In 2005, the U.S. Navy began using ATCA in large, networked, undersea sensor systems for the purpose of tests and measurements on submarines. Since that time more than 35 ATCAbased systems have been built and delivered into programs for similar applications in harsh undersea environments. An example of a 14-slot ATCA undersea enclosure with conductively cooled power units is shown in Figure 2.
Boeing selected the ATCA platform for the P-8A Poseidon Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft program. This new Navy aircraft provides long-range support for a wide variety of operations including anti-submarine warfare, antisurface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, battle damage assessments, and reconnaissance. The electronics suite on the Poseidon must be configurable, open, scalable, reliable, and high performance to handle a wide variety of mission requirements including electrooptic sensors, infrared sensors, signal intelligence, magnetic sensors, acoustic sensors, radar, satellite comms, surfaceto- air and air-to-air comms, countermeasures, and weapons control. The aircraft essentially operates as a complex, mobile airborne sensor network and data communications hub — a great application for the versatile networkcentric xTCA platform. More than 100 P8-A aircraft are now planned for production. Future network-centric aerospace platforms such as AWACS, ACS, and BAMS would do well to consider xTCA for their electronic payloads.
Other military ATCA developments include high-speed adaptive radar and electronic warfare processing systems that are 1000 times faster than legacy systems; wideband data subsystems that can switch and process multi-gigabit/sec data flows at processing rates on the order of 10 million packets per second; and antenna array digitization and beamforming systems that can process signals at compute rates up to 15 Teraops. ATCA is clearly enabling the next-generation of reliable high-performance embedded systems.
MicroTCA Establishes a Beachhead
The ATCA standard was released in 2003. MicroTCA, the small form factor relative of ATCA, was released later in 2006, but it is quickly catching on in military applications. The smaller size, lower power, and lower cost of MicroTCA make it well suited for applications where ATCA is a bit too much, while retaining the five-nines availability, superb system management, and high-performance networking of ATCA.