The SpaceCube 2.0 is a compact, high-performance, low-power onboard processing system that takes advantage of cutting-edge hybrid (CPU/FPGA/DSP) processing elements. The SpaceCube 2.0 design concept includes two commercial Virtex-5 field-programmable gate array (FPGA) parts protected by “radiation hardened by software” technology, and possesses exceptional size, weight, and power characteristics [5×5×7 in., 3.5 lb (≈12.7×12.7×17.8 cm, 1.6 kg) 5–25 W, depending on the application’s required clock rate]. The two Virtex-5 FPGA parts are implemented in a unique back-to-back configuration to maximize data transfer and computing performance.

Draft computing power specifications for the SpaceCube 2.0 unit include four PowerPC 440s (1100 DMIPS each), 500+ DSP48Es (2×580 GMACS), 100+ LVDS high-speed serial I/Os (1.25 Gbps each), and 2×190 GFLOPS single-precision (65 GFLOPS double-precision) floating point performance. The SpaceCube 2.0 includes PROM memory for CPU boot, health and safety, and basic command and telemetry functionality; RAM memory for program execution; and FLASH/EEP-ROM memory to store algorithms and application code for the CPU, FPGA, and DSP processing elements. Program execution can be reconfigured in real time and algorithms can be updated, modified, and/or replaced at any point during the mission. Gigabit Ethernet, Spacewire, SATA and high-speed LVDS serial/parallel I/O channels are available for instrument/sensor data ingest, and mission-unique instrument interfaces can be accommodated using a compact PCI (cPCI) expansion card interface.

The SpaceCube 2.0 can be utilized in NASA Earth Science, Helio/Astrophysics and Exploration missions, and Department of Defense satellites for onboard data processing. It can also be used in commercial communication and mapping satellites.

This work was done by Michael Lin, Thomas Flatley, John Godfrey, Alessandro Geist, Daniel Espinosa, and David Petrick of Goddard Space Flight Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Electronics/Computers category. GSC-15760-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

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

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.