad-soft parts (Virtex4 FPGA logic, embedded PPCs in Virtex4 FPGAs, SDRAM and Flash), the C&DH system that runs simultaneously on both Virtex4 FPGAs that uses a robust telemetry packet structure, checksums, and the rad-hard service FPGA to validate incoming telemetry. The ability to be reconfigured from the ground while in orbit is a novel benefit, as well as is the onboard compression capabilities that allow compressed files from the ground to be uploaded to the SpaceCube.

This work was done by Daniel Espinosa, Jeffrey Hosler, Alessandro Geist, David Petrick, Manuel Buenfil, Gary Crum, and Tom Flatley for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15953-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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